Prevention and Wellness to be Centerpiece of Health Care Reform

WILL IT BE TRUE PREVENTION OR JUST EARLY DETECTION?

After 27 years of making prevention and wellness the centerpiece of my practice, it was amazing to see in the New York Times that the government now plans to make them the centerpiece of health care reform. (Sort of like being in an alternate universe.) With the government finally getting on the bandwagon, it is important to make sure that a majority of the programs focus on true prevention–which involves our nutrition, our exercise, and our attitudes! How about starting with requiring serious courses in nutrition and exercise physiology at all medical schools, so that doctors would have an educational base for the importance of nutrition in all health. Anger management for all health care providers and their patients wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Most current programs that are labeled prevention are actually early detection–which is helpful too, but secondary. For example, you need to be educated to eat less sugar, eat five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, get adequate exercise, and do stress lowering activities to lower cortisol in order to prevent diabetes. Early detection (sometimes called prevention) of diabetes includes programs like community blood and urine testing. But by the time you are spilling sugar in your urine, the time for real prevention is already past!

Here’s the quote:

“Two Democratic senators working on comprehensive health legislation, Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee, and Tom Harkin of Iowa, have taken the lead in devising such incentives.

“Prevention and wellness should be a centerpiece of health care reform,” said Mr. Harkin, who regularly climbs the stairs to his seventh-floor office on Capitol Hill.

The White House agrees. One of President Obama‘s eight principles for health legislation is that it must “invest in prevention and wellness,” a goal espoused in almost identical words by Republican senators like John Cornyn of Texas and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah.

Frank B. McArdle, a health policy expert at Hewitt Associates, a benefits consulting firm, said, “Wellness and prevention programs have become a mainstream part of the benefits offered by large employers, and it’s virtually certain that Congress will include incentives for such programs” in its bill. The goals of such programs are to help people control blood pressure, fight obesity and manage diabetes and other chronic conditions. Under Mr. Harkin’s proposal, employers could obtain tax credits for programs that offer periodic screenings for health problems and counseling to help employees adopt healthier lifestyles. Programs could focus on tobacco use, obesity, physical fitness, nutrition and depression, he said.”