Do We Need to Move Focus from Curative Medicine to Preventive Medicine for Better Health?
Both preventive and curative healthcare play an important role in maintaining the health of communities and supporting economic growth. The key is in striking the right balance that can lead to a long, healthy and satisfying life’s journey.
Studies suggest that chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States today. In addition to causing 70% of all US deaths each year, chronic conditions limit activities of daily living for 1 in 10 Americans. The growing price tag associated with chronic conditions looms as a threat to the national economy. Despite better access to diagnostic equipment and surgical procedures, American life expectancy is shorter than for all peer countries around the world. Experts believe that this may be due in part to the United States' lag in basic preventive care (eg, annual checkups) and its heavy reliance on expensive specialists.
People who do not have any chronic conditions or are able to manage their conditions effectively, are able to enjoy the things that are important to them. The key for better health and high quality of life lies not in treating symptoms and conditions but focusing on preventing them. Therefore, preventive medicine is one of the most important aspects of a happy, healthy life, with a much lower cost than curative medicine.
Understanding Curative Healthcare
A curative healthcare approach is the opposite of a preventive approach, focusing primarily on curing the ailment and expediting recovery. The prime objective is to resolve the illness or state of physical impairment and restore the person to the health status they were in before the illness.
In the case of breast cancer, for example, the entire focus of the treatment would be to eliminate any anatomical indication of the disease and to restore the patient's health.
Some of the best examples are:
- Chemotherapy that helps curb and treat many types of cancer.
- Surgery is an invasive but effective procedure to cure many ailments like cancer, appendicitis, and major cardiac issues.
- Dialysis removes fluids and waste products and purifies the blood in case of kidney failure.
- Taking medication to control chronic diseases like hyperthyroidism, anxiety, diabetes, hypertension, and nerve diseases.
What is preventive medicine?
Preventive medicine does as its name suggests — it works to prevent sickness before it happens.
Its ideology focuses on protecting, promoting, and maintaining health and well-being. It also includes tactics aimed at disease prevention, averting disabilities and avoiding fatalities among individuals and communities at large.
A key determinant is the identification and analysis of risk factors, that would narrow down the focus areas. Questions that need to be answered are:
- Is there a family history of certain diseases?
- What lifestyle choices could add risk and lead to health complications?
- Which external factors and living conditions could multiply health risks?
Preventive Care: What Are the Different Types?
As the name suggests, Preventive Care comprises measures to prevent disease or infection from affecting the body, such as vaccinations, screening tests, diagnostic tests, and annual medical checkups.
Let's explore each one in detail.
1. Regular screenings
Screenings are done once or twice a year to help rule out many diseases that may have progressed and worsened unnoticed. Screen tests like mammograms, colonoscopy, endoscopy, PAP smear tests, and breast examinations are vital in identifying breast, colon, prostate, esophagus, and cervix cancers in their early stages.
2. Vaccine schedules
The recent pandemic amplifies the importance of vaccines in fighting diseases and boosting the immune system. Shots and vaccines render long-term immunity from many ailments for children and adults. Vaccines can provide lifetime immunity in many cases, proving that they are one of the best methods of preventive care.
3. Other tests
Regular blood tests enable people to keep track of vital parameters like blood glucose, cholesterol, hormone levels, and high blood pressure, all of which are indicators of chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
4. Wellness programs
All wellness programs like yoga, Zumba, CrossFit, meditation, counseling for mental healthcare, pilates, etc., target the prevention of chronic diseases and help maintain and healthy and active lifestyle.
Why is preventive medicine important?
Practicing preventive medicine can drastically lower healthcare spending of any country. A large amount of the annual health budget goes towards chronic and largely preventable diseases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A careful analysis of all the risk factors including the health behaviours, family history, and external environment can give a complete picture of health and lifestyle choices that need to be made to stay healthy, reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions or minimize the effects of disease. It works with the goal of preventing the most common illnesses that lead to serious impairments such as being bedridden, loss of mobility or need of care like high blood pressure, being overweight, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, cancer and osteoporosis.
Preventive Vs. Curative Medicine: Top 4 Differences
Our society today requires curative and preventive healthcare to maintain the health of everyone within a community. Both areas of healthcare are vastly different in many ways, which makes them indispensable for society's well-being.
Here are the different aspects:
1. The Approach
- In curative medicine, the goal is to restore a person's health after they suffer a setback due to a disease or medical condition.
- Preventive care is a holistic notion of maintaining and improving the quality of health and life.
2. The Time
- The time taken to revive a person back to good health depends on the disease and its severity. For severely manifested medical conditions, curative care may take days, weeks, months, or even years.
- Preventive care is an ongoing process and doesn't require much time. Even the duration spent on screenings, vaccination schedules, and diagnostic tests requires less time but is far more effective in the long run.
