Preventive Medicine and Public Health

August 22, 2012

One of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease’s main tenants is to promote a collective focus on investing in and promoting ways to both better tackle the incidence of chronic disease and reduce health care spending.  We’ve recently seen that collective focus generate some basic changes in the doctor-patient relationship, namely a heavier concentration of discussions based around prevention and wellness during routine visits.   While this positive change improves the way people approach their health, Pauline W. Chen, M.D. noted in this week’s New York Times that sometimes the amount of information is too overwhelming for patients to retain.

Chen writes, “Thanks to some dazzling advances in preventive medicine and public health, doctors in almost every specialty of medicine now have a panoply of proven preventive recommendations to keep their patients from getting sick.”  But, she questions, how much of that information actually gets through and acted upon?  The Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on outcome-based medicine certainly won’t reduce the amount of information, given the “mounting pressures from insurance companies and others” on physicians to “prove that they are delivering quality care.”  Improvements in adopting healthy behaviors and coordination among providers depend on effective communication among all involved.  As the landscape unfolds, we certainly would hate to see the promise of these efforts and the progress we’re making stalled by overloading providers and patients with information. 

To make sure information works for us, rather than against us, we need to commit to, as Chen notes, more work to find “the best ways to relay advice to patients, even if such research results in eliminating certain topics all together.”   

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease advocates across the country for delivery system changes that promote health, support patient-centered coordinated care, and reduce costs for anyone, most especially those who are already struggling with one or more chronic conditions.  We will continue to play an integral role in that discussion.