Tackling Disease Through Prevention
March 22, 2011 by Jeffrey R. Matthews
It was like music to my ears. It was the action statement I have been hoping to hear for decades. The recently created Federal program, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, released its new “disease prevention strategy.” Finally! Well… fingers crossed that it makes sense and does what it intends.
The problem many holistic wellness professionals, such as myself, have had with the current health care system is its focus on “after-the-fact” treatment of illness symptoms. That is, allopathic medicine (our mainstream medical model) is based on the treatment of disease, wherein people see a physician after they are already sick.
This is the proverbial dog chasing its tail. The dog will never get ahead of its tail and treating pain, illness and diseases and their symptoms after the health concern has taken hold in the body will never cure even one of the problems because the system is reactionary… not proactive. But then, this is what can be expected of a disease-based model of health.
Prevention is the only way to reduce the occurrences of pain, illness and disease and the only way to reduce the amount of money spent on health insurance, research and development, studies and work days lost. But prevention is not an easy road; it requires self-discipline and… knowledge.
Indeed, without the understanding of what the pillars of wellness are, and how to support them, how can people be expected to practice prevention? Moreover, we are all taught to take aspirin when we have a headache, to use a heating pad for a bad back, to use ice on inflammation, to rehab a torn muscle, to inject prescription medications to ease the effects of everything from diabetes and heart disease to premenstrual syndrome and sinusitis. For prevention to become our fundamental theme of wellness, the education program and sound bites need to change from “do this for that” to “do this to prevent that.”
Well, the good news is that there is an unprecedented shift in the Federal government’s view of health care. Focus has changed from its extant disease-based model of health to a wellness-based model steeped in prevention and wellness strategies.
The Federal wellness strategy promises to equip the public, private and nonprofit agencies, organizations and individuals with a disease-prevention program. It aims to put in place strategies for reducing America’s overwhelming occurrences of needless and preventable diseases and disabilities and needless preventable death.
Read President Barack Obama’s Executive Order on this here.
Now we have a government program to prevent disease. And the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council promises a lot with its new policies and programs. The aim is simply to help Americans of all ages live healthier, longer lives.
In the words of Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), “With this national strategy we are, for the first time as a nation, saying that we want to be one of the healthiest nations on the planet. The National Prevention Strategy can be thought of as the blueprint for converting our approach to health from one which is sick care to one that is well care.”
In addition to creating the national strategy, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council provides coordination and leadership among all executive departments and agencies with respect to prevention, wellness and health promotion practices. And it’s not just the health department that is involved in this shift in health care consciousness.
“It’s not just the health department that is involved now,” Benjamin said. “This is really a look from the top at health in all policies—an attempt to get every part of our nation focused on health for all the places in which health intersects in our society.”
Has it been successful in its early days? Well, according to a report by Jenny Backus, former acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, “The Strategy’s impact will be significant because it will take a community health approach to prevention and well-being—identifying and prioritizing actions across government and between the public and private sectors. Both the forthcoming Strategy and the ongoing work of the new Council present a historic opportunity to bring prevention and wellness to the forefront of the nation’s efforts to improve the health status of all Americans.”
What I find interesting (and maybe a bit disturbing) is that the government is trying to do a good thing in lighting a path toward prevention. Yet, it is using the existing disease-based allopathic medical model to do it. The strength of this model, again, is addressing pain, illness and disease after it has occurred. Time will tell if medical schools and CEU education classes will change their focus to support a true prevention model. I look forward to that day.
For more information on the Federal prevention health care model and its policies, visit www.HealthCare.gov
–Dr. Mark Wiley