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The Case for Prevention

by Lori Sciame March 5th, 2012 | Prevention
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For close to 20 years, I felt personally responsible for the health habits of approximately 155, 000 people in southern Wisconsin.  Sound strange?  It may seem so, but as a health educator, I promoted prevention for entire populations of people.

To understand this concept, think about a nurse who gives a child a single vaccination.  This child will surely benefit from the protection that the vaccine will offer him or her.  Now consider the goal of the health educator – making sure that all parents/guardians in his or her jurisdiction understand the importance of having their children fully immunized against disease. You can see that an entire population, children, will benefit from the health educator’s actions.

Having worked in this field for so long, I am qualified to make a case for prevention.  Although it may be difficult for people (especially politicians) to believe that the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” it remains a fact: prevention works.

Many years ago, my mentor in health education told me a story.  It went something like this:   A man standing next to the river notices a woman in the water coming towards him.  She sees him as well, and screams for help.  Being a man of character, he jumps into the water and saves her.  Once they reach the shore, he barely has time to catch his breath before a child rushes down river towards him.  He saves the little boy.  Again, he doesn’t have time to rest, before two men and a woman start yelling at him from the water begging for help. Although it is difficult, he heroically pulls them to safety.  The man continues to rescue person after person; however, he becomes fatigued, and soon there are dozens of  people struggling in the river.

Sadly, it never dawned on this hero to investigate the CAUSE of the problem.  He doesn’t even think about WHY so many people have fallen into the river at the same time, or about HOW these deaths could be prevented.

This story illustrates in a somewhat grim manner, how many people look at disease – treat the symptoms once they occur, as if it is inevitable that illnesses will happen.  On the contrary, health will be improved if people would learn to modify their behavior.

For instance, I knew a five year-old boy who would not smile, no matter how many jokes I told.  The problem was that he had rotten teeth.  Thank goodness I had been able to secure a mobile dental van, and he had the care he needed.  Once the dentist fixed the boy’s teeth,  he couldn’t quit smiling!  If only his parents had known that tooth brushing would have prevented the rotting in the first place!

The interesting thing is that prevention may be gaining a foothold due to the economy.  Since people can’t afford medical bills, they are more open to learning about this way of looking at health and health issues.  Good news, because as I said earlier, prevention works!

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.