3. The Expenses
- The cost of curative healthcare is no secret. Procedures like chemotherapy and dialysis can cost a lot. In addition, insurance coverage for existing health conditions is expensive, so it's best to get coverage when you're young and healthy.
- The cost of preventative healthcare is considerably lower. It wards off chronic diseases and saves you from financial and mental stress.
4. Future Perspectives
- Preventive care is far less complicated and easy to make it a part of your daily routine. Preventive measures like diet, workouts, and stress management can help keep chronic diseases at bay. The use of wearable technology and telemedicine makes it convenient to track health parameters and address problems immediately.
- Curative health is possible only after the condition or disease has been diagnosed. In truth, it is not an easy process, and there is no way to estimate the duration or expenses.
Therefore, let's make the most of the available technology and tools to lead healthier and happier lives!
What diagnostic options help with preventive medicine?
In today’s age, cutting-edge diagnostics play an important role in preventive medicine as they help in early detection of risk factors. Once the correct diagnosis is done in time, it makes the chances of prevention and successful healing much higher.
The diagnostic methods that preventive medicine offers in a wide variety of fields include:
- Diagnostic laboratory tests
- Sonography (ultrasound diagnostics)
- Radiology (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Body composition tests
- Cancer screening
- Genetic studies
How can technology assist in providing preventive medicine?
Technology interventions can be used in effectively implementing the following preventive medicine strategies to save lives and reduce healthcare costs. They include:
- Healthcare applications are being used by medical professionals to provide team-based care. The apps provide an easy-to-use platform for users to work with health care providers, nutritionists, counsellors, community health workers, and other health professionals to understand, prevent or easily manage a chronic condition.
- Online platforms are great to become a part of a community that engages with people to help them change habits, adopt a healthy lifestyle and share their experiences in the process helping each other to reach their health goals.
- Health technology is increasingly being used to self-measure and record body vitals while sharing this data with their doctors and health consultants. This makes it easy to recognize any changes in the trend and take quick measures to avoid any health issues.
- Health apps are being used extensively to learn about healthy and balanced diet tips to avoid chronic conditions such as low sodium foods to lower blood pressure levels, calcium-rich diet to prevent osteoporosis, etc.They are also being used to encourage physical activity and build a daily exercise regime.
Can healthy habits and behaviours prevent chronic conditions?
Many studies conducted worldwide suggest that healthy lifestyle habits can slow or even reverse the damage caused by diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease. Chronic conditions can be prevented by addressing their root cause and adjusting basic lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.
Choosing the Right Diet: Eating plant-based foods helps reduce diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk. Enough evidence has been uncovered to support the fact that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. This diet is typically rich in legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, fish and olive oil.
Having Adequate Sleep: Aiming to have seven to nine hours of restful sleep every night can immensely benefit the body by giving it enough time to rejuvenate. It is essential that we develop the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday, even on weekends. Also, putting digital devices away 90 minutes before bedtime is helpful in calming the mind for a peaceful sleep.
Managing Stress: The state of chronic stress is very harmful for your immune system. We can effectively manage and reduce stress by trying mindfulness and meditation techniques and being in the right company to develop a positive frame of mind.
Being Physically Active: Movement of all body organs helps in keeping all your systems functioning normally. Medical experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. 150 minutes each week might sound like a lot of time, but it’s not. That could be 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. It can be further broken up into smaller chunks of time during the day like doing a 10-minute exercise routine three times a day.
How can technology help in developing healthy habits?
Before getting started to change our habits, it is always good to understand where we stand today in terms of our health. Having an awareness of the current state in which we find ourselves can be easily done with wearables - like smart watches - that allow us to collect a great amount of personal data.This way we can set our health target that indicates a set of parameters that can be monitored like reaching a weight milestone or achieving a set number of hours of sleep every night. Many health apps can be used to track calories consumed as food and burned everyday, number of steps taken, blood pressure or heart rate - others can also be entered manually, such as body weight and gym sessions, etc.
Mobile health technology platforms are also helpful in understanding and evaluating what and how much you eat, that forms the basis for improving it. They provide an easy-to-use platform to become a part of communities that share goals, results and even recipes, that lead to mutual motivation and encouragement.
REAN HealthGuru application and bot work with the aim to help users to make healthy habits a part of their lifestyle in a seamless manner without trying to make much effort. The helpful features like setting reminders for drinking water or taking regular vitamins can be used to avoid any misses in the medication schedule in our busy lives. The stress management feature of the application also helps in reducing stress and shares mindfulness techniques to help users relax and unwind.
REAN HealthGuru bot and mobile application can support you to plan your health goals, get support from advisors and actively track your progress, in the comfort of your home. It follows preventive health management principles and partners with you to improve health behaviours and decrease risks. Click here to learn more.