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A look back at 2022 for Plant-Based Health Professionals UK

Shireen Kassam

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It has been a challenging year for a number of reasons. Despite this, we have had a busy and productive year furthering our mission to promote whole food plant-based nutrition for individual and planetary health.

OUR MEMBERS: We had the opportunity to conduct a research survey of our members. This has been led by the hard work of our member Isabelle Sadler. You can read some key facts about our members in the poster. Now in its fourth year, our membership programme continues to be at the heart of what we do. We have enjoyed two successful in person members socials this year, with more planned in 2023.

GENERAL PUBLIC EDUCATION

Factsheets: We have continued to maintain and add to our large collection of free factsheets. Thanks to the expertise of our members and the fabulous design skills of our graphic designer Kate Dunbar, these are extensively used by healthcare professionals in clinical practice. Several have been translated for use in countries in which our members reside, including German and Farsi, with more translations planned. We are also collaborating with the British Dietetic Association to produce factsheets on plant-based diets for kidney failure.

Articles: We have an extensive collection of evidence-based articles on plant-based nutrition with up-to-date scientific references. This year we have updated our articles on bone health, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, planetary health and more.

For kids: Thanks to our team member and paediatrician Miriam Martinez-Biarge, we have developed extensive resources for families who are raising plant-based kids. This has been hugely useful for parents and for those working in nurseries and schools.

21-day plant-based health challenge: Since the launch in October 2020, 3800 people have signed up, 73% of whom were not vegan. 79% of participants joined to improve their health, with the commonest reason being for weight loss. At the end of the challenge 68% of participants described their diet as vegetarian or vegan with the majority planning to stick with this way of eating. Three months after taking the challenge 72% described their diet as vegetarian or vegan. Please do share this free resource with friends, family members, clients and patients.

PUBLIC EVENTS

PCRM One Healthy World: At the start of the year we partnered with PCRM for their One Healthy World program delivering a number of talks and cooking demonstrations for an international audience. This online programme aimed to support people to transition to a healthy plant-based diet. A number of our team, including Rohini Bajekal, Leila Dehghan, Gemma Newman, Hayley Tait and myself contributed. The recordings are still available to view for free.

VegFest: We have continued to support Tim Barford and the VegFest events, in both the online and in-person events during 2021/2022. We have hosted health talks and panel discussions. We were delighted to be back in person on November 12th at London Olympia, where we provided a day of talks and had an information stall. All these events have highlighted the expertise of PBHP UK members and continue to provide credible education for the public and growing vegan community. We were also delighted to win Best Vegan Initiative in the VegFest awards in November.

Additional events have included, co-hosting an in person community event on May 13th 2022 for the Iranian community in London, with plant-based Iranian catering; Nutrition education with talks and cooking demonstrations at the BAPS Charities Festival of Inspiration at Neasden Temple, London July 2022; Online education sessions for the BME Dementia Service in Leeds; Regular free cook-a-longs via zoom with Dr Hayley Tait, including weekly during the No Meat May campaign; Rohini Bajekal, Hayley Tait and Shireen Kassam have provided educational talks in schools on plant-based nutrition.

HEALTH PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION

CPD-accredited webinars: Led by nutritionist and PBHP UK communications lead Rohini Bajekal, our CPD-accredited webinar programme launched in 2020 and has delivered over 60 live presentations with the recordings available for our members. This has served to bring together a community of global plant-based health professionals and reach health professionals who are not plant-based yet but are interested in incorporating lifestyle and nutrition interventions into their clinical practice. In general, we have 200–500 participants for each webinar with an international audience of predominantly health professionals. We have more exciting and interesting topics for 2023.

Culinary medicine course: With the support of VegFund, Hayley Tait has developed a culinary medicine course called Cooking for the Climate. This has initially been aimed at UK medical students who are able to choose 10% of their curriculum in the form of Special Study Modules (SSMs). Hayley has delivered the SSM in two medical schools in 2021/2022 academic year (Exeter and Southampton) for year 2 and 3 students. It has now been accepted at King’s College London (the largest student healthcare body in Europe) for 2022/2023. This programme has a blended approach with both eLearning and live sessions and teaches students the practical skills and knowledge required to support patients to adopt a healthy plant-based diet. This has been popular and received excellent feedback. The results have presented at the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine Annual Conference in September 2022. This course can be adapted for a range of audience so please contact us if you are interested in delivering this course.

University of Winchester plant-based nutrition course: This course has really been a team effort and continues to go from strength to strength. It is now in its fourth year and has had over 600 participants from around the world. It remains the only University-based plant-based nutrition course in the UK and is CPD accredited by the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. It is a self-paced 8-week course, which provides a thorough science-based grounding in the subject. It remains popular amongst healthcare professionals and interested public. The course and PBHP UK resources and webinars are recommended as part of the Green Impact for Health toolkit for General Practitioners in the UK. So far there are 976 General Practices taking part in this scheme.

