Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Proactive vs Reactive

I was thinking today about the death of Osama bin Laden (I know, weren't we all, at some point?). This post isn't about him, or what I think about his death (This blog post sums up my views very nicely), but the whole scenario got me thinking about how effective Americans are at reacting to tragic events. Calamity occurred on 9/11/01, and so we killed Osama (albeit nearly 10 years later)(has it been 10 years already?!)

This focus on reaction permeates the American society. Kill our citizens, and we will kill you. Commit a crime, and we will imprison you. Become obese, and we will perform surgery to remove your excess fat, or mechanically restrict your caloric intake. Have a heart attack, and we will snake a catheter up into the arteries of your heart and stent them open. Allow your foot to become gangrenous because your diabetes is uncontrolled, and we can amputate it. We have all sorts of fancy, sophisticated means of fixing the problems that we have...once they've happened.

We need to bring our focus to prevention. We must be proactive! This certainly goes for medicine, but in all areas of our society. The entire mindset of our culture must be changed. The discussions in healthcare now are turning towards this, and it's absolutely thrilling to see the potential for the prevention of primary care to be emphasized and recognized for its essential role. That being said, this cannot stay limited to healthcare alone.

We all need to do a better job of helping patients with diabetes manage their disease, BEFORE they start losing limbs and organs to it. The consequences are so preventable! I look at the staggering number of incarcerated individuals in the United States, and I think of so many things we needed to help prevent this from happening, including the (I think) often overlooked problem of grossly insufficient mental health care access. We ALL (myself included) need to take responsibility for better diet and lifestyle, to help decrease the incidence of things like obesity, heart attacks and strokes. The list goes on.

It's so encouraging to be joining the field of medicine at a time where primary care is beginning to become valued again. I'm just hoping that the rest of the nation jumps on the prevention bandwagon. After all, as a doctor I can give you tips on how to take charge of your health, and I can tell you how important it is, but I can't make you do it.