#walkwithadoc Washington, DC – what’s next?

There were 2 docs on this walk : Pierre Vigilance, MD MPH View on Flickr.com

I think the best part of Friday’s walkwithadoc was when my colleague Ann Kempski, our Director of Government Relations, approached Pierre Vigilance, MD MPH (@pierrevigilance) immediately and said, “thank you for the bike paths!” He told us that this work really originated from the DC Department of Transportation, however it was a moment when I recognized that people are aware of their environment and appreciate attention to it. Ann is a regular bicyclist, so our Transportation Department thinking about itself as also a health department has made an impact on all of us.

Our second walk took us through Ward 6 (where the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health @kptotalhealth is) and into the border of Ward 5. Ward 6′ obesity rate is 19 %, Ward 5 is 30 %, and this is data we know because of Pierre’s work. 

Pierre asked me during the walk what the long term vision for these walks should be. Walking the neighborhoods of DC is not a new idea. So I thought about it for a second (or two) and here’s what I think:

walkwithadoc – starter vision

walkwithadoc will achieve its goal when every physician in Washington, DC, and ultimately, the United States, includes exercise as medicine in their practices, every day. Whether it is walking with their patients in the morning, walking with their partners and teams during the day, or walking with community leaders to understand and change the determinants of health, they will feel that they are not practicing medicine unless they include walking.

There are 4,000 physicians practicing in Washington, DC, 2,821 spend more than 20 hours a week seeing patients. Imagine that workforce for 20-60 minutes every day making connections to health, wellness, and their role as community leaders on our sidewalks (and sometimes un-sidewalks). Imagine all of the other benefits that would come as well – go ahead, post some in the comments.

Post-Walk View on Flickr.com

What do you think? Doable? Farfetched? Is it any better than any other activities physicians do every day to improve health?

There are plenty of organizations already pursuing this goal, including JustWalk in Ohio (and reaching around the world), and Group Health Physicians in Washington State. Where I am, in a health system with aligned incentives, we have the opportunity to keep moving along on this goal, while recruiting physicians in different practice environments to try this out, too. 

Who’s the next District of Columbia physician who would like to prototype this in their practice? Post in the comments.

Photographs below, as well as the briefing document, which shows the data about Ward 5 and Ward 6. One impressive thing about promoting health in the era of open data in 2012, is that it’s relatively easy to map and understand the environments that our fellow citizens live in – all it takes is a few mouse clicks. Check it out.

Walk withadoc 081012 briefing document ward 5 and 6 from Ted Eytan

Note: Links to these datasets are available in this link cloud


Management by walking (MBWA) makes a difference in organizational climate, similarly this model offers a real opportunity to connect doctors and communities with prevention strategies for healthier neighborhoods. Furthemore, doctors and health professionals get a community pulse, we should all have time in our daily schedules for such efforts.  It should be embedded throughout training so that there’s a shift within the culture of the profession of medicine that enables public health practices.

Ted Eytan, MD