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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Dr. Dean Ornish Partners With HealthWays To Expand Impact

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Dr. Dean Ornish, a social entrepreneur at heart, has spent his entire career working improve health through lifestyle changes. Now, he’s partnered with Healthways to implement a program to reverse heart disease without surgery or medication. This radical approach to cardiac treatment is proving the value of collaboration for social entrepreneurs.

Dr. Ornish, who is a familiar name and face in the media, highlights some of the problems with the American health care system. He notes:

  • Most of the $3.0 trillion spent annually on health care in the U.S. is spent on sick care
  • A shocking 25 percent of the adult population, 60 million people, are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs

“My colleagues and I have partnered with Healthways to help create a new paradigm of real health care by addressing the personal lifestyle choices we make that are often an underlying cause of many chronic diseases,” Dr. Ornish notes.

Bob Porter, the Managing Director for the new Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversal of Cardiac Disease at Healthways, commented specifically on heart disease, “Chronic disease, and specifically cardiac disease, is a growing clinical and financial crisis in the US and other parts of the world.”

Porter adds, “Through decades of rigorous research, Dr. Dean Ornish has proven that adoption of a healthy lifestyle rooted in four, integrated elements – diet, exercise, stress management, and love and support – can not only prevent the onset of chronic disease but actually reverse the progression of disease process.”

Porter notes that the collaboration between Healthways and Dr. Ornish is spreading the approach across the country to implement the program. This will allow people to “transform their health status and quality of life by reversing their disease.”

Porter points out the bottom line impact of this approach. “There is a direct and dramatic impact on health care costs by averting in many cases the need for medicine, surgery, and other expensive interventions used to treat the effects of chronic disease.”

Dr. Ornish’s program is designed to create lasting change, Porter explains. “The delivery model for the program is unique in that cohorts of 10-15, together, go through 18 four hour experiential sessions during which they “live” the Ornish Reversal Program guidelines. This approach has proven to be highly effective in creating sustained behavior change so that this is more than a program that stops and starts. It is the first stage of a permanent change to a new and healthier lifestyle.”

Ornish explains his vision for what he calls “lifestyle medicine.”

We are empowering millions of people with information and support that help them transform suffering into healing—including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and early-stage prostate cancer—and helps turn on protective genes and turn off ones that promote prostate, breast & colon cancer. Lengthens telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes that control aging—reversing aging at a cellular level. Lifestyle medicine.

Porter concludes, “Most importantly, this program has proven to transform the quality of health, and life, for the individuals who participate in the program and for their loved ones. Over and over again we are inspired by the stories of program “alumni” who express their gratitude for having been given a second chance at life.”

On Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Porter and Dr. Ornish will join me here for a live discussion about this partnership and its potential to impact the lives of people suffering from at at risk of heart disease. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about the Preventive Medicine Research Institute:

Twitter: @DeanOrnishMD

Dean Ornish, M.D., is the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF. He is also a LinkedIn Influencer.

For over 35 years, Dr. Ornish directed research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery. Recently, Medicare began covering his program, the first time that Medicare has covered a program of comprehensive lifestyle changes. He directed the first randomized controlled trial demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes may stop or reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer. His current research showed that comprehensive lifestyle changes affect gene expression, “turning on” disease-preventing genes and “turning off” genes that promote cancer and heart disease, as well as increasing telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes which control aging (in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009).

Dr. Dean Ornish, courtesy of Preventive Medicine Research Institute

Dr. Dean Ornish, courtesy of Preventive Medicine Research Institute

He is the author of six books, all national bestsellers, including: Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease; Eat More, Weigh Less; Love & Survival; and The Spectrum.

He has written a monthly column for Newsweek and Reader’s Digest magazines and is currently Medical Editor of The Huffington Post (45 million unique readers/month).

Dr. Ornish was appointed by President Clinton to the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy and he was appointed by President Obama to the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. He is a member of the boards of directors of the SF Food Bank and the J. Craig Venter Institute. He established an integrative medicine clinic in the Saint Vincent de Paul homeless shelter in SF which will be replicated throughout the country. Dr. Ornish chaired the Google Health Advisory Council 2007-2009.

More about Healthways:

Twitter: @healthways

Healthways is the largest independent global provider of well-being improvement solutions. Dedicated to creating a healthier world one person at a time, the Company uses the science of behavior change to produce and measure positive change in well-being for our customers, which include employers, integrated health systems, hospitals, physicians, health plans, communities and government entities. We provide highly specific and personalized support for each individual and their team of experts to optimize each participant’s health and productivity and to reduce health-related costs. Results are achieved by addressing longitudinal health risks and care needs of everyone in a given population. The Company has scaled its proprietary technology infrastructure and delivery capabilities developed over 30 years and now serves approximately 68 million people on four continents. Learn more at

Bob Porter, courtesy of Healthways

Bob Porter, courtesy of Healthways

Porter’s bio:

Robert (Bob) Porter joined Healthways early in 2013 after a long and distinguished career in health system leadership, predominantly with SSM Health Care. While with SSM, Bob served in a variety of roles including hospital Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Executive Officer for a 550 bed hospital in suburban St. Louis. In 2002 he moved to leadership roles with SSM’s St. Louis based regional network, serving first as Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Development and ultimately as President of the 6 hospital, 280 physician network.

Bob’s career has been characterized by a deep commitment to exceptional performance through engagement of staff, physicians and community members in designing innovative solutions centered on the patient experience. He led the development of a “hospital of the future” project for SSM and the resulting facility which opened in 2009 has been widely recognized for its innovative design and impact on performance. He most recently led the ACO development effort for SSM St. Louis, pioneering the design of an integrated platform prepared to navigate the journey from traditional payment to assumption of increasing levels of financial risk. His transition to Healthways was driven by his desire to continue to work toward the badly needed transformation of the US health care system, improving care and reducing cost by focusing on improving well-being.

A frequent speaker and author on a variety of leadership topics in and out of health care, Bob has been an influential player in the movement toward population health management. He holds an MBA and JD from Stanford University, and his proudest achievement is having had the status of “lay affiliate” bestowed on him by the community of the Daughters of Charity in recognition of his work in Catholic health care and in the broader social ministry of that Vincentian order.

At Healthways, Bob leads the growth, development and operation of the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversal of Cardiac Disease following acquisition of Dr. Ornish’ intellectual property by Healthways. Responsible for all aspects of leading this start-up business line including defining and executing sales and market strategy, building the organization structure and team, managing operational performance to achieve customer focused, reliable performance.

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