Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Article excerpt

Throughout the 20th century, the focus of our health-care activity has been on improving care that is intended to cure. We have u developed and perfected acute-care services with remarkable high-tech capabilities, such as intensive care units, trauma and emergency centers, bypass units, transplant surgery, radiology, antibiotics and chemotherapy. Indeed, we are proud to have miraculously healed and cured numerous severe illnesses and injuries.

Yet our miracles have been at a very great cost, both monetarily and in terms of human suffering. We are struck by the numbing estimate that half of the 2 million deaths that occur in the United States each year can be linked to unhealthy lifestyles. What if we had been able to prevent half of the illnesses that required extreme medical measures? Imagine the absence of so much human pain - and think of the additional resources available for illnesses and injuries that cannot be prevented.

At the dawn of the 21st century we are returning to axioms common in the earliest decades of the 20th century: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." "A stitch in time saves nine." "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." And with good reason. Common observation as well as several recent studies show that preventi on works. "Wellness" is quickly becoming one of the most used words for programs that emphasize healthy behavior and lifestyles.b We read it in health-care literature, hear it reported in studies on the nightly news and see it associated with numerous products related to diet, exercise and relaxation. It is almost a trend, but we still have a long road to travel before the many wellness and prevention programs we espouse - health screenings, counseling, immunization campaigns, smoking cessation programs, fitness centers - make the impact necessary to change the real trends of our health status. For although some signs are encouraging - workplace programs that reduce certain health risk behaviors, for instance - the overall trend is toward a less, not a more, healthy society. A look at America's health habits as reported in by The Trends Research Institute lists discouraging figures such as these: The number of overweight children age 6 to 17 doubled between 1970 and 1995; one-third of all adults are obese, up from one-fourth in 1980; nearly three-fifths of Americans lead sedentary lives; g workplace stress levels more than doubled between 1985 and 1995. Why, when common sense and compelling numbers tell us how important prevention is, do we not better practice what we love to talk about? Because: * We are reluctant to actually change our lifestyles and behavior. * We do not readily see the cause and effect of behavior and lack the patience to wait for long-term results. * We expect health organizations and government to institutionalize prevention, yet as a nation we do a dismal job of funding it. …

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