Northwestern Medicine

Primary Care Physician Tackles Challenges to Wellness

Northwestern Medicine Evanston June 26, 2013

EVANSTON, IL – The typical American diet and sedentary lifestyle have increased obesity rates and hypertension. In his nearly 20 years of practice, Northwestern Medicine primary care physician Michael Rakotz, MD, has confronted these obstacles to good health to help his patients and the communities where he practices.

Michael Rakotz, MDRakotz has directed weight management programs, owned a community fitness center, and continues to teach classes on healthy cooking. He has also been recognized nationally with the Healthcare Informatics Innovators Award in 2013 for his institution’s efforts to detect undiagnosed hypertension in adults.

“As physicians, we need to be out in the community offering people realistic and practical advice about how to live healthier,” said Rakotz. “It’s not enough to see people a few times a year in the office and give them advice. We have to take our knowledge and expertise to the places they spend their days—like the grocery store, the library and farmers’ market—to educate them about healthy choices in eating and physical activity.”

For the past five years, Rakotz provided medically supervised weight management services for a large Illinois medical group, providing nutrition and dietary counseling services to adolescents and adults. Having worked in commercial kitchens since age 14, he uses his 30 years of cooking experience to offer practical advice about healthy cooking at home. He teaches healthy cooking classes to adults and children at places like Whole Foods Markets, public libraries, the Chicago Botanic Garden and farmers markets across the Chicago area.

Rakotz urges all of his patients to be physically active as part of a plan for maintaining good health, and as the foundation for preventing many diseases—including obesity. It was because of this strong belief that he spent 10 years as the medical director of a community health center just outside Boulder, Colorado. He continues to practice what he preaches. Rakotz can often be seen bicycling on and off the roads north of Chicago, and continues to promote physical activity as a crucial part of achieving and maintaining good health for people of all ages.

In addition to this hands-on experience promoting a healthy lifestyle, his research efforts have focused on using health information technology to help physicians better detect patients with undiagnosed hypertension. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in three U.S. adults—about 67 million people—have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, 20 million of these 67 million remain undiagnosed or untreated. Rakotz says he has always been fascinated by the fact that hypertension is easy to diagnose and treat, yet it is often missed in clinical practice.

“Hypertension can lead to many serious health problems like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure—and yet it can be controlled effectively,” said Rakotz. “My primary goals are to detect and treat hypertension in individuals, and at the same time to create the systems necessary to reduce societal hypertension rates.”

Rakotz is currently working with a team at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group to improve the quality of high blood pressure detection and management. Their goal is to create a system of care with a team approach, utilizing electronic health records and improved communication with patients, to become one of the best medical groups in the country at controlling this potentially deadly condition.

Rakotz practices with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group at Northwestern Medicine Evanston

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