Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Is True Preventive Care a Reality?

Last night on RN.FM Radio, we were discussing the challenges of delivering true preventive care at a time when the economics of health care often seem to be moving us in the opposite direction. Mountains of research have shown that preventive medicine and interventions can dramatically decrease the cost of health care over time, but it seems that some insurance companies still don't bite the preventive medicine bait.

That said, Medicare recently announced that it will now reimburse cardiac rehab centers for yoga classes, mostly based on the success of the program espoused by Dean Ornish, a program that includes a plant-based diet, regular exercise and meditation.

But even as Medicare moves ahead (with many insurance plans sure to follow its lead), medical schools and nursing programs still reportedly lag far behind in the teaching of the value of preventive medicine.

In other countries that appear to spend far less on health care than the bloated United States, preventive medicine seems to be the norm, and the outcomes generally speak for themselves. The population here in the US fares poorly on many standardized measures of health---despite our enormous health care expenditures---and heart disease, cancer and diabetes continue to ravage our rapidly aging population. Childhood obesity and diabetes are another issue simply screaming for (preventive) attention.

We have admittedly made many strides in terms of prevention, but we also have a long way to go, especially when we contemplate our relative health as a nation. Still, there are many providers and advocates making very positive strides in the advancement of preventive medicine. Medicare took a bold step when it decided to cover yoga for heart disease and cardiac rehab, but we need more bold steps to truly turn our country's health around. I am cautiously optimistic, but I also recognize the slow pace of change that will only lead to increased morbidity and countless otherwise preventable deaths.

Preventive medicine is truly one of the answers to our health care crisis, both economically and otherwise. Do we as a nation have the gumption to make true preventive care a reality?

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