There are various types of health care available to individuals. All health care fits into one of these categories. Each one has a place and value in the health care delivery system as we know it today.
The most common and most widely practiced type of care is crisis therapy. There is a wide range of procedures that fits into this system. Taking an aspirin for a headache, putting hot or cold packs on a pulled muscle or even emergency surgery or a heart transplant would fall into this category. The procedures may vary and the severity of the condition may vary greatly, but the objective is the same: to relieve the symptoms or the life-threatening effects of an illness or injury. This type of approach makes up the majority of the practice of orthodox medicine.
The second type is early detection. This has come into popularity within the medical profession relatively recently. With the advent of HMOs and other similar programs, those in the field of medicine are finding that early detection of a disease saves more lives, enables the doctor to treat the patient with more conservative procedures and is less expensive to the insurance company. Unfortunately, this early detection approach is often mistakenly referred to as a "wellness program" or a "health maintenance program." It is not. It remains a disease treatment program. Early detection under most circumstances is naturally far superior to crisis therapy. If heart disease can be detected and treated conservatively before the need for a coronary bypass or a heart transplant exists, the patient is obviously much better off. Early detection is important, and it may prevent early death or needless suffering, but it is not disease prevention.
Disease prevention, then, is the third type, and obviously a superior one. Early detection by definition means that the disease is present. Realize, however, that thousands of people die each year having recently had thorough medical examinations that gave no indication of any illness, let alone a life threatening one. The practice of medicine has concentrated its efforts primarily on the first two types of health care and other than vaccination, has done very little in the area of disease prevention. More recently, researchers in the area of nutrition have theorized the relationship between certain diets and the prevention of certain diseases. Needless to say there is much controversy and much disagreement in these areas. There appear to be so many variables and so many other factors that effect an individual that drawing substantive conclusions is extremely difficult. For example, people who cut cholesterol out of their diet may still experience heart problems. Conversely, those who take in high levels of cholesterol may never experience heart problems. The controversy extends to smoking. There are people who never smoke and yet die of lung cancer. There are others who chain smoke all of their adult lives with no evidence of cancer. It appears the best that can be said about this third approach, that of disease prevention, is that it can lessen the tendency toward a certain disease. But it falls short of the fourth approach.
Health maintenance is by far the best approach but unfortunately the least practiced and least understood. Disease prevention and health maintenance may appear to be the same thing but they are very different. The primary difference is in the attitude of the individual. Disease prevention involves doing specific things to prevent specific diseases, whereas health maintenance involves one's overall attitude toward life and health in general. A person worried about preventing heart disease will cut out cholesterol. However, a woman concerned about maintaining her health will eat good food in the proper quantity, will exercise for her body regularly, will maintain her body with a good nerve supply by seeing her chiropractor regularly, and doing all the other things necessary for good health, like getting proper rest, avoiding excess stress, etc. Disease prevention is usually a result of worry over the disease ("there's a history of heart disease in my family"). Health maintenance is a positive approach toward health and life in general. People involved in a program of health maintenance do not expend their energy worrying about disease. If they like eggs they eat eggs recognizing that by keeping their body healthy the cholesterol in eggs is not going to cause a heart attack. These are the people who truly enjoy life and get the maximum out of it.
As we stated earlier, each approach has its place. Each one is needed under the present level of health that exists. But ideally, health maintenance, if practiced by the majority of people, would lead to less need for the other three approaches.
Dr. Kori Mortenson, DC is a chiropractor in Santa Barbara, CA. In his spare time he enjoys tango dancing, running, biking, hiking, kayaking... just being active.
735 State St ste 534
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
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