3 minutes with Dr Caroline West

3 Minutes with Dr Caroline West is part of a series of interviews “3 minutes with…” showcasing some of the outstanding presenters you will enjoy at Lifestyle Medicine 2017. These interviews are designed to delve deeper into what inspires our speakers about Lifestyle Medicine, their work and life in general.

We recently announced Dr Caroline West as one of our three MCs at Lifestyle Medicine 2017. She has appeared on Beyond Tomorrow and Good Medicine and we could not be more thrilled to have her on board.

Here’s what Dr West had to say:


You were awarded for your achievements in community medicine when you were at university. What drew you to and continues to motivate you to engage in Lifestyle Medicine?

I have always really enjoyed working in a community setting and that is why I was drawn to General Practice. I have been associated with my practice, East Sydney Doctors in Darlinghurst Sydney for almost 30 years and the great thing about General Practice is that you get to have continuity of care. Some of my patients who I first saw as babies now have kids of their own. One of the things you learn about medicine as you go along, is that so much of what we are dealing with in terms of health is connected to our lifestyle and circumstances. Sure we are born with a genetic starting template, but how we eat, move, sleep, our relationships and our environment will often be the driving determinants of our health.

As a medical doctor working in the field of Lifestyle Medicine, what do you experience to be the most common barrier making it difficult for individuals and families to sustain changing to healthy lifestyle behaviours?

I think very often the focus in health is on the individual, but I am convinced that our group environment and our community makes a huge difference to whether we can make and sustain healthy changes. People are often concerned about the weight and focus on how much they are eating, and this is why there is so much media focus on dieting. But it is impossible to sustain healthy changes if you are embedded in an unhealthy environment where the quick and easy choice is to eat junk food. The most common barrier for people I find in terms of nutrition change is having access to healthy choices. Even at the pharmacy now, you are bombarded by opportunities to buy chocolates or lollies on the way out.

How do you feel the current abundance of health and well-being advice solicited by bloggers and celebrities is affecting the health of society? What do see as the best way forward for public health messaging in the media?

It’s a mixed bag. In one way it is great to see attention on diet and what we are eating. But unfortunately, a lot of the information coming out is either confusing or just plain silly. I think there are people out there with practical and sensible advice like Dr Joanna McMillan and Dr Rosemary Stanton. There is no simple suggestion for public health messaging as it is a dynamic field where messages need to be across all mediums from print, TV and twitter. I think GPs and allied health professionals like dieticians, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists have great opportunities to be be community influencers just by embedding simple messages into their consults and they can also create their own content for blogs, websites and media.

You have three hours of completely uninterrupted time; how do you spend it?

I love being in the ocean, so I will often go for an ocean swim at Manly Beach with my husband Tim, followed by a leisurely breakfast with the morning papers at a cafe overlooking the sea. It’s even better if I leave my phone at home.

Find out more about Lifestyle Medicine 2017 here.