Is Prevention the Way to Drive Down Health Care Costs?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
President Obama recently addressed the joint session of Congress and the American people regarding his health care agenda. Regardless of what political affiliation you ascribe to, the truth is health care costs are spiraling out of control--far surpassing the rate of inflation. This is not a blog about party affiliations--Democrats, Republicans or Independents--but what we, as individuals, can do to take personal responsibility for our own health and the health of our kids.

In a letter addressed to President Obama dated September 11, 2009, from American College of Sports Medicine President, James Pivarnik, Ph.D., he states that "prevention and wellness is much more than just clinical
preventive services and should include initiatives designed to encourage healthy lifestyles, including increasing physical activity and improving nutrition." Prevention of disease is clearly one way many of us can help control cost.

We are all aware that obesity increases our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. With our children facing a far bigger challenge with their weight and health than many of us did years ago, if we do not start practicing and teaching prevention, health care costs will only continue to increase at a record setting pace.

Unfortunately we may be losing a generation of kids to diseases which generally afflict older individuals, with cardiovascular disease leading the way. According to research presented at the annual American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans last November, researchers revealed that obese adolescents are presenting to their doctors having the thickness of their artery walls equivalent to those of a middle age adult. Once again reinforcing the notion that if this trend of rising obesity rates and poor health choices is not reversed, our kids will be the first generation never to outlive their parents.

It is essential that we take accountability for our own actions when it comes to our health so that we can be good role models for our kids. According to the United States Surgeon General, 70% of overweight adolescents have the potential to becoming overweight/obese adults. This is why we must teach our children healthy habits early on--when our kids are most impressionable.

If we can offset the rising rate of obesity in this country, this may help defer health care costs, not only now, but for future generations. We have to tackle this issue from all angles, if not, future generations will be forced to deal with adult health issues at an earlier age, therefore compromising their quality of life.

Do you believe prevention plays a big role in helping lower health care costs? What do you do, or have you done to help your kids embrace healthy habits? Do you take these statistics seriously enough to change your child's habits or do you believe these are just scare tactics forcing us to change?

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Prevention cuts costs, I am sure. Eat healthy, exercise and go for checkups. Report
Q: Do you believe prevention plays a big role in helping lower health care costs?
A: No; that is the wrong focus. Focus on HEALTH plays a big role. Don't focus on disease, disease treatment, or disease prevention. Instead focus on #1 Health, #2 treatment of the root cause of the disease never the symptom. Our bodies were designed to heal themselves, given proper nutrients and care. Which is something the pharmacuetical industry would like us to forget, or never learn to begin with. Traditional Drs' prescription for surgery/drugs/radiation is wrong.

Q: What do you do, or have you done to help your kids embrace healthy habits?
A: Learn to listen to your body. Simple example #1: it is rebellion to eat past full, regardless of the reason why you are doing it (tastes so good, bored, angry, tired, etc). Simple example #2: if you are tired all the time, there is a reason why. Don't treat the symptom (being tired); find and treat the underlying root cause of WHY you are tired.

