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A New Style of Preventative Medicine

As election time rounds its ugly head into our mass media 24/7, we will be hearing from the candidates time and time again about what issues are most important: the economy, the war in Iraq, and Healthcare.

A big belief in our society is that early diagnosis is good-- the sooner the better. We all should go in for cancer screenings and annual test even if we are perfectly healthy. This belief has become the new method of preventative medicine and is largely supported by both presidential candidates.

Senator John McCain believes that we need to emphasize prevention and encourages early testing and screening. Senator Barack Obama echoes that strategy and believes this will help contain medical costs and improve American health. It is unfortunate that these two candidates don’t understand that extra screenings and annual checkups and tests will cost more money not lower the annual healthcare spending.

H. Gilbert Welch, MD, writes about the consequences of this new form of preventative medicine in the New York Times article Campaign Myth: Prevention as Cure-All. He explains that “early diagnosis may help some, but it undoubtedly leads others to be treated for “diseases? that would never have bothered them. That’s called overdiagnosis.?

These are the people who will be harmed from the extra medicine. For example a patient may have lived their whole life with a benign tumor. Once it’s found, the doctor feels obligated to remove it and therefore the patient is facing more risks than before the screening. This extra medicine cost Americans billions of dollars in health care that does nothing to improve our health.


I find it interesting how the word "preventative" is used for these screenings. When I think of the word "prevention", words like "action", "confident" "self-determined" and "initiative" follow right along. However, it seems that all of these words, and essentially personal responsibility is being removed from the allopathic definition of "prevention" (of course, the big healthcare industries don't make much money off of personal responsibility... but that's another rant...).

The allopathic focus of prevention has turned to screenings, gene testing, pre-diagnosis, etc. versus empowering individuals to further their own wellness (and in effect, succeed in prevention).

It's a vicious cycle-- screenings, analysis, diagnosis, treatment, screening, analysis... you get the picture. When will it be okay to, at times, step back from the technological advancements and trust that our behaviors, thinking and intuition may be more powerful for prevention than even the most advanced medical device?