A look back at 2019 for Plant-based Health Professionals UK
This is our second full year as a non-profit, volunteer-run organisation, having been founded in October 2017. You can read about our first year here. 2019 has been busy and rewarding and we hope you will join us in building on this work in 2020.
The year started with the launch of our membership programme. Membership is open to all — health professionals and non-health professionals alike — and in this first year we have attracted just over 200 members. Our members include doctors, vets, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists and ‘patients’ who have healed chronic illness using a dietary approach. An active membership is going to be key to sharing our mission. So far, members have received 3 extensive newsletters (designed by our patient advocate Kate Dunbar), reduced price tickets to events, 2 competition giveaways of plant-based cookbooks, webinars followed by Q&A and networking within the closed facebook group.
Conferences and events
We have a held a number of conferences and events throughout 2019 for both health professionals and the general public.
The year started with a trip to Dublin where Dr Alan Desmond and I had the pleasure of representing PBHP UK at the first Irish conference “Food as Medicine — an evidence based introduction to plant based nutrition” on 9th March at the Mater Hospital. The sold out event was organised by the newly formed group ‘Plant-based doctors Ireland’ and attracted mainly general practioners to the 150 capacity venue. The day covered the evidence for plant-based diets for both human and planetary health.
Our first event for the general public took place at Brighton VegFest in March where we hosted 2 days of talks on healthy plant-based diets. We covered an array of topics from the basics of meeting nutrient requirements to the impact of diet on mental health, bone health, cancer risk and why plant-based diets are also the most sustainable for planetary health. We were even able to cover the topic of vegan diets for cats and dogs!
Our first conference of the year for health professionals was held in Warrington, Cheshire on April 13th. We welcomed 120 attendees for a day full of education and networking. Two-thirds of the audience were health professionals with the remainder being interested members of the public. Topics covered included vegan diets for pregnancy and children, bone health, fatty liver disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. A highlight was hearing from Fiona Oakes, a Guinness World record holding Marathon and ultra- Marathon runner who has been vegan since the age of 6 years. At least 85% of attendees rated the conference as useful or very useful for their clinical practice. All our health professional conferences are CPD accredited and therefore can contribute to individuals’ portfolios and appraisals.
We had the privilege of collaborating with Plant-based Canada, co-founded by my sister, Dr Zahra Kassam and her friend and colleague Michelle Fedele. Plant-based Canada is a non profit organisation dedicated to the well-being of humans, the environment and all its life forms. Together we organised the first conference on plant-based nutrition to be held in Canada bringing together speakers from across the country who have implemented plant-based nutrition into their clinical practice. This was made possible through a generous grant from Proveg. The keynote lecture was delivered by Dr David Jenkins who has made major contributions to nutritional science throughout his long career, including the development of the glycaemic index, the Portfolio diet for hypercholesterolaemia and the Eco-Atkins diet. Dr Jenkins himself has been vegan for many years. We also heard from Dr Shane Williams, a cardiologist who uses food as medicine and has been trained by some of the greats in the plant-based nutrition field. Drs Arjun and Shobha Rayapudi came all the way from St John’s in Newfoundland to talk about their non-profit organisation Gift of Health, which is changing the lives of local residents through the power of plant-based nutrition. You can check out the other amazing Canadian’s promoting plant-based nutrition here.
Thank you to Jay Cox from Fizzeek media.
Back in London on June 30th we brought together both health professionals and the general public for an afternoon with Dr Kim Williams, Past President of the American College of Cardiologists, the Happy Pear and Bosh!. For the second year in a row, Dr Williams gave an excellent talk on the link between diet and cardiovascular disease. He explained how plant-based diets are now a recognised and evidence-based treatment for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and included as part of the 2019 AHA/ACC guidelines. We heard first hand evidence from the Happy Pear about their work in the community and through online education on the power of plant-based diets to help people regain their health. We finished the afternoon with a panel discussion led by Dr Alan Desmond on how a plant-based diet could transform our healthcare system and the health of the population.
The highlight of our year was most certainly the VegMed conference held in London on October 12th/13th. This was our first opportunity to hold a truly international conference, made possible through our partnership with ProVeg. We used their already successful VegMed format of a day for health professionals and a day for the general public. Tickets sold out fast with 350 attendees on each day. We had a truly international line up of speakers and attendees. I personally met attendees from all over Europe but also as far a field as Chile, Barbados and Russia. Our international speakers need no introduction and included Dr Neal Barnard, Dr Michael Greger, Brenda Davis RD and Dr Michael Klaper. Plant-based health professionals from the UK were honoured to share a stage with pioneers of the plant-based nutrition movement. Following the conference Brenda Davis kindly agreed to support PBHP UK as an international advisory board member.
VegFest London also took place in October where we once again organised and hosted 2 days of talks related to healthy plant-based diets aimed at the general public. Here we covered the impact of diet on heart disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health, pain and migraine. We also had a stall highlighting our working and were able to meet many of our supporters and make new friends too.
