Predictive Health: How We Can Reinvent Medicine to Extend Our Best Years

Predictive Health: How We Can Reinvent Medicine to Extend Our Best Years

Predictive Health: How We Can Reinvent Medicine to Extend Our Best Years

Predictive Health: How We Can Reinvent Medicine to Extend Our Best Years


It's no stretch to claim that America is in the midst of a healthcare meltdown. Care is costly and unattainable for many, and often unsatisfactory even for those who can afford treatment. The medical system focuses on treating diseases and their symptoms, and spends so much effort and money in the last miserable month of patients' lives that little is left to make sure that the preceding years are as healthful as possible.

In "Predictive Health," distinguished doctors Kenneth Brigham and Michael M.E. Johns propose to radically change the current model by restructuring the way patients receive care. They introduce the concept of predictive health, which will turn the existing paradigm on its head- focusing on prediction instead of diagnosis, and health rather than disease. Rather than treating symptoms as they arise, doctors practicing predictive health would be involved in a patient's life right from the start. A drop of blood from a tiny heel prick at birth would be run through nanolabs, the resulting information assembled into a picture of the newborn's health. Any potential risk factors' risk for type II diabetes, genetic propensity for obesity would be caught long before they became problematic, and strategies forged for treatment. In essence, health care professionals would become committed consultants, sticking with a patient for the entire course of their lives. The potential savings from this kind of partnership is staggering: the cost of lifelong health care would amount to less than the cost of a month-long stay in an early twenty-first century ICU.

Interweaving descriptions of phenomenal advances in science and technology with illustrative anecdotes and personal experiences of the authors' combined century in academic medicine, "Predictive Health" translates the foundations of the new biomedicine into language accessible to a general audience those who must understand the potential of the unprecedented opportunity confronting us if major change is to happen.

The product of a decade-long collaboration between two of the leading figures in predictive health, "Predictive Health" offers a deeply knowledgeable, deeply humane look at the state of medicine today, and the potential for medicine tomorrow.


Even had the sixteenth-century explorer Juan Ponce de León found the fabled fountain of youth, it may not have saved him from the fatal consequences of the Native American’s arrow that found its mark during his second and final visit to the land he called Pascua de Florida. The compelling thing about his quest is that he risked his life chasing so wispy a rumor. But then the vision of perpetual, even apparent, health is a potent motivator; ask any plastic surgeon or cosmetic manufacturer.

The promise of at least prolonged, if not perpetual, health no longer rests on rumor. Existing and emerging science and technology give substance to the hope, even the expectation, that we can understand enough about health and how to keep it to let us live longer and better than we could have imagined even a decade ago. That knowledge and how to deal with it is what we call Predictive Health, defining what health is and detecting and correcting the earliest unhealthy tendencies long before there is any evidence of disease. The challenge of translating that knowledge into practice involves more than science and technology. Realizing the possibilities will require major changes in how human beings—scientists, health practitioners, and politicians, as well as people in general— think and behave. We can have health care—predictive health care—that is accessible, affordable, humane, ethical, and efficient. We can do it, if only we can figure out how.

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