Over the last few decades, our industry has woken up to the value of preventative care and patient education. In the vast number of cases, we can see that it is more economical to prevent conditions rather than treatment. This will have an effect that eases congestion on our services and increases life expectancy and quality for our patients. There is much we can do, as physicians, to help our patients change their attitudes and life expectancy so that they can enjoy a long and healthy life, only seeing us when is necessary.
Early Life: Babies & Toddlers
Good health begins at home, but also the start of life. It is important to identify and treat any disorders as early as possible. Downs Syndrome testing is often done prenatal and is a choice for many new mothers and fathers. It is also important to note that such a test cannot prevent the disease, only inform the prospective parents to aid in their planning. There are countless tests we can give a new-born infant, but it's important to screen for the common disorders, and we can see this is considered valuable enough a tactic that it's a public health service. We should consider offering additional tests and screening as some parents will inevitably want to take this up. Consider the example of testing for hip dysplasia, easily treatable if identified at the start of life, but if not picked up can mean a series of treatments and even surgery throughout childhood.
Healthy Family Eating
Diet-related conditions are the biggest dangers to the population in modern times. Issues such as obesity and diabetes are destroying lives across western countries. We can be proactive in helping our patients in the fight against these diseases. The advice can be difficult to effectively communicate how to do this to patients, as often they do not have the will or even the knowledge to properly achieve this. Start by keeping it simple and general, offer advice on the difference between processed and unprocessed foods and portion control. From this starting point, hopefully, individuals can begin their journey to a healthier and happier life.
The one thing that goes hand in hand with a healthy diet is living an active lifestyle. There is often a lively debate surrounding whether diet or exercise is more important for health. This is perhaps the wrong question to be asking? It may be more pertinent to consider what level of activity is appropriate. In simple terms, you could argue more is always better, but that's not quite true. We have to be mindful of injury, burn out, and maintaining motivation. Consider a patient who is over 300 lbs and has not exercised at all since high school. This individual will require a very gradual introduction to exercise as they will find it difficult, and their body may struggle with a sudden change in exercise levels. Suggest starting with walking rather than running, and then gradually increase exercise levels while reducing calorific intake and modifying the types of food eaten.
We have been successful in eradicating certain diseases, polio, measles, and rubella here in the USA. But not all parts of the world are as disease-free as our home. When traveling we need to be aware of issues such as how to prevent no see um bites, and avoid diseases such as malaria. Depending on where your patients are visiting there will be different inoculations and advice. Be sure they know to attend a session to sort this out before travel.
Offering adult education classes on how to lead a healthy lifestyle can be a very popular and successful scheme. These sessions allow patients to come in and be aware of issues they didn't fully understand and even ask questions regarding a healthy lifestyle. This can be a great way of helping people who may otherwise not have considered addressing their health concerns and lifestyle.
One thing we need to be aware of is how preventative treatment is paid for? The Affordable Care Act does state that preventative medicine should be allowable on all insurance plans. We still need to be careful about how we bill for preventative treatments. Mistakes can lead to unnecessary expenses occurred to ourselves or the patient. Even if certain services are not covered by insurers, then the savings can be tangible. Lack of pre-existing conditions will lower their premiums in later life.
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