Preventive Care—what does that term mean to you?

Why not start with some hardball preventive information?

J. Morris Hicks on a sunset cruise from Watch Hill, Rhode Island back to Stonington, CT, on the last day of May, 2012.

The kind of information that has been proven to reverse chronic disease. I’m talking about the information people need to take charge of their health. We need to talk about the food.

I’m not talking about the “preventive care” things that cost money—the kinds of things featured in last week’s New York Times. That article is all about who pays for what and, if a treatment doesn’t have a price tag, it’s not even considered. Gina Kolata writes:

Could health care costs be reined in by improving access to preventive care? It’s an idea that appeals to policy makers and many public health experts, but the evidence for it is surprisingly hard to pin down.

Of course, preventing diseases is better than waiting for them to occur and then treating them. But there are questions about which diseases can actually be prevented, how effective preventive measures might be, and what they would cost.

We put some of these questions to Dana Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California and founding editor of the Forum for Health Economics and Policy.

The NY Times article (see link below) is essentially a condensed interview between health writer Gina Kolata and Dana Goldman. And it’s all about spending money for prevention to save money on treatments. They talk a great deal about obesity and tobacco related illnesses which are only a drop in the bucket when you compare their costs to our total cost of healthcare in this country—representing only 7% of our $2.7 trillion cost of healthcare.

Dana Goldman

But Mr. Goldman did make a few good points during their discussion:

The C.D.C. estimates that 75 percent of health care spending is for chronic diseases that could be prevented.

We think of health care as an expense, but we really should be thinking of health care as an investment. We want to invest where we have the greatest return. I would put prevention in that bucket.

The point of health care reform was essentially to get people insurance. You could say that we would pay for what we really care about, which is health. But health care insurance has not succeeded in giving people health.

Gina Kolata, New York Times

Gina asked him if the term is wrong. “We call it health care, but should we instead call it disease care?” Goldman replied, “Yes. Disease care. I agree completely.”

The article misses the whole point. Although they did get a few things right—like calling our system “disease care,” for the most part, they’re missing the boat when it comes to real prevention. Improving access to preventive care? How about tackling preventive information first?

We won’t have to “pay” for anything if we simply get real clear about exactly what people should be eating to promote vibrant health. And we should start with all those agencies out there that are NOT doing that now.

If there were not a TON of money in our “disease care” system, all of these agencies listed here would be out of business.

Go to all of their websites. If you can find precise, non-contradictory information on exactly how to reverse heart disease or type 2 diabetes, I’ll buy you a new car. That information is not there; that’s because there’s no money to be made if everyone gets healthy.

  • The NIH (National Institutes of Health)
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Association
  • American Diabetes Association

In HBO’s recent Weight of the Nation, there was absolutely ZERO clarity when it came to exactly what we should be eating. In the precious few minutes devoted to diet, they always threw in the “lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy” as part of a healthy diet. NOT. Gina continues:

The question should not be zero sum. We should invest where we make our highest returns. We should put our money wherever there is a very high positive return, and where there isn’t a high positive return, we should think hard about investing.

The bottom line. We desperately need clarity when it comes to what we should be eating and we’re not likely to get that clarity from a “system” whose livelihood depends on us being sick. Too often, our system thinks of prevention as screening—when, in fact, the screening does absolutely nothing to address the root causes of the disease. On the other hand, screening alone generates over $100 billion of revenue for our “disease care” system.

For your convenience, I have provided links to Gina’s NY Times article along with a few of my earlier blog posts on the topic of prevention.

Handy 3-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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