image of root vegetables in a grocery store

Michigan Doctor Taking Health Beyond Exam Room

Physician Paul Ehrmann has treated generations of patients at his Royal Oak family practice. In addition to treating illness and conducting routine checkups, he often works in messaging about exercise, diet and healthy lifestyle changes patients can make, provided they’re receptive to hear it.

“There’s only so much in a 30-minute encounter that you can do if you really want to get people to where they need to be,” he said.

Ehrmann, a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) designated physician, knows that many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer are largely preventable. They’re also major drivers of health care costs. He’s made it his personal mission to spread a positive preventive health message outside his exam room.

“Within the office is not enough,” Ehrmann said.

In 2015, Ehrmann started a wellness program called Healthytown Everywhere, focused on helping people in underserved communities improve their food choices, make strides toward regular exercise and focus on overall lifestyle improvements. The non-profit organization joined forces with the Michigan Health Council and offers a variety of programs to communities they go into, including:

  • Grocery store tours led by dietetic interns, supervised by registered dietitians.
  • Community walks partnering with the national group, Walk with a Doc.
  • Free blood pressure, blood sugar and BMI measurements performed by medical students with attending physicians serving as mentor supervisors.
  • A five-week, one-hour nutrition class taught by dietetic interns in elementary schools.

Ehrmann partners with local universities, providers and medical systems to find students and supervising professionals willing to volunteer their time to the program. It provides practical experience for students and gives medical professionals an opportunity to give back.

The message that taking care of yourself today will help prevent negative health consequences later is one that people are receptive to, Ehrmann said.

“From a societal standpoint, I think we’re there. I think people understand us more than they did 10 years ago,” he said.

Healthytown Everywhere has led programming in Detroit, Royal Oak and other communities and is looking to spread across the state. The program is customized based on the unique needs of each community and is completely free of charge.

The organization is heading to Flint on Saturday, Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the newly opened Hamady Brothers Market, 2629 Pierson Rd. Community members are invited to take part in a yoga warmup session followed by a community walk. Grocery store tours, a health fair and mini-medical school for kids. Find more details here.

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Photo credit: Beatrice Murch

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