I had the privilege of representing PBHP UK at Iceland’s first conference on plant-based nutrition and health where I spoke about the impact of diet and lifestyle on cancer prevention. It attracted 300 attendees and featured speakers with celebrity status (not me!). Dr Esselstyn and his wife Ann talked about the effectiveness of a plant-based diet for the treatment cardiovascular disease and of the remarkable outcomes achieved in over 1000 patients treated on their nutrition programme since 1985. Brenda Davis RD became vegan over 30 years ago at a time when vegan diets were not accepted within the dietitic community. She has authored 10 books on vegan diet and health including the classic text ‘Becoming Vegan’.
Launch of first University-based course on plant-based nutrition
This year I launched the first UK university-based course on plant-based nutrition. This has been made possible through a collaboration with Winchester University and has involved several members of the PBHP UK team. We have put together a 6-week online course on all aspects of plant-based nutrition with the aim of empowering health professionals to incorporate plant-based nutrition into their clinical practice. The course has completed its first run with 50 students participating and will repeat every academic term. It has been accredited for CPD hours by the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine.
A new website
This year we launched our new website which is now truly an educational resource for members and non-members alike. It is full of webinars, articles, factsheets and much more. The most useful aspect has been an ever growing directory of plant-based health professionals practicing within the UK. Our most popular website download is the Plant-based Eatwell Guide, an adaptation of Public Health England’s dietary guideline, put together by team member Doug Bristor. An Iranian group has also translated the guide into Farsi! Thank you to Madideas for doing such a fabulous job on the website and for their ongoing support.
Funding and support
We have been fortunate to receive funding and support from a number of organisations this year. Lush, Oatly and Hammersmith Health Books have supported our conferences and events. Vegfund have provided us with funding for the development of the webinars and factsheets you will find on the website.
We are delighted to be collaborating with Lifeafterhummus, a community benefits society that teaches no oil whole food plant-based cooking in the community setting. Its founder, Farrah Rainfly, is a trained food for life instructor. We are partnering on a series of classes which feature a talk by a health professionals followed by a hands on cooking class for participants. It is a great way to bring together the science with the practical skills required to shift to a whole food plant-based diet.
A number of team members have partnered with the Happy Pear to bring together some new online courses. These include the Happy Gut Course featuring Dr Alan Desmond and Rosie Martin RD, the Happy Skin Course featuring Dr Gemma Newman and the latest addition, the Happy Shape Course with Dr Sue Kenneally and Rosie Martin RD. These courses all teach the science and the practical skills necessary to transition to a healthy plant-based diet.
Team members have published papers in peer-reviewed journals. Marta Lewandoska, Doug Bristor and I contributed a paper on diet and lymphoma for the first issue of the new journal — The International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention. This is a free journal dedicated to promoting health through diet and lifestyle and is free from industry and pharmaceutical influence. I am also on the editorial review board of the journal. Dr Alan Desmond co-authored a paper with researchers from PCRM in the journal Nutrients, highlighting a case of Crohn’s disease remission using a plant-based diet. Also in the journal Nutrients, Miriam Martinez-Biarge co-authored a paper on meal planning for vegan children and adolescents. We also contributed to an online campaign run by Media Planet and Global Cause highlighting plant-based alternatives and the reasons for adopting a plant-based diet
Things that have gone less well
Not everything works out as planned. We had intended to a launch our first campaign ‘Give Bacon the Boot’ to get processed meat out of UK NHS hospitals. We completely underestimated the enormity of such a campaign and in reality it would need a person working full time on this to make any progress. Nonetheless, we have a website full of resources and an advert ready for when the time is right to make a full launch. Team member Leila Dehghan wrote this excellent article on why such a campaign is necessary. We even managed to feature in a rather poor quality tabloid newspaper article!
by Jay Cox of Fizzeek Media
Plans for 2020
Plans are taking shape. A priority will be to grow our membership and be able to offer more to our members. This will include regular members socials, discounted tickets to events. competition give aways, listing on our online directory and speakers bureau.
Leila Dehghan from the PBHP UK team has organised and is hosting the talks at Plant Powered Expo on February 1st. This event is aimed at those new to a plant-based lifestyle and therefore will focus on the basics of a healthy plant-based diet for adults, children and athletes and its impact on disease prevention. We will also have a stall and be joining up new members with some prize giveaways! This will be followed by our first members social.
We welcome Dr Michael Greger to King’s College Hospital on 29th April 2020. He will give a talk based on his new book ‘How not to Diet’ and will be doing a book signing.
Our main conference will be in London on May 16th 2020. More details to follow soon
We will have a focus on education for medical, nutrition and science students. This will kick off with an afternoon event on April 29th 2020 for students in London. We have linked up with Nutritank societies, lifestyle medicine societies and veggie/vegan societies within Universities.
We will also focus on GP education and we have our first event in collaboration with King’s College Hospital on March 5th 2020
So all in all it should be a busy 2020. I are immensely grateful to our advisory board, our members and supporters, without whom none of this work would be possible.
If you are not yet familiar with our work, do check out our website for educational resources and our YouTube channel where you can find recordings of most of our events. Most of our articles appear first on Medium
A very healthy and happy plant-based new year to you all.
Dr Shireen Kassam, December 2019