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Preventive Health Care Issues

Introduction

Preventive healthcare is a form of medication that aims to prevent diseases as opposed to curing them. Preventive healthcare does not primarily refer to medicine; it may refer to measures taken to prevent occurrences of given diseases (Nussbaum, 2006). Although unknown to many people, preventive healthcare is very important in determining one’s overall health. People may tend to think that curative medicine is the best and the only way to address health issues. Practicing preventive healthcare will be tantamount to addressing a problem from its roots. The journey to achieve a healthy community hinges its success on good preventive healthcare practices. Preventive healthcare should claim a significant portion of overall healthcare and this calls for full integration of the same.

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With protagonists and antagonists debating hotly on the bill of healthcare reforms, they should put preventive healthcare into account. This is because over the years, preventive healthcare has taken the back seat in the overall healthcare budget, and people lack sufficient information on the benefits of this form of healthcare. Accessibility and provision of the same have not been receiving the necessary attention over the years. Many diseases are preventable; however, mainstream health care establishments do not utilize the available resources to facilitate preventive health care.

Importance of Preventive Healthcare

The importance of preventive health care cannot be over-emphasized in the wake of shocking statistics of how health is deteriorating rapidly due to a lack of preventive measures. This grueling reality must have been on Elgin Moray’s mind when he said, “If prompt and effective action is not forthcoming, the medical services of the central and local authorities will go where the school of dental services has already gone down the drain” (British Medical Journal, 1949, p. 1416). Elgin made this observation many years ago but it is very relevant in today’s preventive medicine. It emphasizes the neglect that practitioners and stakeholders gave and still give to preventive healthcare. Nevertheless, why is preventive medicine important after all? Why should it receive much attention?

Well, as the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Preventive healthcare results in reduced mortality rates and this consequently increase life expectancy. Preventive medicine is significantly cheaper as compared to traditional medicine that many people prefer. Lack of preventive medicine puts individuals in danger of insalubrious lifestyles and varying food habits (Jekel, Katz and Elmore, 2001, p. 114). Being strong and big is not a sign of a healthy lifestyle. Someone may be strong and active but inside he or she harbors a health disaster waiting to strike. It is important to observe preventive health practices like a frequent diagnosis to detect any form of health risk that may be crawling on an individual. Many people live by optimism that all will be well and that no health-related disaster would strike. It is important to go for frequent check-ups, which allows detection of diseases at early stages before they advance to developed life-threatening levels. Specialists may detect some potential health risks that an individual may dismiss as mild and insignificant. Moreover, healthy people save money on healthcare. Preventive medicine is the way to these healthy lifestyles. It is very sad to die from a preventable disease while it could have taken someone a few minutes to save the situation.

Preventive Healthcare Measures

Preventive healthcare seeks to uphold good health practices. According to HealthCentral.com (2009), preventive medicine entails the following practices; daily exercise, proper nutrition, fore fending smoking, substance abuse and alcohol, weight control, and handling any disorder as it arises. These are practices available to everyone. However, there are professional services that foster preventive healthcare. These services entail periodical testing of individuals to detect potential health risks. These include going for a pap smear; a screening practice that detects cancer in women, the teaching of breast self-examination (BCE); a preventive healthcare practice that will determine the presence of breast cancer, mammography; a radiological examination of breast tissues, teaching testicular self-examination, to detect testicular cancer. Additionally, there is prostrate cancer testing; carried out annually to detect testicular cancer, cholesterol screening; to determine levels of bad (low-density lipoproteins) and good (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, colon cancer; carried out every year for people over 50 years. Moreover, people should go for blood pressure check-ups, dental examinations after every six months, and immunizations given to the right people at the right time (HealthCentral.com).

The Current Healthcare Systems

According to a report by World Health Organization (W.H.O.) (2008), the majority of current healthcare systems focus mainly on reacting to severe health problems, pressing patients’ needs, and agitating concerns. The hallmarks of modern-day health care systems are curing or relieving symptoms after testing and diagnosis. Conventionally, these measures are in line with curative processes and they play a major role in restoring and maintaining health. However, they neglect that has met preventive medicine is biting. The zeal employed when dealing with curative medicine is painstakingly missing when it comes to preventive medicine. There is an utter failure on the part of health care providers to seize the opportunity of informing patients on the need to practice preventive exercises. Doctors, nurses, and other practitioners have the opportunity to educate patients as they interact with them. Unfortunately, these professionals underutilize this opportunity and different diseases keep on recurring from time to time. Management of preventive health care, scores below par as compared to management of curative medicine. There is an inherent difference between preventive health care systems and curative health care systems world allover, and this is alarming (W.H.O. 2008).

Why the Concern

One would love to ask; why is there so much campaign about preventive health care? On top of the main advantages of preventive health services, statistics indicate appalling figures on the number of people who die from preventable diseases. As aforementioned, it is very saddening for an individual to die from a preventable disease. It hurts, even more, to know that these diseases could be prevented from the comfort of one’s home. Research carried out by The University of California, San Francisco, indicates that the majority of American teenagers do not receive any or sufficient preventive care (Preidt, 2009). Researchers in this research established that only 38% of the 8,500 adolescents interviewed had received preventive care or information in the last year (Preidt, 2009). On the issue of doctors counseling or informing teenagers about preventive health care, only 10% of these teenagers received counseling on pertinent issues like dental care, regular exercise, putting on a seat belt, healthy eating, or exposure to secondary smoke (Preidt, 2009). These statistics are shocking given that a sick young generation translates into a future ailing nation.

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The following are some data collected on deaths resulting from preventable diseases.

Table 1. Number of preventable deaths world wide in 2001.