Virtual tour of hospital grand rounds: Every UK hospital has a weekly Grand Round where staff have the opportunity to present to the rest of the hospital staff. Since the start of the pandemic, these have moved to a virtual setting, and this has provided us with the opportunity to invite ourselves onto these programmes. Shireen, along with team members LJ Smith, Rosie Martin and Laura Freeman, have given presentations on plant-based nutrition at King’s College Hospital, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS trust, NHS Aryshire and Arran Hospital, Royal Cornwall Hospitals and Royal Hospitals of Derby and Burton. Upcoming dates at Dartford and Gravesham NHS trust, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS trust and the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals. We plan to continue to reach as many hospitals as we can through these Grand Rounds.

Plant-based nutrition in hospitals: Give bacon the boot is our campaign to support the removal of processed red meat from hospital menus and move towards a plant-based menu. We are using King’s College Hospital in London as a case study. Here, the executive has made a commitment to remove processed red meat from menus and move towards a plant-based foods environment. During the last year we have been able to support more plant-based meals on the staff and patient menu, support staff to sign up for Veganuary and No Meat May and deliver webinars. Some initially successes have included removing the surcharge on soya milk in all coffee outlets and a commitment that catering at all hospital and staff events will be vegetarian (sadly 100% plant-based was not ratified).

We have provided a number of webinars for Nutritank, a medical student and junior doctor-led organisation campaigning for more nutrition education in medical schools.

Shireen Kassam continues to provide a weekly news review to keep the health professional community up to date in the field. This is shared via Medium and our social media platforms including Instagram and can also be found on our website under weekly news updates.

PLANT-BASED NUTRITION IN CLINICAL PRACTICE

This new textbook has been a major project over the last year, involving PBHP UK members and international contributors. The book was published on September 15th. It is an evidence-based text for incorporation into healthcare courses at universities and medical schools. This will be a valuable resource throughout the world.

SUPPORTING CLIMATE ACTIVE HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS:

This year has seen successful collaborations with climate active healthcare groups in the UK who increasingly recognise the need to transition to a plant-based food system. This includes; Online talks to Greener Practice groups; Keynote lecture and sponsorship of the Eco Medics conference May 2022; Joining as a partner organisation of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change with the opportunity to lead an educational session in December; Side event presentation at the Planetary Health Alliance Conference Nov 2022 ‘This house believes that sustainable plant-based nutrition education should be a core component of all healthcare curriculum’; Contribution to the Introduction to Sustainable Healthcare course from the Centre of Sustainable Healthcare.

COMMUNITY WORK

Community plant-based cookschool: With our funding, PBHP UK supports Vinny’s Kitchen, a community plant-based cook school based in Liverpool. Founded and run by Dr Hayley Tait, the school runs weekly plant-based cooking classes and distributes the food to the homeless community and other vulnerable groups. In the last year, it has provided 60 school age children with regular cooking classes and held 5 classes with vulnerable families identified by the charity An Hour for Others. It has produced over 2200 meals distributed to the local homeless and residents of the YMCA and engaged local community involvement from retail and medical sectors.

MEDIA AND PR COVERAGE HIGHLIGHTS

Thanks to the hard work of Eden Green PR and Rohini Bajekal, we have secured extensive media coverage in the national, international and trade media raising awareness of the healthfulness of plant-based diets as well as their environmental benefits. Please see here for more details. PBHP UK is now on the radar of several leading journalists, and we are regularly featured in national media outlets such as the Mail Online, BBC News, Metro, Independent, Telegraph, The Times etc., with 100% positive coverage on plant-based diets and health to date. We are proactive in leading campaigns as well as tackling concerns that arise with regards to plant-based diets such as bone health in vegans. On average, we are featured in between 12–20 media outlets every month, with an estimated reach of 50 million to 350 million

PARTNERSHIPS, COLLABORATIONS AND POLICY WORK:

We have developed good working relationships and affiliations with a number of organisations including ProVeg, the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, True Health Initiative, Doctors for Nutrition (Australia), Evidence-based eating (New Zealand), PCRM and more.

To support our policy work, we have partnered with various organisations including Plant-Based Food Alliance UK, The European Alliance for Plant-based Foods (EAPF) and PlantEurope Network. We support by providing evidence-based nutrition advice and advocacy.

We regularly attend and participate in All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) for example on the National Food Strategy (food and climate change, dietary inequalities etc). We continue to support like-minded organisations in other countries where we can lend our expertise either on an advisory capacity, support for programmes and campaigns or by providing education. This includes the Malaysian Vegetarian Society, Catalyst (Thailand), Reverse Factor (India), NutritionScience.Inand Sampoorna Ahara (India), Langata Hospital (Kenya) and Hayak Hospital (Lebanon), PAN Netherlands and PAN Switzerland.

