Many times, the launch of an Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) National Center is initiated by a Ministry of Health, a national sports medicine organization or a major health care system. EIM Poland had a much humbler beginning, guided by two visionaries: Dr. Anna Plucik-MroÃƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¼ek, an internal medicine physician, and Malgorzata (Gosia) Perl, a certified exercise professional. Anna and Gosia attended their first ACSM Annual Meeting in 2014 in Orlando, Florida, where they first learned about EIM. Returning home, they began laying the foundation to establish EIM in Poland. Anna and Gosia formally presented their vision for a new EIM National Center in Poland just two years later at the ACSM Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.
The vision for EIM Poland continued to solidify over the next year, and on June 1, 2017, an official Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Denver, officially establishing the EIM Poland National Center. In only two years of existence, Anna and Gosia have continued to move at a remarkable pace and have already established partnerships with key Polish organizations including the Medical University of Warsaw, the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, the Polish Ministry of Health, the Polish Ministry of Sport, the Polish Olympic Committee and the Polish Public Health Institute. Along with many of these partners, the EIM Poland team has already completed several key activities.
The first EIM-like activities conducted by EIM Poland can be traced back to 2015 and a program started by Anna and Gosia called Physical Activity for Everyone. The program grew from their desire to connect providers and patients to local exercise professionals. Physical Activity for Everyone started in a municipality just outside of Warsaw (Legionowo) with support from local authorities. The program facilitated the referral of patients with chronic diseases from clinic settings to community-based exercise programs. Tailored exercise programs were designed based on results from a full medical workup, including either a stress-test or a six-minute walk test to assess initial physical fitness levels. From there, trained exercise professionals developed a customized, 12-week exercise program to meet patient needs. Since its inception, more than 250 patients have successfully participated in Physical Activity for Everyone.
Next, the EIM Poland team developed a series of “Walk for Health – Invite your Doctor” events. Similar to the popular Walk with a Doc program in the U.S., Walk for Health events involve physicians and other health care providers joining their patients in large, group-based walks. The initial Walk for Health event took place in September 2016 in Warsaw and was attended by several physicians, hundreds of patients and members from the Polish Ministry of Health (MOH). This success of the first walk led to further funding from the Polish MOH. This past September, EIM Poland hosted a series of Walk for Health events held simultaneously in 10 cities throughout Poland, involving more than 200 physicians walking alongside 3,000+ patients.
As part of their mission to better educate and promote awareness of the benefits of physical activity to health care providers, the EIM Poland team recently completed Physical Activity in Chronic Diseases – Guidelines for Physicians. This guide, the first of its kind in Poland, is similar to ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities in providing physical activity prescriptions for individuals with chronic diseases, as well as special sections for prescribing activity for children, pregnant women, older adults and individuals with joint diseases. Completed in the summer of 2018, 1,300 copies of the book have been printed and are being distributed to health care providers throughout the country.
Moving from adults to children, the EIM Poland team, working with the Polish MOH, designed a children’s book called Jump for Health. The goal of the book is to engage children in physical activities that improve their bone health from the earliest developmental phases. More than 5,000 copies of the book have been given for free to families participating in Walk for Health events. Additional copies of the book are available online. The book has also been transformed into an audiobook to further increase its dissemination.
Despite tremendous success over a short period of time, EIM Poland is just getting started! Potential future projects include working with the Institute of Public Health, the largest organization of its kind in Poland, to examine the relationship between physical activity and blood pressure in Polish individuals. They are also in the early stages of partnering with different health foundations across Poland (oncology, older adults, joint diseases) to promote physical activity. Perhaps most promising are recent conversations with the Polish Public Insurance Company, the primary company providing public health insurance to Polish citizens, about how physical activity might one day be covered through the public health insurance plans.
The EIM Global Health Network is proud of the extraordinary work of Anna, Gosia and the entire EIM Poland team, and we are all very excited to see their program continue to grow and impact the lives of thousands of individuals across Poland.