Q: Do you take these statistics seriously enough to change your child's habits or do you believe these are just scare tactics forcing us to change?
A: I don't have children and believe each person needs to take personal responsibility for their own Health. No one should be forced to change by anyone, but, it's also true let the chips fall where they may. This means instead of forcing people to change, let each person be responsible for and pay for their own health care out of their own pocket, and THEN you'd see a change. Your employer and your government owes you NOTHING, including health care. Report
Maybe one of these years prevention will replace all the pills Dr's prescribe. Report
Do you believe prevention plays a big role in helping lower health care costs? What do you do, or have you done to help your kids embrace healthy habits? Do you take these statistics seriously enough to change your child's habits or do you believe these are just scare tactics forcing us to change?
ABSOLUTELY. When I see family grocery carts in the stores stocked with WHITE bread, WHITE flour cookies, cakes, etc., I usually see an obese mother with obese kids in tow pushing the cart. While medical science (and insurance) may be able to correct some conditions, they cannot EDUCATE the public on how to eat and maintain a healthy LIFESTYLE. How many obese kids have fruit on the table for a snack (check the cabinets for chips, crackers, cookies, ice cream, cake, etc) and how many of these same kids eat only TWO vegetables per day (and I mean more than a forkful). How many parents, hearing their kids won't eat veggies, say "all right, you don't have to eat them" just to avoid a fight at the dinner table. These same parents could make spaghetti sauce and throw veggies into it (ever heard of a food processor?), or make casseroles (how about American chop suey made with WHOLE GRAIN pasta) and add processed vegetables in for flavor. Try adding a healthy spice or two instead of salt. This is ALL PREVENTION that should be practiced on a DAILY basis! Report
The best way to drive down national health care costs is by legislation to control insurance company profit-taking. Health care costs didn't really get out of hand until H.M.O.'s came into existence. Huge profits are made by corporations which do little else but restrict health care to drive up profits for their C.E.O. and share holders. The doctors and nurses certainly are not getting rich! Report
Health Prevention savings advantage is only to the Consumer. No amount of prevention will help to control the excessive cost of Health Care or Medictions in my opinion only when Health Care is finally a FREE Accessable right for all Individuals will there ever be a change in the actual cost of Health Care. Now changing peoples Lives? Thats what we are truly talking about. If more time, tools & energy is spent to make these available to everyone- its not happening yet I can tell you not everyone has Internet Access or even a Library to go to! here in the United States. If we wouldn't give Tax Credits or allowances to Big Business unless they provided on site RPN's, work out facilities, adequate time off at work to pursue this it might just start to happen. Report
Prevention would definitely help drive down health care costs! Think how much more it costs to provide care to a smoker over their life vs. a non-smoker. Treating emphesema, heart disease and lung cancer is amazingly expensive (among a slew of other health problems). But preventative measures are often not covered by insurance- insurance would rather fight to not cover your ailments, rather than prevent them in the first place. Improvements have been made, but I can't wait to see the day when my gym membership and nutrition counseling are covered by health insurance. Report
I definitely agree but abhor the thought that the government will someday begin monitoring and regulating our eating habits. It's a matter of personal responsibility but in a free society, you'll always have those who live only for the instant gratification of today and think nothing of passing on the cost of their health care to other, more conscientious people. Report
From someone who works in the insurance industrial, I can assure you that most data on this matter does show that prevention is worth a pound of cure. Report
One of the drivers of high health costs is NOT paying attention to prevention. Not only is it cheaper to prevent, it makes life much easier to live. Report
Duh...yeah. Does anyone really need a poll to confirm the obvious truth? Oh, now I get it...we need to be constantly reminded of the obvious truth! Report
PREVENTION - Eating Healthy & Exercising are the best PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR GOOD HEALTH & will most certainly CUT HEALTH CARE COSTS. I am a good example of this & always tell people...GOD knows how long you will live & YOU determine what condition you will be in by how you treat yourself. Report
My work is really great about letting me have 15 mins for a quick break and a walk midmorning or whenever I feel stressed and need a little break. They also encourage a healthy lifestyle and eating right, but then I work for a very forward thinking healthcare system! Report
When it comes to teaching the kids good health habits, somehow I got it right. They make better food choices than I did at their age. I grew up with too many cookies and too much sugary cereal. I didn't supply those to my children, at least not at the rate my mom did. I once threw a party for one of my high-school-aged (at the time) kids and got the typical party stuff to serve--cake, chips, soda, etc. To the kids' credit, they hardly touched the stuff. My son talks about the joys of cooking quinoa and serving it with fish. My oldest daughter described her diet, and it sounded great! Report
Prevention is important, but it is not a magic fix. I have always eaten heathy and done mild exercise. I never was overweight until I developed several health conditions (genetically based, they run in my family) and only then, when I was ill and on multiple medications did I gain weight. More and more research is showing this same thing. Obesity may not be a CAUSE of illness, it may be a SYMPTOM. Yes making healthier choices is important, but shaming people and telling them that if they weren't fat they wouldn't be sick is wrong. Report
I made sure to get my own habits back in line before I even HAVE kids. My parents are starting to show their health problems now that they are in their 60s (mom got to borderline diabetes, and has to get cortisone shots in her knee, and dad is coming home from the hospital today after open heart surgery to replace some valves), so I'm seeing the importance more than EVER. Report
I do believe prevention is the first line of defense in medicine. I also do NOT support socialized medicine. However, my belief is that as a nation we need to embrace a healthly lifestyle. Wouldn't it be lovely if businesses and schools would adopt an exercise break as well as a lunch break? I know, many are thinking about how we'd sweat then have to return to work. Are you crazy??? My answer is to do stretching and relaxation exercises that would probably increase productivity and and attentivness at work as well as leaving employees refreshed and less prone to illnesses and work related injuries. It is also my hope that this would enable us to have carry that interest into other regular healthy habits of eating and areobic exercise. Report
I certainly believe that prevention is better and smarter than just treating a disease after it develops. Especially when the prevention simply involves eating healthier and moving more - it's a prescription that most kids can deal with, and most adults, too! :) I'm saddened that despite study after study that shows that even *small* improvements in diet and exercise make a HUGE impact on our health, the population in North America generally seems to avoid exercise at all costs!

