Physician promotes preventive care at all life stages to achieve optimum health

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When Dr. Markus Sonntag talks about the ‘continuum of care,’ he’s means more than getting a patient back to wellness. He means through all stages of life, and with an eye toward staying healthy at every age.

“We have a lot of older patients, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t do the things that keep us healthy at a younger age,” explains. Dr. Sonntag, who practices at St. Vincent’s Primary Care in Orange Park, Fla. “That’s why we focus on managing chronic conditions as well as treating illnesses as they up. If we have an older patient who’s dealing with a chronic illness, for example, we work with him or her to keep them functional and healthy. Often that means working with family members, so that everyone can make the best decision that’s in line with that patient’s wishes, especially as they go through the aging process.”

Because wellness means different things to patients of different ages, Dr. Sonntag says he spends time with each patient talking about overall lifestyle issues. That could be fall prevention for older patients, diet and exercise for younger ones, and measures such as immunizations, which affect everyone.

“Younger people will ask why they should get a flu shot, and my most common response is that you should look at it from the standpoint of benefit vs. risk,” he says. “If it’s a year where the vaccine matches up with the circulating influenza strains well, then there’s a 50 percent to 60 percent chance of reducing the flu and its complications. It’s going to be of great benefit to you, with very little risk of harm. Explained that way, people become a lot more interested in receiving the vaccine than they would be if I just asked if they wanted one.”

Early interventions yield long-term results

In fact, Dr. Sonntag finds lots of ways to convey healthy-living benefits to his patients, regardless of age.

“When younger people want to talk about weight management and obesity, I can see both sides because I have older patients who have conditions that are the end result of not managing their weight properly,” he says. “If you’re fairly young and your body mass index is above 35, that’s often not good. We try to intervene early so that long term complications can be avoided, and also so that patient can feel better and be more active.”

A part of good health boils down, he notes, to “what your mother told you: eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, don’t smoke and don’t drink to excess.”

Working with MissionPoint’s team of Health Partners, Dr. Sonntag says he hopes to amplify that message in ways he can’t in a single office visit.

“I see a patient and talk about lifestyle changes, even basic things like calorie-laden beverages, but they need that reinforced more frequently,” he says. “If someone else, like a Health Partner, is working with them on diet and exercise, then they’re going to hear the message and get reinforcement more frequently, so that is very helpful.”

To see how Health Partners can work with your care provider, contact MissionPoint Health Partners at 1-855-288-6747 or email

MissionPoint Health Partners, soon to be called Ascension Care Management (ACM), is a subsidiary of Ascension.