Preventive Medicine – What is it, and is it effective?
The United States population ranks poorly compared to other countries in regards to managing health risks and health conditions. Chronic conditions such as type II diabetes and heart disease, along with their underlying health risks, obesity and tobacco use, affect more than 130 million Americans (nearly half the population). This group accounts for 75% of U.S. health care spending, or $1.5 trillion dollars each year.
In order to positively affect these numbers, we must increase focus on keeping healthy people well, as opposed to only treating individuals once they are diagnosed with a condition. Preventive medicine focuses on the health of individuals, communities, and defined populations. Its goal is to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability, and death. There are two main types of preventive medicine services: clinical and community.
Clinical preventive services are immunization or disease screenings delivered in a clinical setting. These tests provide people with their current health status. For example, a “Know Your Numbers” Campaign where an employer will provide free health screenings for their employees. Vaccines and immunizations also save a significant amount of money each year in direct and indirect health care costs.
Community preventive services are policies or programs aimed to improve the health of a population. Examples of a community preventive service would be implementing a “Healthy Beverage Meeting Policy” which prohibits sugary drinks from meetings, or rolling out a walking challenge encouraging employees to walk 10,000 steps a day.
Community preventive services drive healthy behavior change reducing risks and preventing future conditions. Community preventive services, properly implemented, have also been effective in improving the health of a population and reducing health care cost. Utilizing effective health and wellness programs, IBM saved more than $175 million, resulting in health care premiums 6-15% lower than industry averages.
Preventive medicine can be effective in controlling health care costs and improving health if it’s implemented in a coordinated, strategic approach. Effective wellness programs lead with clinical preventive medicine services such as health screenings that provide people with their current health status. These measures are reinforced by subsequent health policies and programs, such as a Healthy Vending Machine Policy, or health coaching that supports people on their journey to optimal health.
Sources: Wu S, Green A. Projection of Chronic Illness Prevalence and Cost Inflation. RAND Corporation, October 2000. Also, Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Chronic Disease Overview page. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov. Also, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. Historical Overview of National Health Expenditure. Full IBM program description available at: http://www.healthyworksofpa.com/wellness-case-study-ibm/