Sometimes I read something that resonates at a level that demands a response. Today, on one of the healthcare blogs I follow, an anonymous contributor wrote:
“And of course, we must bring in “healthcare.” I put it in quotes because there is so little health in this healthcare paradigm. It is striking to me how the “prevention” conversation has been hijacked by the vocabulary of “screening.”
When I read this statement, it dawned on me that “prevention” and “screening” are not synonymous. This blog is all about teaching patients both concepts; and, yet, I have never clearly defined them.
Prevention is something you, the patient, does to lessen the incidence of illness and injury. Your doctor cannot prevent anything! I can advise the cyclist to wear a helmet to prevent the consequences of head trauma but, if the cyclist does not wear his helmet, my advice is worthless. Prevention is, by far, the best of medicine. Preventing a heart attack by eating properly, exercising regularly and taking prescribed medicine when necessary is far superior to treating the damaged heart after a heart attack.
Screening is something you and I do in order to define what your risk of illness is and what needs preventative measures. Self-exams are a form of screening. No matter what any authorities tell you, self-exams are the key to preserving your health. Physician performed physical exams and testing are key screening techniques used to predict your risk of developing an assortment of ailments.
Screening exams are worthless unless you are committed to doing what is necessary to prevent illness. To summarize, screening for disease is not the same as preventing disease. Screening is the first step. The second, and more important step, is enacting a game plan designed to prevent disease. Your doctor will be happy to give you the advice necessary to enable you to succeed at preventing a host of illnesses. You need to take his advice to heart and actively work at maintaining your health. Working as a team, we truly can promote a “healthcare” system that will be worth its weight in gold.