Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Making Health Care About Health

“As a young cardiologist, Steve Devries noticed a disturbing pattern: His patched-up heart patients kept returning for repairs. It happened so often that Devries decided there must be another way to advance patients' health. Today, his thriving Chicago practice focuses exclusively on preventing disease, and Devries is far more likely to counsel patients about diet, sleep habits and exercise than to prescribe high-tech scans or cholesterol-lowering drugs. Motivated by a growing sense that America's health care system is broken, doctors such as Devries and public health experts are turning to preventive medicine for a potential fix. And lawmakers, eager to curb rising health care costs, are paying close attention. Every serious proposal for health reform includes measures to promote healthier lifestyles and minimize the burden of disease. In a significant move, the federal government last month earmarked $650 million in grants -- the largest sum ever -- for community programs designed to reduce tobacco use, increase physical activity and improve eating habits. But there's no easy or cheap way to transform an ailing care system into one that promotes health and wellness. At every level, from the way doctors are trained to the way they're reimbursed for services, the importance of prevention is overshadowed by a focus on treating illness and a reliance on expensive medical technologies and procedures. ‘Health reform gives us a great opportunity to shift the focus,’ said Mike Barry, executive director of the American College of Preventive Medicine. ‘Instead of pulling out a prescription pad, we want to see physicians prescribing lifestyle changes.’”


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