Preventative Medicine

Story by Jada McCullough

Preventative medicine is an area of medicine that is designed to focus on the promotion of health and the well-being of people and communities. This specialty aims to prevent and avert disease and illness, in individuals as well as in communities and larger populations. While there are preventative medicine specialists, most physicians promote preventative medicine in some way, shape, or form. Preventative medicine specialists use epidemiology (the study of how diseases affect the health of populations) and biostatics (statistics regarding data relating to living organisms), to study the cause of disease and injury within population segments. 

Preventative medicine is important because, in the long run, it can lead to saving the lives of many people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, and unintentional injuries. While unintentional injuries aren’t usually something that can be prevented, the four other illnesses listed can typically be prevented with lifestyle changes. Which is why preventative medicine is so important because it can help avoid premature death. In addition, preventative medicine can also lower health costs. A large amount of yearly health spending goes towards the treatment of preventable diseases in the US.

Preventative medicine can be used in a clinical and non-clinical setting. In a clinical setting, this is just a physician who sees their patients. The physician can offer advice and counseling for ways to improve unhealthy habits, they can also run health screenings, as well as deliver immunizations. In a non-clinical setting, preventative medicine physicians aren’t necessarily working with individual patients. These physicians are more so working with epidemiology and focused more on the social and behavioral influences that can influence an individual’s health. 

Typically a distinction is made between primary prevention and secondary prevention measures. Primary prevention measures that are followed to prevent the occurrence of a disease from happening. Primary prevention is basically changing the patient’s environment, habits, and also manipulating the patient by administering immunizations. Secondary prevention is where measures are followed to halt or avert a disease or its complications, after the onset of a disease. Secondary prevention can include measures such as; therapy to avert the spread of disease to individuals who aren’t infected, or identifying people in early stages so that treatment can be the most effective, and also delaying the consequence of advanced diseases by using therapy or rehabilitation procedures.

Prevention of disease is something that can be ensured by both the physician and the individual. One of the main and most basic practices of preventative medicine are annual physical exams. Visiting a physician who knows your health history and your family’s background can be essential in preventing diseases. During these exams, physicians have the opportunity to enlighten their patients on precautions and practices that they can follow to decrease their likelihood of having a disease. 

Individuals can also do their part in preventing disease by practicing healthy habits in their homes. Many preventable diseases stem from unhealthy diets, so eating a balanced diet could help in preventing illness. It can be difficult to know what constitutes a balanced diet but there are many resources available to help with that. For instance, https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ is a website that can offer many helpful tips for eating healthy. 

Prevention begins early, it’s not something that can only be practiced by and for adults. Influencing a child’s nutrition at an early age can have lasting effects that will shape their habits as adults as well. Expecting mothers can meet with a family physician while they’re pregnant and learn about adequate intakes of milk and other vitamins and nutrients that the child might need. Also, parents can be advised to encourage their children to snack on fruits and vegetables and other healthy options rather than foods that are high in sugar. Also, parents can encourage more physical activities and sports and limited screen time, to ensure their children are remaining active. These simple steps can help to shape and form healthy habits in individuals at an early age.

This field of medicine is important because it not only attempts to help patients avoid illness but also contributes to lower health costs. Every doctor, at some point, utilizes some form of preventative medicine in their practices. Primary care physicians have an exceptional opportunity to assist their patients with staying healthy and avoiding diseases. However, the main responsibility falls on the patients to follow their physician’s advice and practice healthier habits.

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