The unfortunate reality is that most people don’t start properly taking care of their health until something goes wrong with it. This is reinforced by the traditional Western medical model, which only treats patients after they have health issues.
The current healthcare model is undoubtedly lifesaving, however, it puts little emphasis on prevention. In this article, we will explore the problems with the current paradigm of “sick care” in the United States and the importance of shifting from a reactive to proactive health care approach.
The Current Model of “Sick Care”
The U.S. is facing widening epidemics of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Chronic diseases, which are the leading cause of disability and death in the U.S., are responsible for a whopping 70% of deaths each year and account for nearly 75% of health care expenditures. [*][*]
Unfortunately, many modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases are not being adequately addressed. This is because the U.S. healthcare system—like most global health systems designed in the post World War II era—is a “sick care” system.
That means, for the most part, the current system was not designed to help prevent the onset of disease, but rather to diagnose and treat illnesses as they arise. While this approach is effective for repairing acute or life-threatening situations, it does little to promote disease prevention strategies.
This “you break, we fix” reactive healthcare model is outdated and costly, both in terms of financial strain and the mental and physical affects on today’s population.
What is Preventative Care?
Inhibiting the onset of illness is the ultimate goal of healthcare transformation. This is where preventative healthcare, also known as proactive healthcare, comes in. This approach focuses on encouraging and guiding individuals to take care of their minds and bodies in order to stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, and intercept diseases in their infancy before more invasive options become the only choice.
Why is Preventative Care Important?
Many chronic diseases are preventable through lifestyle choices, early detection, and management of risk factors. For example, managing cholesterol levels significantly lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. If population-wide cholesterol levels could be reduced by 10%, the incidence of coronary artery disease could drop by an estimated 30 percent [*]. So, how does one reduce their cholesterol level? By eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats, exercising, avoiding smoking, losing weight, and limiting alcohol consumption [*].
In fact, it’s well known that four risk factors, in particular, directly lead to the majority of chronic disease: tobacco use, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and poor diet [*]. Notably, all four of these risk factors are modifiable. This means healthcare professionals can introduce proactive interventions to help individuals modify their behavior to reduce their risk factors, thereby preventing or delaying chronic disease onset.
Taking Prevention a Step Further with Predictive Care
Predictive care takes things a step further, allowing individuals—in partnership with healthcare professionals—to intervene before conditions have a chance to develop. Predictive care relies on advanced technological developments that collect personal health and lifestyle data. Recognizing patterns and revealing insights based on this data can help doctors anticipate health issues with unprecedented precision, pinpointing behaviors individuals should avoid and actions individuals can take before risk factors even arise.
This data-driven approach not only helps clinicians make more informed decisions about an individual’s care, but also empowers the patient to take a proactive role in their health. The patient goes from passively receiving care to being an active participant in their well-being.
Who Will Lead the Shift to Preventative and Predictive Healthcare?
In recent years, there has been a rapid increase of health startups developing novel products and services targeted at helping people live healthier lives and preventing or delaying the onset of chronic disease.
Afiya is committed to disrupting the “sick care” paradigm with accurate data that’s easy to understand. Afiya uses data science to produce insights and expert guidance for living your healthiest, most joyful life. Our recommendations are based on your personal data, your healthcare interactions, and our knowledge of your current treatments and emerging therapies. The result is health optimization that’s safe, effective, and tailored to your needs.
Afiya is a digital platform that offers an integrated journey toward improved wellness and healthy, functional longevity. Through biomarker tracking, data-driven recommendations, and treatment coordination, you can understand your current biological age, optimize your body’s potential, and track your progress.
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