There’s one lecture from graduate school that I constantly remember. In that particular Healthcare Delivery in the U.S. course lecture, my professor walked through a clinical visit with a recurring patient. Medical students and residents learn to obtain three important pieces of information from the patient: chief complaint (the reason for their visit), symptoms and a brief medical history. He then opened it up to us – was there anything else we would like to know? Coming from a public health perspective, our questions dove deeper into the social determinants of health -physical environment (housing), SES (access to health insurance, employment), etc. – to clarify if there were any underlying issues causing the patient to return with similar health issues. That deeper dive, he said, was the distinction between the fields of medicine and public health.
An article published by WBUR last month illustrates a shift in medical school and residency programs to integrate public health principles, most notably the social determinants of health, into their learning objectives.
A holistic understanding of each patient is ideal when tailoring a plan not only to treat illness, but to achieve long-term well-being. The whole-person approach to treating chronic illness is what makes Vital Plan a unique part of the vast healthcare landscape.
My interview with CEO Braden Rawls catching up 2 years after our first interview, below.
Me: I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 years since I published our first blog interview. How’s Vital Plan? What’s new that you can share with us?
Braden Rawls: It’s been a busy two years! Vital Plan has grown its customer base significantly, and this has allowed us to recruit ten new team members to continue improving our programs and expanding our reach. What really clicked for Vital Plan was selling our herbal supplement products in bundles alongside supportive health programs. Our signature program is the Restore Program, which includes four supplements plus health coaching support and a six month online course with education about restoring balance in the body through diet and lifestyle. We’ve received very positive feedback on this program from customers and have expanded it to an international audience, with customers across Europe, Canada and Australia.
Me: Why was it important for Vital Plan to become B Corporation Certified?
BR: B Corp certification is important for Vital Plan to showcase third-party verification of our commitment to doing business with integrity. We are on a mission to restore and rebuild trust in the herbal supplement industry after its reputation was tarnished by deceitful players. Being able to showcase our commitment to doing business with integrity has already proven valuable in gaining new customers and recruiting talent. From the start, our goal has been to empower everyone that our organization teaches individuals to become more proactive about their health and to be mindful of the way they live. B Corp gives us a framework to support this mission and put best practices in place to grow our company in a smart, sustainable way.
Me: One of the illnesses that Vital Plan focuses on is Lyme Disease. Could you describe why it’s been a major focus for Vital Plan? How does Vital Plan’s approach differ from traditional approaches?
BR: Lyme disease is an illness that is personal for Vital Plan, as our founder, Dr. Bill Rawls, suffered with pain and insomnia for many years before ultimately testing positive for Lyme disease. However, Dr. Rawls’ personal struggle motivated him to research microbial illness from all angles, and he feels that Lyme disease is only one microbe of thousands behind chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Rawls believes that the true problem is not the stealthy microbes, but rather suppression of our immune systems that is allowing these stealthy microbes to flourish. He feels that chronic immune dysfunction is the real driver of the increase in chronic disease in developed countries, as exposure to toxins, radiation, stress and processed foods has depressed our immune system and is allowing microbial disease to flourish.
Me: Vital Plan’s belief in addressing the underlying causes of disease is non-traditional. Could you speak why your team is so passionate about taking this route?
BR: The approach of treating symptoms is valuable for helping an individual to live more comfortably short term, but it is generally not a long term solution for fostering wellness. Our team believes that disease in the body is often the result of environmental and dietary factors that are under our control, such as inflammatory food, chronic stress, and exposure to toxins and microbes. Through awareness of these disease factors, we believe that better health is in reach for many individuals. We feel that herbal medicine and natural healing modalities are also effective tools for individuals to take advantage of to promote healing and restore balance in the body.
Me: Based on the patients that Vital Plan serves, what would you say are the biggest challenges for them to get back to normal? “Normal” being before their respective diseases produced symptoms so severe that it affected their quality of life.
BR: For many people, diet and lifestyle changes are very difficult. However, once a person realizes that the food they are eating (or busy schedules they are slaves to) is making them sick, the changes become much easier to adopt. When you begin to associate foods or lifestyle practices with feeling good, your body will begin to crave those foods and practices instead of the ones that make you feel bad. It is all about training your brain to make those connections. Accelerating those connections for people is a big part of the mission behind our programs at Vital Plan.