During the first week of May 2016, my travels took me to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai and the Grand Hyatt Hotel at Poipu Beach. I was there for the annual conference I run called “Primary Care of the Active and Athletic Patient”. This is a meeting for primary care physicians with a focus on helping patients get and stay active, with a host lectures on common medical and musculoskeletal problems that may prevent patients from doing the physical activity they need to stay healthy.

Hiking the Kalalau Trail with Dr Fran O'Conner

Hiking the Kalalau Trail with Dr Fran O’Conner

I invited a great faculty to speak at this meeting, including my Kaiser Fontana colleagues Drs. Dennis Borna and David Anderson, along with Dr. Joel Handler from Kaiser Orange County. I was also joined by Kaiser Northern California colleagues, including Drs. Rob Nied, Ted O’Connell and David Sobel. And finally, my good friend Dr. Fran O’Conner also spoke and he is a US Army physician and Chair of the Department of Military and Emergency Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. All of these speakers did a great job educating conference attendees on not only the health benefits of an active lifestyle, but also the proper treatment of various conditions that can prevent patients from being active.

Speaker dinner at Primary Care Kauai

Speaker dinner at Primary Care Kauai

As a physician, the longer I practice medicine the more I realize that access to medical care is only a small part of what makes my patients healthy. By far the most important determinant of good health and longevity is health related behavior – and the 3 most important behaviors are whether you smoke, the type of diet you eat and how much you exercise. I think we have done a very good job warning patients about the dangers of smoking and in fact we have seen a dramatic decline in smoking rates. We talk a lot about the obesity problem in America and do what we can to promote a healthy diet, but getting my patients to lose weight is always a difficult proposition. Of these 3 important health related behaviors, I truly believe that getting patients to be more physically active is the easiest to change. And the best way to do that is encouraging them to walk as the first line medication to prevent and treat virtually all of the common problems I see in my office – but especially the chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Back from a long run-walk with Drs Fran O'Conner and David Anderson

Back from a long run-walk with Drs Fran O’Conner and David Anderson

So that is why I organize this meeting each year and why I travel around the world speaking on the importance of exercise to good health. You see I believe physicians should prescribe walking as the first line medication to prevent and treat almost every disease. I also enjoy walking in every city I visit and this trip was no exception. Kauai certainly ranks as one of the most beautiful places I have ever walked. I especially enjoyed hiking the Kalalau Trail that runs along the Napili Coast on the northern side of the island, and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Thanks again for reading my blog and spreading word on the importance of walking to good health!