Guest blog from Dr. Boyd Lyles Jr.
Healthcare issues have been debated long before the passing of the Affordable Care Act; however, recent discussions surrounding the law have refocused the national spotlight squarely on healthcare and the rising costs associated with staying healthy.
While the majority of these discussions focus on health insurance costs and coverage, one topic which is not discussed as often is preventive care, and the responsibility of individuals to do their part to reduce risk factors.
Over the past few years, there’s been some debate within the medical community regarding preventive care. On one hand, some suggest that the frequency of screenings and treatments is simply too expensive for the average individual, and in some cases, even unnecessary.On the other hand, preventive care, screenings, and lifestyle changes have the potential to improve the quality of life, save lives, and even reduce health spending.
As a matter of fact, a recent analysis published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs indicates that increasing the use of preventive services in the U.S. to 90 percent could help us save $3.7 billion of personal health spending in the U.S., while simultaneously helping to avert the loss of more than two million life-years annually. In other words, preventive care can help us not only save lives, but also do so at little to no additional cost.
And yet, many of us fail to take advantage of these modern life-saving opportunities. That’s unfortunate since preventive screenings weren’t even an option in the past. Medical technology just wasn’t where it needed to be in order to be practical, affordable, or useful. Even if a condition was detected early, there still wasn’t much that could be done since few effective treatments were available.
The advancement of medical research, technology, and practices have changed the game in the past few decades. With new breakthroughs in early detection and treatment being made every year, preventive care has evolved to the point where many conditions and health risks can be managed and improved with simple and affordable lifestyle changes.
Where before, little to nothing was known about risk factors, now we know that indicators such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and obesity are linked to more serious, long-term conditions, like heart disease and even some forms of cancer.
Modern preventive care screenings play a large role in helping to detect these risk factors early enough for individuals to address them head-on, and therefore prevent issues from developing into chronic conditions. Preventive screenings can also provide the spark of motivation needed for individuals to begin making healthier lifestyle choices.
That’s why it’s so important for employer wellness programs to not only touch on preventive care, but to drive it. An excellent wellness program not only provides program members with suggested preventive care screenings, but also empowers them to take action based on the results.
Disease management programs play a large role in this proactive, preventive strategy. Typically, these programs help to identify members who have a chronic condition, as well as those with a high risk for developing one, so a personalized care plan can be developed and a dedicated health coach can be assigned to help them take control of their health.
In addition to taking advantage of these services, it’s also important to provide informative resources to help program members understand their health, and suggest lifestyle changes they can make to lower their risk.
While the healthcare debate continues to grip the nation, when it comes to your personal health, the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, rings loud and true. Going forward, this will become even more important as new medical breakthroughs lead to better and more effective treatments. In the meantime, individuals and employers who decide to be proactive will reap the benefits of this practical, pre-emptive approach to health.