What Is Preventive Medicine?

Modern medicine has come a long way to help people treat a variety of different conditions. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that a human-made antibiotic was even discovered to help treat something as common as a bacterial infection. Since then, medications have been widely available to treat everything from a typical headache all the way through to a serious case of cancer.

For centuries, though, people have incorporated different methods of treatment, like holistic therapies or Chinese medicine, into health care. With the rise of chronic diseases, preventive medicine is now being more commonly used by medical professionals to focus on staving off future illnesses as opposed to simply treating existing ones.

The history of preventive medicine

The history of preventive medicine goes as far back as the 5th century BC, although many societies largely ignored the efforts to adapt to a preventive type of lifestyle. Through the centuries, many principles of preventive medicine were passed aside for more modern solutions. It wasn’t until the 1300s that officials started to take the movement seriously, and in 1388 a sanitary act was passed in England.

In the centuries that followed, other orders were made for quarantine-type preventions during the first plague, and the study of epidemiology was begun in the 1700s. These initial instances of preventive medicine paved the way for societies to devise methods of avoiding illness rather than just treating it.

Vital RX - community health
Image by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash: Preventive medicine aims to treat populations as a whole to help keep citizens healthy.

Why is preventive medicine so important?

Preventive medicine is a vital contribution to an overall healthy society because many chronic illnesses are entirely preventable. Instead of waiting for an illness to take hold, the main goal of preventive care is to limit or abolish the risk of getting sick in the first place. Its importance lies in its ability to really change the way populations live and take care of their own wellbeing.

In the health care system, preventive medicine has been put into second-tier care, which can be a reverse way of looking at how to achieve a good level of health. Things like eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and knowing what your genetic dispositions are for certain chronic illnesses can all be great ways to avoid developing serious and chronic disease in the future.

What does a preventive medicine doctor do?

Instead of focusing on an already developed illness, a preventive medicine doctor will play the role of avoidance specialist. This means they spend the majority of their time developing new ways to prevent injury and illness as opposed to coming up with new medications and/or treatment plans.

Preventive medicine doctors divide their specialties among communities, individuals, and specific populations to help improve the health of an area. They do this by teaching new medical staff how to prevent the spread of disease, developing health programs, and finding causes for diseases based on new research and symptoms. These medical professionals work largely in government agency settings to help with disease surveillance and preventive programs.

What is an example of preventive medicine?

Many things could be considered preventive medicine. The first and foremost preventive medicine is diet. For example: cardiovascular disease affects 18.2 million American adults. The role of diet in preventing heart disease is a big one, because dietary changes can help to lower the risk factors that lead to development of the chronic illness.

Other forms of preventive medicine include primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. Vaccines and other forms of immunizations fall under the umbrella of primary preventive medicine, while screening tests for things such as breast and ovarian cancer will fall into the secondary category. Tertiary prevention is designed to help those with already existing chronic disease improve their quality of life by way of rehabilitation and treatment plans.

Other examples of preventive medicine include lifestyle modifications such as early detection of disease, the implementation of supplements or exercise routines, and new health legislation to help communities as a whole battle endemic-type health crises.

Vital RX - immuization
Image by the CDC on Unsplash: Vaccines are a form of primary preventive medicine.

The future of preventive medicine

As more medical professionals and associations begin to realize the benefits of preventive medicine for society and the health care system, it will garner more recognition as the first line of defense against unhealthy populations. The change in how people are cared for – and how they care for themselves – is much needed to bring the rampant numbers of chronic illness down for Americans.

With the rise of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and mental illness, there has never been a more crucial time to adapt to a new system of health care and disease prevention. Research has shown that providing people with educational programs and access to services that could help them lead a healthier lifestyle is the first step in making preventive medicine well utilized.

The only way towards a thorough preventive care system is by the conscious collaboration between populations, the food industry, the health sector, and the environmental sector. 

Subscription boxes

Vital RX has created a line of subscription boxes that can be used as part of your preventive medicine program. Boxes are curated to deliver real results for people suffering from low immune health, obesity, low energy, toxification, and low levels of fitness. 

These boxes are not meant to replace medical treatment, and when starting a new supplement regime, you should always consult with your doctor first to see if it’s right for you and your current state of health.

Featured image by Andrew Welch on Unsplash

Why Preventive Medicines Are Taking Over Traditional Therapies

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the state of the United States health care system into hyper-focus. The virus has made the most impact on older Americans and those suffering from preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes; however, it has also made waves throughout communities of all ages and with varying degrees of health status. This pandemic has changed the way many people, politicians included, look at the health care system.

