Category: Specialist Healthcare

August 6, 2018

 

“Prevention is better than cure” might be a cliché, but the expression is one of the truest gospels when it comes to healthcare. However, it is quite ironic that when it comes to people’s wellbeing, preventative measures are often neglected in favor of curative measures.

In a November 2016 report, the Centre for Disease Control, CDC estimated that preventable deaths from 5 leading causes which were diseases of the heart, cancers, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema), and unintentional injuries (accidents) accounted for 63 percent of deaths in that year in the United States.

Though the statistics cited above is from the United States, the utter disregard of preventative medicine in Nigeria is a widespread social habit with morbid repercussions on many levels. We have this endemic apathy to preventative medicine that is telling hard on community health across board.

A Shocking statistics showed that 70% of pregnancy-related deaths in Nigeria could be attributed to preventable diseases; diarrhoea has a 10% death rate in the country due to poor prevention; while malaria claims hundreds of thousands of lives every year because we fail to take the most basic prevention steps.

This unpleasant collective phenomenon is only an apt reflection of our reactive nature as a people on personal levels. When last did you visit the hospital for a quick check up? Better still, what deliberate steps are you taking to keep yourself healthy? Unfortunately, not many Nigerians can answer that positively. But what do we expect when only 30% of health facilities are public and affordable? And a mere 43% of the people are the only ones with access to quality health care. Meanwhile, government funding of the health sector keeps diminishing.

Notwithstanding the trend highlighted above, each one of us has the responsibility to adopt preventative medicine on our own and imbibe it religiously in order to influence the larger collectives, because it is the best way to go in living consistently healthy lives.

 

What is preventative medicine?

Preventative medicine are deliberate measures or interventions taken with the purpose of eliminating or reducing the risks or threats of impending diseases or injuries well before the onset of symptoms. For example, routine Pap tests for women or prostate exams for men. Medications, like low-dose daily aspirin therapy, and counselling services, such as nutrition and exercise guidance, are also examples of preventative care and services.

There are three main categories: primary prevention aims to stop diseases or injuries before they ever occur; secondary prevention involves reducing the impact of a disease or injury that has already occurred; while, tertiary prevention entails softening the impact of an ongoing illness or injury that has lasting effects.

Since our focus is on actual prevention, I will highlight seven simple but essential types of preventative medicine that basically fall under primary and secondary preventive care. These are proven strategies that you can adopt right away as they are effective in deterring diseases and minimizing negative impacts so you enjoy a consistently healthy lifestyle.

 

Lifestyle Modifications

Everything about preventative medicine is lifestyle medicine. It goes beyond regular hospital visits or occasional buying of insecticides to kill mosquitoes. It involves a set of activities that are applicable to every aspect of our daily lives, and which must be consistently practiced. Simply put: It is A Lifestyle.

From what we eat to how and when we eat. From how we work to how and how much we rest and play.

It starts with a decision to live a healthy life, followed by making a number of health-preserving choices across various aspects of our life. These set of choices must also be matched with the sacrifice of cutting out hazardous activities or habits that endanger health. Finally, the preventive step must be cemented by religiously consistent practice and the determination to not fail.

From the above, it is clear that preventative lifestyle is a give and take practice: you take up some habits, and you do away with certain others in order to have that overall positive balance that boosts and sustains good health.

For example, a decision to start eating healthy diet and exercising will not yield desired result if you are still smoking and taking excessive alcohol. Or the measure to use insecticide treated net to ward off malaria attacks will be jeopardized if you do not practice strict personal hygiene, especially with regards to food handling to keep away infections and other communicable diseases.

Preventative medicine is wholistic and the lifestyle modifications undertaken must be comprehensive enough to protect us from both physical and mental impairments. More importantly is to start by identifying and doing away with certain habits that constitute health hazards as we take the steps to start eating right, drinking right, working right, sleeping right and living right.

 

Regular Health Assessments

Ideally, everyone: man, woman and child, should have scheduled regular visits to the doctor for brief checks and assessments of our health. This is important on so many levels, but more so because early detection of some unavoidable serious ailments like cancers helps in successfully fighting them or minimizing their unpleasant impacts. But we have this wrong and damaging mindset in Nigeria that regular medical checks are only for the rich.

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Diseases have both obvious and subtle symptoms, which means you may not have any idea of an impending danger. During such sessions, the assessments and diagnostic procedures will check for symptoms of impending ailments, minor or otherwise such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a few other conditions you won’t usually detect on your own such as screenings for various types of cancers.

At St. Ives, one of our foremost services is our comprehensive checks and assessments offerings for men and women. These entail a set of specialized tests, procedures and screenings carefully packaged for both individual and corporate clients, with the aim of helping them identify their health status on different fronts so as to perform better and live more fulfilling lives.

