Patients can walk into any practice and ask for help and treatment. However, what many doctors hope to see one day is patients seeking help for the purpose of prevention, rather than the cure. The truth is that more than 95% of the money in the world health economy is spent after people have become ill (The Trust in Americas Health). If a fraction of that was spent on preventative medicine, it's likely we'd see healthier results.
But what is good health? If we asked ten different people what good health is, we are likely get ten different answers. For many, the definition of good health is the absence of illness, when in reality, a lot of the indicators that can cause illnesses are invisible. For example, I could be sitting here with high blood pressure, but I won't feel ill. But is that really good health? My stroke and heart attack risk could increase as a result and I'm potentially shaving 10-15 years off my life. For me, good health is a state of mind and body that allows me to fulfil the activities I wish to, at my maximum capability.
If you take the topic of cancer for instance, more than a third of cancer-related deaths could be prevented by modifying small lifestyle changes, such as eliminating tobacco use. According to the World Health Organisation, there is a predicted 70% increase in the cases of new cancer expected over the next two decades.
As such, lifestyle choices today, can genuinely affect what will happen tomorrow in terms of your health. Eating well and keeping active to make sure that your blood sugar or cholesterol levels aren't too high - these are the kinds of investments we should be making every day to improve our overall wellbeing. Throughout my career I've seen many people try fad diets and extreme exercise routines which are almost always short-term solutions. It is the mental discipline and the decision to consistently make healthy choices that is the real hard work and should have the biggest pay off.
I believe there are a lot of things that can be done to further reinforce the prevention versus cure approach. As the Medical Director of Bupa Global, we task our medics to encourage patients to seek advice and guidance even if they are not currently ill. Our goal here is to help patients think about what they can do to remain healthy now, rather than wait until they need treatment.