CONFERENCES

PBHP UK team members continue to have a presence at lifestyle medicine and plant-based nutrition conferences. This past year Alan Desmond and Gemma Newman spoke at the PCRM’s annual conference August 2022: International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine; Rohini Bajekal spoke at the Essex Equip Lifestyle Medicine conference in September 2022 and Vegan Life Live (along with other PBHP UK members) in June 2022; Shireen Kassam spoke at the Irish Society of Lifestyle Medicine launch event June 2022 and the Indian, Romanian and Nigerian Lifestyle Medicine Society conferences. Linda Karlberg and Shireen Kassam spoke at the Lifestyle Medicine Festival of the North online conference for medical students. Gemma Newman and Shireen Kassam spoke at The Real Truth About Health online conference, April 2022. Hayley Tait had a poster presentation on the cooking for the climate project plant-based nutrition at the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine Conference Sept 2022

RESEARCH

Our ambition is to contribute to relevant medical research in the field on plant-based nutrition. To date this has involved two aspects, medical publications and research surveys. You can find our publications here.

Medical publications in 2022

o The Impact of Stopping Medications and Introducing a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet on Patients Living with Multiple Sclerosis — A Report of Two Cases. Cuthburt, M, Lewandowska, M. Freeman, L, Devine, C. Lee, K. Kassam, S. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. December 2022 https://doi.org/10.1177/15598276221141403

o A Whole Food Plant-Based Approach for Migraine; A Case Series. Morton O, Shehata M, Gabbitas N, Kassam S. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. August 2022. doi:10.1177/15598276221120520

o The Role of Nutrition in Cancer Prevention — Should You Listen to Your Doctor or Influencer? Shireen Kassam and Laura Freeman. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2022, first published 6th July 2022. https://doi.org/10.1177/15598276221112331

PBHP UK members research survey: We have commenced an ethically approved research survey to document the dietary habits and health status of our members. This is a unique opportunity to document the diet and health of a self-selected group of mainly UK residents who have adopted a healthy plant-based diet. We will be publishing these results in 2023.

BOOKS BY PBHP UK MEMBERS:

  • Eating Plant-Based by Dr Shireen Kassam and Dr Zahra Kassam (Published January 2022)
  • Living PCOS Free by Dr Nitu Bajekal and Rohini Bajekal (Published April 2022)
  • The complete guide to POI and early menopause By Dr Hannah Short and Dr Mandy Leonhardt (Published June 2022)
  • Collaboration with Ella Mills of Deliciously Ella for her best-selling book How To Go Plant-Based featuring chapters by six PBHP UK members (Published August 2022). Sunday Times Bestseller and no.2 across Amazon UK.

CAMPAIGNS: We are supporting a number of campaigns with our nutrition and health expertise. This includes, Scrap factory farming (Humane Being); Plant Based Treaty; Plant-Based Schools and Councils (Animal Rebellion); Stop the supply of dairy (Animal Rebellion).

NEW DOCUMENTARY

We cannot wait for the launch of this new documentary by Tom and James Pickering. Featuring a number of PBHP UK members, it covers the huge benefits of veganism for animals, health and the planet

WHAT’S INSTALL FOR 2023

We have commenced a collaboration with the Department for Education vegan network to provide a series of webinars over the next one year. The invitations to these webinars will be distributed to all Government civil service departments. We are planning more in person events and conferences, including more networking events for our members. We will be working on launching our joint factsheets on kidney failure with the BDA renal specialist groups plus additional factsheets on eating on a budget, airway conditions and meeting protein requirements. We have more research publications planned. We continue our community work with the BME Dementia service and our monthly online webinars. We will be making further progress on the PBHP UK documentary, we have a new course planned with the University of Winchester and we will be holding an in-person conference for health professionals.

A MASSIVE THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS: We work with some wonderful people and organisations, without whom our work would not be possible. Thank you to Roger Phillips for editing all our webinars free of charge. Carmen, Carol and Rob from Mad Ideas who run our website. Eden Green PR who amplify our message. Keith Lesser of Lesser and Co chartered accountants. Jane Land and Matthew Glover who support our projects. VegFund, Karuna foundation and ProVeg for their grants. Tim Barford of VegFest, Geeta Daswani of the Daswani Law Company and Stephen Coote of VeganFitness for their guidance and support. We look forward to working with you all in 2023.

Please follow my organisation ‘plant-based health professionals UK’ on Instagram @plantbasedhealthprofessionals and facebook. You can support our work by joining as a member or making a donation via the website.

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Shireen Kassam

Consultant Haematologist and Lifestyle Medicine Physician. Founder and Director of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK.