A Move Towards Prevention

I just returned from Chicago where I presented at the joint conference of the National Council on Aging and the American Society on Aging.  I’m glad to report the big buzz of the conference is that the Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid are FINALLY making a move towards prevention.   For close to 20 years evidence has continued to prove that we can prevent chronic health conditions through healthy nutrition and regular physical activity.  However, it has taken this long to get the federal government to make a committment to prevention.  They are finally earmarking small percentages of funding for preventive services and making rules more flexible to allow agencies to use general funding for prevention. It doesn’t sound like much but trust me is a huge shift from their standard approach of paying for illness rather than paying for wellness.

Granted it is still "disease focused", i.e. diabetes prevention, heart disease prevention, etc. but it is a start!!  I’m optomistic this is just the beginning.  As programs across the country prove money can be saved through prevention, funding agencies will be eager to use it as as a cost saving tool.  I hope  eventually the momentum will move towards a more wellness-based approach acknowledging the importance of addressing health in body, mind and spirit. 

Someday I hope individuals released from the hospital and rehab after a major health incident will be referred to wellness centers.  These centers would specialize in helping people examine how to live their best life  physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, intellectually and vocationally.  So instead of a disease focused approach (doctors appointments, medicine, responding to the illness) which often results in life revolving around the disease/condition, people would be in a wellness environment gaining the strategies necessary to thrive for their full lifespan regardless of circumstances.  Let’s all start asking for that from our health insurance companies!! 

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