Plant Based Health Online One Year On

Borne from the hugely successful Plant Based Health Professionals UK, a humongous collection of vegan & plant-based medical professionals providing free resources and inspiring change within the National Health Service and beyond, Plant Based Health Online is one year young, and has already seen its fair share of success too. We caught up with the founders Dr Laura Freeman & Dr Shireen Kassam to find out how things are, one year on.

PBHO is one year on – successful venture?

We are excited to have made it to our first anniversary and beyond. As with any new venture it’s had its ups and downs and running a business has required skills and knowledge that we were definitely not taught at medical school. Plant Based Health Online (PBHO) remain the only CQC-registered plant-based lifestyle medicine service in the UK so the pressure is on to demonstrate the efficacy and value of our practice.

What have been the main achievements?

The achievement we are most proud of is to be able to help our clients regain their health through the power of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Some have been able to reverse chronic health conditions, others have avoided the need for medication, and we have even had couples who have successfully conceived a baby after adopting our lifestyle approach. Everyone has been empowered to take back control of their health with improved quality of life.

Additional achievements are the relationships we have formed with other organisations such as the Chartwell Cancer Trust who are part-funding our cancer programmes, Psychiatry UK who will be sign-posting clients to our services and Fertility Plus, who share our passion for healthy lifestyles for improved reproductive health.

What are some of the hurdles you’ve faced?

The main hurdle is getting the word out that our service exists and is ready and able to support individual health in a way that is different, yet just as effective and rooted in evidence as conventional treatments offered by the NHS. Most of the UK public do not expect to pay for this sort of healthcare given that that the NHS is free at the point of access. However, the reality is that the NHS is under ever increasing pressure on their limited resources and is functioning at overcapacity such that preventive and lifestyle medicine is not a key focus.

In the UK, most of us will spend on average 12 years in ill health from conditions that could have been prevented or at least significantly delayed in onset yet the NHS and society as a whole has failed to address this loss of healthy life. Changing the current healthcare paradigm however will take time.

What are the solutions do you think?

In addition to a bigger spend on marketing to improve our visibility, our survival will depend on those in the NHS who hold the funding recognising the powerful impact a lifestyle medicine approach can have on the health of the nation. Studies have clearly demonstrated the cost saving to healthcare and wider society, so let’s hope that going forward the NHS prioritises this type of healthcare.

What are your plans for 2022?

More of the same with an additional focus on our group programmes that are an efficient and cost-effective way of delivering personalised lifestyle medicine interventions. This type of doctor-led consultation benefits from peer support from others who are experiencing similar health challenges and has been extremely valuable to our clients. We now have group programmes for people living with cancer, type 2 diabetes, weight management, fertility, inflammatory bowel disease and prehabilitation for improved surgical outcomes. More conditions will be addressed in this way as demand for our service increases.

How can people help with your work?

Help to spread the word about our services. Inform friends, family members and colleagues that the key to a long and good-quality life is preventative healthcare through the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits. In addition, that even if a person has an established medical condition such as high blood pressure and cholesterol or type-2 diabetes that there is every possibility that the condition can be treated or even reversed using a plant-based lifestyle approach. Everyone can tell their family doctor and practice that they want to have access to services like ours.

Are you noticing any changes in lifestyle habits?

In general, more people appear to be interested in preventative measures to maintain good health. This is undoubtably due to the fact that the pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of the population to COVID-19 because of the high prevalence of underlying chronic health conditions. In addition, the benefits of a plant-based diet have been further highlighted as the now famous ZOE symptom study found that those participants eating a healthy plant-based diet had a significantly lower risk of getting COVID-19 infection and a significant reduction in the risk of severe disease. In addition, the worsening climate and ecological crisis has further highlighted the need for widespread adoption of a plant-based diet.

Is the PBHO available for people outside of the UK?

Most of our consultations and programmes are only available in the UK except for consultations with our dietitian Lisa Simon, who can accept clients from anywhere in the world, except Canada and the US.

Are there any similar organisations available elsewhere?

The US has the most established and similar service to ours, Plant-Based Telehealth, and in fact we modelled PBHO on this service that started a year before us. Canada also has a number of lifestyle medicine practices that also use a plant-based dietary approach. The largest one we are aware of is Aroga.

Here in the UK, the NHS in Dawlish has launched a similar service called Whole Life and local patients can be referred to the service.

What are your plans long-term?

Our blue-sky thinking is that the NHS will embrace our approach to healthcare, and we can expand our team to take on more and more NHS patients. We have a long way to go but hopefully in time our results will speak for themselves.

If you would like to find out more about PBHO and it’s services, visit their website and social media here: