Preventative Medicine Worth Billions to Country’s Bottom Line

February 28, 2011
We all know that saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether we’re considering our personal health or the overall community’s health, this is sage advice. Economically, preventative medicine makes sense, and can save us billions of dollars in health care for millions of people and insurance companies.

By attending screenings and keeping track of blood pressure, for example, people can prevent stroke or kidney disease. Statistics show that chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes can often be prevented but are still responsible for seven of 10 deaths among Americans each year, according to the White House. These diseases also account for 75 percent of the nation’s health spending. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are now required to cover mammograms, immunizations, colonoscopies, and other preventative services without charging customers through a deductible or co-pay.

The state has a program called “Preventative Agenda toward the Healthiest State.” There are 10 categories within this agenda that include goals toward better health in the year 2013. The State Health Department’s Preventative Agenda was recently updated with data from each county, which details plans each county has for its own Preventative Agenda. Categories include cessation programs for tobacco; nutritional and physical education outreach; infectious diseases; better health for mothers, babies and children; chronic disease; mental health and substance abuse; and promoting a healthy environment (asthma, lead poisoning).

Counties are encouraged to pick at least two of the 10 topics to focus on improving throughout the local community. Oswego County is reportedly working to prevent chronic disease; physical activity and nutrition; and tobacco use. Onondaga County reports it has chosen access to quality health care; healthy mothers, babies and children; and cessation as priorities. The website, www.nyhealth.gov/prevention/prevention_agenda contains more details for these plans and what health organizations are involved. I wanted to draw attention to these goals because although these plans can exist within the health care network, they also have the potential to take hold within the greater community. Individuals and groups are welcome to get involved. For example, Onondaga County has done a great job in opening up Onondaga Lake Park as the place to go to “get fit.” Various fitness challenges are promoted throughout the year and people are encouraged to get active. Many do rise to the challenge.

The idea behind the Preventative Agenda is to combine existing resources to ultimately improve each county’s statistics for good health. The goals are ambitious, too. For example, by 2013, the State Health Department set a goal to reduce the percentage of adult New Yorkers who are obese to no more than 15%. Most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control from 2008 say Oswego County’s percentage of obese adults was at 30%, the highest in the state, along with Chautauqua County. Onondaga County reported that 28.7% of adults were obese. A list of services covered under the new health care law can be found at www.healthcare.gov/law/about/provissions/services/lists.html. Incidentally, diet counseling for adults at high risk and obesity screenings are included in the Affordable Care Act. Weight management and exercise is known to reduce the risk for diabetes and many other chronic diseases. For more information on access to any service mentioned in this article, call your primary care physician or local hospital. Also, more information on preventative, affordable care can be found at www.cdc.org.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also may friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.