Yes, let's get our kids off the couches and computer chairs, and back on their bikes and roller-skates or blades, or even simply outdoors playing hop-scotch and tag and jumping rope or hula hooping!
I have always exercised, have eaten well, and taken a multi-vitamin/mineral of some sort. I developed and maintained this habit since being in the military. I have had my set of colds, flu's, broken bones and except for the bones, I have not been to a doctor until 5 years ago when I underwent my first physical since my military days (over 30 years ago). All of the blood work came in normal, blood pressure is low normal (I am running now, having cut back on the weight lifting when I walked a lot) and I feel fine.

Starting early works to prevent many health issues related to lifestyle: cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, and others. It may not prevent various cancers: breast, pancreatic, ovarian, testicular and others which may be more influenced by genetics. And that is what health care ought to be directed towards; those diseases as well as things such as sinus infections, flu's, etc.

Prevention is important for yourself. But we must remember that there are entities, ie insurance companies and for profit hospitals that are in the business of making money. They will always strive to make profits especially the ones that are publicly trading companies that have to apease investors and analysts with ever increasing profits. Report
Yes, prevention is important, but is only one part of a very complex problem and a difficult one to systematize. Today, all can easily agree that prevention is important, but it still doesn't mean that everyone seeks preventative treatment. The question becomes how do you create behavior change so that people really take care of themselves and their health proactively. That is a much more difficult question. Report
For those who say preventative care costs too much, they are only looking at the beginning of the process. Those first few times at the doctors may cost a pretty penny, but after you are all caught up on your care the costs are less. And then you are where you are preventing costs because you are aware of what you need to do to prevent disease or push it into the future. Report
I agree that prevention is a must to help stop the rising cost of healthcare. As a teacher I am frustrated by how unhealthy school lunches are for our children. Also, working with kids who come from disatvantaged backgrounds has opend my eyes up to the struggles families have to to afford to get their child a pair of glasses or to the dentist on a regular basis. Our children are the future and many are going without the healthcare they need to be healthy. Report
The best way to bring down health care costs is to remove insurance and government participation from health care. We're all going to pass sooner rather than later. Since we are only here a short while anyway, why be faced with threats from the gov't hacks or overpaid insurance execs when we know this for a fact? Are we so arrogant that we actually believe we can live a real long time if only we can afford it? No, unfortunately this is one bet against which there is no hedging! And to think, I've paid the insurance companies & medicare over 20K per year for many years with little to no medical assistance or worthwhile advice! Yes, I'm lucky to be alive, more thanks to God than the medical profession. Report
Yes, prevention is key, and it needs to be integrated into all things - school lunches are a HUGE area of opportunity, as well as the amount of activity & fresh air kids get at school as more and more schools eliminate recess or fitness classes. We have to be personally accountable, but we also have to hold the gov't accountable - lowering health care costs involves not just adjusting how we run schools but also how we regulate food labels, support local farmers and make fresher foods more accessible and so on. Report
Most definitely! As a health care provider, I have seen my fair share of individuals who have gained such positive benefits from developing healthy lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, proper eating, and tobacco free existence are the three most important factors in the prevention of the big diseases. Now if we could more about the environment we may be able to reduce the number of cancers. Unfortunately I am seeing more and more folks developing blood cancers especially the leukemias. It seems these folks are coming from areas where agriculture is big business and pesticides and chemical fertilizers are in the air, water and ground. Report
Yes, I also believe prevention is important. The whole focus of my desire to lose weight is to be a better example to my kids. They love when I play with them, and I want to be able to do more with them. Fortunately, they enjoy sports and all of my children are involved in sports. They are all fit and we limit sweets and soft drinks. Healthy food choices are always available to them. If we can teach them how to make good choices concerning health and nutrition now, they won't need to learn it when they are my age! Report
Yes, I do believe in prevention. And I WISH that we had more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly towns and cities, like they do in much of Europe! Report
Do you believe prevention plays a big role in helping lower health care costs? Yes, absolutely!

What do you do, or have you done to help your kids embrace healthy habits? I talk to them about portion size ALL THE TIME. I show them how to read labels. I talk to them about eating fruit and veg with every meal, if possible. I take them on bike rides, hikes, kayaking and emphasize how much fun it is.