 

Routine Vaccination

Here, the medical practitioner provides injection medications that protect against deadly diseases such as polio, measles and bumps. Also known as immunization, this is mostly applicable to children. However, adults may need to be immunized in certain cases like women getting immunized against cervical cancer.

Routine vaccinations for children are mostly free and can be easily accessed in most medical facilities, but with thousands of children dying yearly to those diseases, it is safe to conclude that the general public’s approach to this aspect of preventive medicine is considerably poor, and thus needs improving.

This is another reason you need to count on us on all issues around family care. We make it our priority to ensure your new-borns enjoy perfect health in their starts to life, and that involves compulsory vaccinations against most common and deadly diseases, especially with our WHO approved EPI, the Expanded Program on Immunization made available for children delivered in our hospitals and those registered with us after birth.

Women are also advised to go for vaccinations in form of test kits meant to prevent cases like cancer of any kind. There also medications with calcium, vitamins, iron and folic acid, all working to keep the bones strong and help prevent complications during pregnancy.

 

Hygiene Awareness

Tuberculosis, meningitis, hepatitis, diarrhoea, cholera… The leading causes of death in Nigeria are communicable diseases. And communicable diseases are infections that are easily preventable.

The high prevalence and fatality of these infectious diseases is a direct testament to the appalling level of our hygiene practices as a people. This is in spite of repeated calls by medical practitioners and several other organizations for improved hygiene awareness and practice in the country.

What is required is a concerted increase in levels of personal hygiene, which starts basically with inculcating the habit of regular handwashing; but people only take up handwashing when there is outbreaks of epidemics, and they are quick to revert to their previous unhygienic habits soon after the epidemics is contained. We can and should do better.

Other hygienic practices should include ensuring clean and safe drinking water, strict food hygiene, and personal grooming.

 

Fitness Regimen

We can’t over-emphasize the importance of physical activities in health maintenance. From burning excess calories and keeping the heart active to ensuring seamless blood flow throughout the body, exercise has clear impacts on a healthy lifestyle.

With reduced calories, you are free from the fear of gaining unnecessary weight. Exercises decreases the deposits of cholesterol, thereby preventing health conditions like stroke, depression and diabetics.

As simple as taking a walk up your street for a few minutes or early morning jugs, you will be keeping yourself fit. The physiological impacts cuts across every body structure, ensuring to keep everything in balance.

An insight from Mayo Clinic adds that physical exercise enhances your mood, sends energy high, promotes better sleep and reward you with an active sex life.
So, what’s stopping you from creating an exercise schedule right now?

 

Smoking Cessation

The devastating hazards of poisonous air to health and wellbeing of human beings cannot be overemphasized. Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death in the world as it is found to be a major factor in four out of the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung disease and stroke. It causes about a third of heart disease and cancer, and most emphysema.

Therefore, conscious efforts must therefore be made to STOP SMOKING and keep the air around you and your loved ones free of smoke as much as possible in all areas that you inhabit such as the home, workplace, schools and playground.

This requires even more vigilance and steadfastness because most times, you are not the one committing the act. So, even if you don’t smoke yourself, watch out for, and avoid inhaling side-stream smoke and/or carbon monoxide from burning elements or exhaust from vehicles in traffic.

 

Health Insurance

Finally, this is one area that Nigerians really need to inculcate into their lives.
Beyond taking away the burden of having to ‘pay-out-of-pocket’ for healthcare, the benefits of having health insurance or subscribing to managed-care plans are manifold and far-reaching.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans are fundamentally focused on wellness and illness prevention with the core philosophy that these preventative measures are more cost-effective than treating chronic conditions that develop due to negligence or lack of screening.

Therefore, HMOs make preventative medicine easier. Most of their plans come with predefined schedules that cover regular assessments and screening tests, based on a patient’s age, sex and other risk factors. Common preventative services found in managed-care plans include routine physical exams, some adult immunizations, routine gynaecological exams and Pap-smear tests for women, mammographic screening for women over 40, as well as paediatric care and immunizations.

One such managed care organization is Ives Medicare HMO that offers reliable plans that cover year-round health assessment benefits is Ives Medicare. You just need to subscribe to a plan that suits you among the available options for a low monthly fee. Then, the rest is up to you.

 

Conclusion

It does feel great when you can avoid health complications before it surfaces at all. However, it won’t happen on its own as it takes serious committed work.

By observing the seven steps here highlighted in addition to others, you can enjoy all-round good health and wellbeing, saving you high hospital bills, time wasted, as well as the pain and inconvenience of treating full-blown diseases or injuries.

Do you need help keeping to any of these disease prevention methods? We can provide you with insights, approaches and steps to take to imbibe them as a lifestyle. Add your comment about your struggles below, and let’s take it up from there.

 

About The Author

Dr. Babatunde Okewale is a UK trained Obstetrician, Gynecologist and a leading fertility expert, heading the St. Ives Healthcare Group in Nigeria.