Updated: Feb 24, 2019
By JJ Kim, Associate Editor
Preventative care is a type of healthcare centered around preventing illness, including regular check-ups, screenings, and immunizations. The primary benefit of preventative care is that it recognizes issues that could indicate a more serious health problem and helps to treat those issues before illness develops. This type of healthcare is imperative in today’s society, in which pressing health problems such as diabetes, obesity, tobacco/drug usage, and mental disorders are on the rise. Overall, preventative healthcare allows patients to be more aware about the current situation of their health and more prepared for future medical issues.
Despite its benefits, preventative healthcare has yet to be fully integrated into the American healthcare system. It has, however, already been adopted in several countries, including Canada, Japan, and the UK. Currently, the American healthcare system’s focus is on curative care, a practice focused on improving symptoms and curing a patient’s existing medical problems. In the the late 20th century, curative care would have been sufficient, as modern techniques used in preventative screening had not yet been developed. However, in the 21st century, sole reliance on curative care is inadequate.
The strategy of curative care has numerous limitations. Because American healthcare is an extremely lucrative industry, development of medical technologies is becoming incredibly expensive and is entirely focused on the remedial aspects of health; hospitals charge patients exorbitant amounts of money to cure diseases that could have been prevented years before. According to research done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), expenditure on public health and prevention “accounts for a small proportion of [the] public health budget” compared to that of the therapeutic area, despite strong arguments for expanded preventative programs. Despite the warnings of experts, the capitalist push for curative care has stunted the development of preventative care stunted.
Patient health aside, a focus on remedial measures also leads to other negative consequences, such as an increase in charges for medical malpractices. In 2016, doctors from Johns Hopkins University suggested that “medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the US.” Furthermore, according to the Medical Malpractice Center in the US, there are “between 15,000 and 19,000 medical malpractice suits against doctors every year.” It may sound plausible to improve research and education in curative care, but surgeries and treatments are extremely liable to human error. Why risk a bad outcome when a patient’s problems could be prevented altogether?
Preventing disease (instead of scrounging for remedies) is a crucial step in improving the overall health of Americans and lowering the costs of healthcare. Currently, preventative measures are commonly disregarded due to their simplicity; understandably, people question how adequate water intake could prevent diseases like type 2 Diabetes. However, many serious illnesses like type 2 Diabetes cannot be treated through a single procedure, and instead, require a lifetime of preemptive care. By taking preventative methods more seriously, we have the power to both reduce healthcare costs in the long-term and save more lives.