Sharon Vining: Preventive Health Care

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Preventive Health

In 2010, health care expenditures in the United States were almost $2.6 trillion.  In the last ten years, employer-sponsored health coverage premiums have increased by 97%.  Recession has resulted in higher unemployment and lower incomes for many Americans.  Increased enrollments in Medicare and Medicaid have severely strained state and federal budgets.  In 2010, health care spending was 17.9% of the GDP.

How is the U.S. health care dollar spent?

.National Health Expenditures, 2010


Total = $2.3 Trillion

Source: Martin A.B. et al., “Growth In US Health Spending Remained Slow in 2010; Health Share of Gross Domestic Product Was Unchanged from 2009,” Health Affairs, 2012.

The question remains, what is the best way to provide good affordable health care to all Americans?  Evidence is mounting that the best way to control spending and improve overall health is through prevention. 

According to the U. S. Preventative Services Task Forces, there are an estimated 900,000 preventable deaths.  This accounts for almost 40% of the total yearly mortality in the United States. Smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity and misuse of alcohol are considered preventable causes.  The Task Force suggested counseling to quit smoking, colorectal cancer screening and flu vaccination could reduce mortality at a low cost.

Screening can save lives.  However, there is a benefit versus cost issue. Across the board screening is costly with low number of lives saved.  In the case of vaccines – lives saved versus lives lost to vaccine reactions have to be considered.

Think of it this way.  If a vaccine is given to 300 million people, the odds are 300 people will die from a reaction to the vaccine.  However, if it will only save 100 lives, then across the board use of the vaccine is not useful.  On the other hand, if the same vaccine will save 20,000 lives, the use of the vaccine may be a viable solution.

So where does all this leave us? At the end of the day, the best way to be healthy and cut the cost of health care is for each individual to assume responsibility for their own health habits.  We as individuals need to keep ourselves as healthy as possible to prevent disease.

Best health care practices:

1.   Good hand washing is the #1 way to prevent infection.

2.   Proper nutrition is 70% of a good health regimen.  

3.   Exercise 30 min a day. At least three times a week.

4.   Get plenty of sleep. 

5.   Avoid smoking and drug abuse.

6.   Consume alcohol in moderation.

7.   Drink plenty of liquids to keep the system flushed out.

8.   Reduce stress

9.   Control weight

10.               Dental care at least twice a year.

11.               Control any conditions such as blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol.

12.               Keep immunizations up to date.

13.               Minimize number of sex partners

Recommended screenings:

For women

1.   Pap smear

2.   Breast self-examines

3.   Mammogram

For men

1.   Testicular self-examine

2.   PSA test

For both men and women

1.   Cholesterol screen

2.   Colon cancer screen

3.   Blood pressure checked.

Report to your physician

1.   Lump or lesion

2.   Unexplained weight loss

3.   Fever

4.   Persistent  cough

5.   Chronic pain or ache

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