Tom Ballard, ND's blog


Misunderstanding Preventive Medicine
September 6, 2009, 1:58 am
Filed under: Commentary | Tags: , , , , , ,

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer makes the same mistake as most MDs, politicians, public health officials, and health policy experts – they don’t understand the difference between preventive medicine and early detection. Krauthammer’s editorial (Preventive care is no panacea, 8/15/09) is printed all over the world, yet his thesis that preventive medicine doesn’t pay is not supported by the facts. He doesn’t cite a single preventive medicine study, only studies done on early detection (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc) Prevention and early detection are not the same, although medical companies would like us to think so.

Prevention therapies are lifestyle changes that make early detection tests read negative – no disease. Many large, multicenter studies have been done showing exercise, diet, relaxation, etc do reduce disease, especially heart disease and diabetes, two of the most expensive.

True preventive medicine is rarely discussed in the so-called healthcare debate because it is largely free of financial ties to medical corporations. For the most part the wrangling is about who will pay for more testing, surgeries and drugs. These are at the opposite end of the healthcare continuum, far downstream from prevention. So, rather than tax money paying for $55 a month for grandma’s gym membership, or a yoga class, it will pay $250 a month for her heart and diabetes drugs.

Early detection may not be cost effective, but preventive medicine is. And until true preventive medicine becomes a central part of healthcare planning, we will continue to hemorrhage money and lose lives.

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