Prescription for Prevention

August 14, 2009

The debate about Health Care Reform is certainly hot these days. No matter where you fall on the issue, no doubt you are talking about it.

I have been personally struck by one word that seems to be swirling around as a central point to any new Health Care system. Prevention. But what exactly IS prevention?

Webster’s dictionary states that to
prevent is “to meet or satisfy in advance”, “to act ahead”, “to keep from happening or existing, “to hold or keep back: hinder, stop”.

The reform bill includes the expansion of community health centers and the creation of community based programs to deliver “prevention and wellness services.” What exactly will define these services remains to be seen. Often prevention is referred to as tests or screenings for diseases to ensure early detection. Centers funded by the government can certainly provide these, but wellness and true prevention do not come from annual screenings. They are the products of embracing a day to day healthy lifestyle.

In addition to tests and screenings, the government can promote wellness programs, but it can’t force you to participate. It can advocate fresh, whole foods over those produced with pesticides, chemicals, and additives, but it can’t make healthier choices for you in the supermarket. It can urge you to increase your physical activity, but it can’t exercise for you. In fact, haven’t you heard all of this already from non-governmental sources? From your doctor, your parents, your friends?

I do feel it is a positive thing to see the government supporting a discussion of reform that includes more access to and resources for preventive health care. Even with the most comprehensive access and resources, the question for each of us remains… can any BILL keep illness and disease “from happening or existing” as the definition of prevention requires? Will we take advantage of the services it provides? Do we need a government bill to be passed in order to start focusing on our health?

Prevention begins with YOU. No matter what final bill is passed, or if reform is defeated, keep in mind that YOUR actions and choices are your best line of defense against illness and disease. In the end, you are your first Primary Care Doctor.

So what are you waiting for? Write your own prescription for prevention! No government bill required. Health care starts with the value we place on our own lives and the commitment we make to taking personal action towards achieving our goals.

Working as a health counselor, I get to experience this concept first hand. While my program provides access to and resources for change, I can’t change FOR my clients. I can only empower them through knowledge, support, positive reinforcement, and accountability. But none of this will lead to change unless they choose change for themselves.

Health Care reform is the debate. Taking action is your challenge. What do YOU plan to do today to reform your own health care?

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