Cause Number of deaths resulting (millions per year)
Hypertension 7.8
Smoking 5.0
High cholesterol 3.9
Malnutrition 3.8
Sexually transmitted infections 3.0
Poor diet 2.8
Overweight and obesity 2.5
Physical inactivity 2.0
Alcohol 1.9
Indoor air pollution from solid fuels 1.8
Unsafe water and poor sanitation 1.6

A Graph Representing Number of preventable deaths per year against causes.

Number of preventable deaths per year against causes.

Table 2. Number of preventable deaths in United States in 2000.

Cause Number of deaths resulting
Tobacco Smoking 435,000 deaths or 18.1% of the total deaths
Overweight and Obesity 365,000 deaths or 15.2% of the total deaths
Alcohol consumption 85,000 deaths or 3.5% of the total deaths
Infectious diseases 75,000 deaths or 3.1% of the total deaths
Toxicants 55,000 deaths or 2.3% of the total deaths
Traffic collisions 43,000 deaths or 1.8% of the total deaths
Incidents involving firearms 29,000 deaths or 1.2% of the total deaths
Sexually transmitted diseases 20,000 deaths or 0.8% of the total deaths
Drug abuse 17,000 deaths or 0.7% of the total deaths

If these figures are anything to go by, then there is an urgent change in running healthcare systems. We cannot watch as our brothers and sisters go down the drain from avoidable circumstances. It is true that death is the ultimate destiny of all; however, in cases where death can be avoided, then the involved parties should respond appropriately. For instance, if there were functional preventive health care systems in place to address the issue of smoking, the 78,735 people who died in America in 2000 would be living today.

The Way Forward

In the wake of these facts, there is an urgent need to reconsider the place of preventive health care services in the mainstream healthcare systems. Policymakers cannot afford to overlook these facts and continue concentrating on curative medicine. According to W.H.O (2008), the majority of diseases are preventable. This puts practitioners and stakeholders on high alert and may be it time to come up with new techniques in providing health care services. Every session that a doctor has with a patient should be a session of interaction; informing patients on how to prevent some of the diseases we have today. This should be a challenge to doctors and other health care providers to become proactive and make radical decisions that will bring change. There is a high probability that if patients get enough information, they are likely to cut down consumption of substances that threaten their lives. For instance, there is a high probability that by educating a smoker on the dangers of smoking, he or she will quit smoking because he or she has already experienced the effects of the same. Does this strategy have a long-term effect?

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WHO (2008), indicates that, by educating people on the importance of preventive health care practices, there will be a long-term reduction of chronic diseases hence reducing the burden of healthcare expenditure later on in life. By teaching young people how to shun risky behaviors like unsafe sex, they will grow to be responsible people in the future thus reducing instances of preventable cases like sexually transmitted diseases. There is a need to have a collaborative approach in managing preventive healthcare, a feat that will involve patients, doctors, families, policymakers, and communities at large. Some of the essential elements that call for implementation include endorsing a paradigm shift that will integrate preventive health care into the mainstream health care systems (W.H.O, 2008). There is a dire need to increase funding towards the implementation of a functional preventive care system. Doctors and other practitioners should educate patients on the need to practice preventive practices.

What has happened so far?

Despite the drawbacks that have plunged implementation and maintenance of a functional preventive health care system, different countries have made significant steps towards the implementation of this form of care. For instance, the United States of America is trying hard to integrate primary healthcare into mainstream healthcare practices. A good example is Kaiser Permanente (WHO, 2008). This is a care organization based in California and it seeks to integrate preventive care into curative care to meet patients’ needs in a better way. The organization created multidisciplinary teams of experts who will address health issues from an all-rounded perspective. These teams encompass nurses, physicians, health educators, physical therapists, and psychologists.

The American Heart Association in 2000 noted improved health through preventive health care practices. This is one of the departments in the health care sector that adopted preventive medicine quite early. According to The American Heart Association (2000), preventive health care practices have been in heart care services for the last three decades. Death rates from cardiovascular complications are lower compared to the times when preventive medicine was unavailable in cardiovascular treatment. In 2001 alone, more than 516,000 operations on coronary artery bypass were done on 305,000 patients (The American Heart Association, 2000). Given the prohibitive costs of performing heart surgery, most people would be dead now, because they would not have been afforded to pay for the services. This is a good example of how preventive medicine can work for the benefit of patients and the community at large.

Conclusion

Preventive health care is a crucial component in health care that seeks to tackle diseases before they emerge. This is the primary care where individuals can experience prolonged life expectancy if well executed. Unfortunately, this form of medication has not been able to enter mainstream health care. Over the years, health care systems have focused on curative medicine, addressing only chronic and urgent patient needs. It is regrettable that many people are dying today out of preventable conditions. This calls for immediate implementation of preventive health care in mainstream health care. Reports indicate that there is no sufficient information concerning preventive health care. Nevertheless, despite the many challenges and neglect, that face preventive health care, there is hope that finally, preventive health care is gaining popularity and it is finding its place in mainstream health care. By adopting preventive health care into other forms of health care, more lives will be saved at a lesser cost.

References List

American Heart Association. (2000). Preventive Health Care. Web.

British Medical Journal. (1949). Correspondence. Web.

HealthCentral.com. (2009). Preventive Health Care. Web.

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Jekel, J., Katz, D., & Elmore, J. (2001). Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Preventive Medicine. Web.

Nussbaum, S. (2006). Prevention: The Cornerstone of Quality Health Care American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 31 (1) 107-108. Web.

Preidt, R. (2009). Most Teens aren’t Getting Preventive Health Care. USA Today. Web.

World Health Organization. (2002). Integrating Prevention into Health Care. Web.

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