The latest mainstream efforts in the overall health of the population include a lot of preventive medicine. Although this specific type of health care has been around for over a century, it has usually been operated as a secondary approach. In the book The Healthcare Imperative: Lowering Costs and Improving Outcomes, the authors stated that medical intervention prior to the onset of disease is the best way to prevent chronic illness, lower costs associated with treatment, and increase quality of life for all Americans.

What is preventive medicine?

Prior to advancements in the biomedical space, doctors of yesteryear attempted to prevent disease. When preventive medicine was first practiced, medical professionals devised three different ways to help lower the risk of developing disease.

They are:

  • Increased dietary intervention and hygienic practices.
  • Isolation of diseased persons.
  • The use of the increased understanding of widespread disease for prevention advantage.

This type of preventive medicine used the avoidance of health issues and disease as a starting point as opposed to the treatment that follows. During that time, cures and medications were harder to come by, and so prevention was the best way to decrease illness. The same cannot be said for health care today, because as advancements in biomedical science have been made, the focus has shifted to a treatment-based system.

Now, preventative medicine is used to not only stop the onset of chronic illness, but also to manage and slow the progression in people currently suffering from diseases that are out of their control. There are three specific forms of preventive medicine practiced today:

  • Primary: The complete avoidance of disease or illness through knowledge on best health practices and reduction of risk.
  • Secondary: This form addresses risk-based factors including genetics and medical history to help prevent the worsening of a disease or the onset of new illness.
  • Tertiary: The final form of preventive medicine puts its focus on lessening the overall health impact of a disease that is already established within a patient. It is designed to help people with illnesses live a better-quality life.
Vital RX - vegetables
Image by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash: Studies have shown that diet can have a major impact on the development of chronic illness.

How does preventive medicine work?

Western medicine has done a great job of treating illness. According to one study, traditional types of medicine have led to the reduction of death by heart disease and stroke by 60 and 70 percent, respectively, since the 1970s. Other diseases such as HIV and cancer have also benefited from the advancement of western medicine. The way that preventive medicine works, however, is not by lowering the grave health risks associated with these types of diseases, but by avoiding their onset altogether.

There are several different types of preventive medicine. In terms of public health, physicians aim to work within communities to have a larger-scale positive effect. This is chiefly done through the use of nutrition as medicine; the spread of information on practices to avoid for optimal health (i.e. smoking, the overconsumption of alcohol etc.); and the rallying for new legislation regarding access to preventive health care measures for all.

Other ways preventive medicine works is by encouraging people to:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit stress on both the body and mind.
  • Vaccinate early.
  • Utilize available screening programs.
  • Practice prophylactic and antiseptic processes.

Is preventive medicine better than western medicine?

Conventional medicine aims to reduce health risk and increase quality of life for those suffering from chronic illness. Medical advancements have focused on upgrading the ways diseases are treated. Preventive medicine, on the other hand, is not designed to overhaul the current health care system, but to lessen the widespread need for treatment.

According to some research, eating a poor diet is a leading risk factor for the development of illness, disability, and death across the globe. Western medicine has the ability to tackle illnesses that are caused by poor diet; however, preventive medicine has the power to encourage and implement healthier food choices, which in the long run could prevent diseases entirely in a large portion of the population.

Vital RX - vaccination
Image by CDC on Unsplash: Vaccinations are a type of preventive care that have been widely accepted by the majority of Americans.

What is considered preventive medicine?

There are many types of medicine that could be considered preventative. As mentioned, diet, exercise, and the avoidance of tobacco and alcohol are all natural ways to lessen the risk of developing disease. Other methods used widely today as forms of prevention include:

  • Screenings (cancer, mental illness etc.).
  • Medication and supplementation usage (e.g. aspirin for cardiovascular disease).
  • Immunizations.

Not all forms of preventive medicine are used as traditionally, though. Biohacking, for example, isn’t as widely pushed by medical professionals as a form of treatment or prevention, but it can go a long way towards the avoidance of new disease.

Biohacking is done by changing diet and lifestyle factors in small increments to improve health in the long run. There are two different forms of biohacking used in preventive medicine:

  • Nutrigenomics: This type focuses on a personalized approach to diet and nutrition.
  • DIY biology: Experts provide the knowledge needed to conduct certain ‘experiments’ on oneself to encourage health outside of a clinical setting.

Recent research has suggested that nutrigenomics can have a great impact on health, and can even slow the progression of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Due to nutrient-dependent processes in the body, eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals allows all organs and systems to function properly, thus limiting the progression and onset of disease.   

The bottom line

Although more research needs to be done on the economic stability and implementation of widespread preventive therapy, many studies have come to the conclusion that prevention of disease is just as important as the treatment of chronic illness after the fact – if not more so.

Having a healthier population can lead to decreased health care costs, longer lifespans and quality of life for the American population, and relief for the health care system as a whole. 

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