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Summit Calls for Preventive Health Care

A group of clinical and health-care policy experts have determined that a degree of wellness is attainable by every individual at any stage of life, and that prevention should be the focus of the U.S. health-care system.

The group’s report, “Embracing Health: Tools and Systems for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention,” released April 3 by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and Healthways, recommends the development of a comprehensive national system devoted to preventing the onset of disease, calling it a public health imperative, according to Healthways press release.

The report was created from the consensus of more than 200 physicians, health-care leaders, policymakers, patients and payers. It challenges the status quo of the existing health-care system by calling for the alignment of incentives to help prevent the onset of chronic disease—the nation’s number one killer. It also provides the elements of a national preventive health system and calls for Americans to rethink the definition of wellness to include everyone, regardless of health status, age or the presence of disease or disability. 

“We’ve known for years that prevention works, and this report lays the groundwork for a national system that delivers on the promise of preventive care,” said Fred Brancati, M.D., director of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This year’s consensus report outlines the beginnings of a delivery model for preventive and wellness services that will improve lives and lower health-care costs.”

The report identifies barriers to preventive services in the current health-care system as well as opportunities under a new, preventive health model. For example, in a preventive health system:

• Patients receive preventive care to avoid future costly medical treatment

• Patients receive decision-support tools and are motivated to make the appropriate lifestyle choices to improve their health and well-being

The health-and-financial benefits of prevention are well established. Centers for Disease Control statistics show:

• For every dollar spent on arthritis self-help programs, $3.42 was saved in physician hospital costs.

• For every dollar spent on preconception care for diabetic women, $1.86 was saved in the prevention of birth defects.

• Among adults at high risk for heart attack, daily aspirin regimen saved 80,000 lives annually.

Healthways provides health-support services, including wellness programs, to health plans, employers, hospitals and government. More information and copies of the report are available at: www.rethinkwellness.com