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Fixin' Healthcare

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - First Things First

A curious aspect of American health care and American society is the focus upon specific diseases. There are societies, foundations and institutes dedicated to specific diseases. Add to this the very large chunk of health care devoted to a specific age group and a compelling picture emerges. It is a proven method for generating popular, political support and resources. But, where does it lead and what are the goals?

Type-2 diabetes is an example worth consideration regarding this point. The number of Type-2 diabetics in the U.S. has doubled during the past two decades to involve an estimated 20 million people. This makes the disease the country's fastest growing public health problem. Definitely a problem worth attention. Yet, diabetes is an under-funded disease.

On the other hand, how would increased funding for diabetes be used? What is the origin of such rapid growth in the incidence of diabetes? Increasing basic research and clinics devoted to diabetes would provide useful information and limited relief. But, could these efforts be expected to decrease the incidence or prevent the disease?

Type-2 diabetes is the hallmark for chronic diseases that are the result of unhealthy lifestyles, just as lung cancer is for smoking. Immunization for polio is superior to improving iron lungs. Cessation of smoking is superior to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. This is where the road forks for public health and medical care. Attack the cause, not the manifestation. In the situation involving diabetes the true focus is upon better health for everyone not a specific disease.

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