Do you take these statistics seriously enough to change your child's habits or do you believe these are just scare tactics forcing us to change? I think the statistics are true enough. I'm just not jazzed about socialized medicine. I'm sorry, but I think that there are some serious disadvantages to it, and I think people are being blinded by the grass being greener.... There is no way I'd want to wait for months to see a regular practitioner, and I doubt the quality of care I'd get with someone who isn't being motivated by a big paycheck. Sorry, folks, I'm sure it won't win me a lot of friends out there, but while I agree that everyone should have access to healthcare, I do not agree that socialized medicine is the way to get there. Report
I agree that preventative health care can help control health care costs across the board. Opponents may suggest that doctor's visits when you're not sick are wasteful, but the point is to catch problems before they become crises. A flu shot may seem like an unnecessary expense for a healthy person, but a very ill person may seek emergency treatment for the flu that could have been prevented. Which is more expensive? Seeking medical advice to prevent or deal with obesity is a small initial outlay compared to Type II diabetes, joint problems from being grossly overweight, heart problems from cardiac stress and cholesterol problems.
Everyone should take responsibility for his own health and his family's health. In the long run, it's more cost effective, and there's no way to put a price tag on one's quality of life. Report
As long as big business lobbyists, in the form of fast/trendy food giants that rule our restaurant menus and the pharmaceutical companies that rule our healthcare practices, have a powerful and significant presence in Washington, a true focus on health will play a second fiddle to profits. Prevention is in our own hands, and hopefully within our grasp. We must do all we can. SparkPeople is a great start! Report
Definitely. Prevention is the way to go. Anytime we get ahead of a problem then we have control to some point. If people did more to lessen the need to run to the doctor's office by changing their health habits then doctors would be writing less prescriptions which means the pharmaceutical companies could actually focus on getting the medicine needed completely screened and work on lessening the side effects before someone suffers from it. Report
Prevention does have an upfront cost but the long term return on that investment is worth it. A few years ago I went to the doctor because I sprained my ankle badly while jogging. He said that he would much rather treat a sports related injury than a poor lifestyle consequence. I badly scraped my leg once while mountain biking and wore skirts rather than slacks just to show it off. We need to congratulate those with the bumps and bruises of being active. Each scar is a well earned trophy....not a physical flaw! Report
Yes its I also agree with prevention. I have also saved tons of money sence I gotten healthy.. Report
Absolutely - the answer is education. Educate the parents, educate the children. Health begins with the food we put in our bodies - simply starting by cooking at home using whole, close to the source ingredients will produce amazing changes. Add daily exercise and activity, and most illnesses will melt away. Of course there are some that won't, but the vast majority of our woes will disappear once we get our weight within a healthy range, bid the processed foods goodbye, and get active. Report
I wish the focus of this whole health care debate was concentrating on prevention versus treatment.

I do believe that we are ignoring the 'reason' that we are all so unhealthy in the first place.

The real reason that most Americans are sick and obese is because our food supply is tainted.

Now I don't want to sound like an alarmist..even though I probably should be at this point. The problem with eating healthy really boils down to finding 'healthy'..

The majority of food that we eat is not food at all. It is full of chemicals, preservatives, unhealthy fillers and extenders...gosh, it's a real challenge to even locate what I call 'REAL FOOD.'
The European countries at least tell their people when they are ingesting genetically modified crap...they mark every package so the consumer can make their own choice...maybe that might be part of the reason that French Women don't get fat...a bestselling book I believe. Maybe the French have an unfair advantage over Americans? I'm saying please don't bang me over the head with a French baguette!

How does a place as sophisticated as America get by without telling people they are eating fake food?

The best I can suggest is to arm yourself with all of Michael Pollan's books. He's a foodie with a heart...and a brain!

Then if you are ready for a real horror story read "The Unhealthy Truth" by Robyn O'Brien a young mother who couldn't figure out why all FOUR of her children had horrible food allergies..she started doing some research with her MBA background and found out all about the alarming manipulation of our food and how the greed in big food companies is making us sick. Luckily she lays out what we can do about it.

Health care? Maybe it wouldn't be in the crisis that it is today if we start with clean, healthy food in the first place!

If I could, I'd grow my own garden, and live on a farm...maybe the Amish have had it right all along! Report
Prevention is absolutely the best way to go. However, it takes more effort and I know several obese people who seem perfectly happy to rely on meds instead of getting off their duffs and eating healthy food. Report
Prevention is the key! My problem is that insurance doesn't DO prevention. My insurance doesn't pay for annual check ups for my children between the ages of 2 -18! We eat right, do family fitness things to keep our children (and ourselves) healthy. But what about those things that are unseen? That is my biggest complaint about insurance!! Report
I agree that prevention is the way to go. I also agree that society has a large role to play in how healthy/unhealthy we've become. But the reality is....who is society? That's us. We have the power to make the changes to place our families on the right track. We can decide to get out of the rat race, stop spending so much that we need two incomes or two jobs and come home to cook meals. We must decide to leave the television off and go outside with our kids to play. The health care system is broken and in need of serious overhaul. But the less we need to use it, the better! Report
How lucky we would be if doctors started focusing on keeping us healthy instead of being sucked into the pharmaceuticals and treating symptoms of sick people. As far as the fastfood industry, all I can say is STAY AWAY! Stop living by "which has fewer calories and fat - the DQ small blizzard or the Wendy's frosty" and know that no matter the calorie count, they're still what we consider nonfoods...foods that don't bring anything to increase your longevity, vitality, health. Eat clean, people! I practice what I preach. Live well everyone! Report
I think healthcare should work like car insurance - the healthier you are, the less you pay. This would give people more of an initiative to be healthy. It would be getting the word out on healthy habits that would be the problem - the big business behind junk food is happy being big profitable business, and doesn't want to stop making huge profits on overpriced corn commodities. Report
Not to be the lone nay-sayer - I believe in prevention, but I also believe the US does not know how to make it work. Prevention is a grassroots effort more than a national campaign. Congrats to those of you who are working with your family. Report
I've recently read a couple of TERRIFIC articles related to personal vs. cultural responsibility for our health and wellness. One is by my food guru Michael (Eat food, mostly plants, not too much) Pollan "Big Food vs. Big Insurance (

n.html ):

"Passing a health care reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health which means going to work on the American way of eating."

and Barbara Berkeley's latest blog from Refuse To Regain ( ) "Is Obesity a Disease?"

From the article: "Defeating obesity involves personal choice. It also involves cultural choice. One cannot succeed without the other. Let us make a start with simple education and accountability. There is no room for penalizing obese persons until we have made the task of losing weight and keeping it off a reasonable, possible goal. This will not occur without major changes in the food industry and in our modern cultural attitudes toward eating."

Seems to make SO much sense to me...what do folks think?

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
When my oldest, who is now 5 years old, was not quite 3, he saw me working out and asked why. I almost said to him, "Because mommy's fat and needs to lose weight." But, luckily, I caught myself with those words on the tip of my tongue and swallowed them. Instead, I said, "Because mommy wants to be healthy and strong, so she can carry you and your younger brother whenever you want me to." Since then, HEALTHY and STRONG have become the focus in our house. We eat healthy fruits and vegetables because they help us grow healthy and strong; we eat less sweets and other things, like french fries, because they don't help us grow healthy and strong. We exercise because it's fun and, it helps us grow healthy and strong. We've tried to keep the focus on health and moderation, rather than you have to eat these things and cannot ever eat those others. Our hope is that by building these things into habits early now, they will simply be a part of life when they are older and making choices on their own. And with healthy habits, we are hoping, come a healthier, more active and enjoyable life. Report
Prevention is key. My son who was overweight and mildly hypertensive at 16 took control of his life and at 17 was normotensive and within a healthy weight range. The thought of the "fat camp" his doctors wanted to enroll him in was enough to push him to control his eating and non- active lifestyle. This made me think how much my poor habits contributed to my childs and his poor health at a young age. It would have been much easier for all of us if only I had taught healthy food choices and the fun and benefits of exercise. Thanks to my son we are all on a healthier path. Report
Not only do we need to better preventative health care and healthier lifestylyes, but as the article mentions we are going to need to cut costs in the future. Working in a doctors office I can't imagine what it will cost individuals and the country if everyone is on medications for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Drug companies seem to come out with new cardiovascular drugs everyday and I'm not sure if the market is flooded yet, maybe it's smart to invest money now in pharmaceutical companies that are doing research in cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Report
I don't think we have a choice! There is enough evidence for the average person to improve their diet. There are low cost exercise options. I think a big part of our food problem is people think healthy food is too expensive. Report
Absolutly, Report
Yes, yes, a million times yes. Prevention is where it is at. The question is how do we get America to deny themselves anything, we live in a land of great access. Report
Go visit an elementary school and you will be astounded by the number of overweight children. These children no longer play outside but instead are glued to the tube, while their arteries harden with all the junk they eat. I am so proud that my granddaughters eat a health diet, probably somewhat accidental because the oldest one is allergic to milk and this limits her dietetic choices. Kudos to the parents who care enough to push fruits and vegetables. We need to be great advocates of good choices. By the way, I did love visiting DisneyWorld last spring. You can visit there and make healthy choices, such a fruit, when shopping the street vendors. Yeah! Report
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