By SINDY PHELPS, MedSpeaks
Clinical research historically spends more money studying the cure for diseases, rather than studying preventive medicine for those same conditions. America is plagued with violence, accidents, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, obesity, teen pregnancies, lung disease, heart disease, and disabilities.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are responsible for funding studies on all those topics and more. The mission of the NIH is to gather knowledge on nature and behavior of living systems and how to apply that knowledge to enhance health, life longevity, and reduce illness and disability.
The mission of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is to provide health information that protects our country from dangerous health threats and respond when these arise.
If both of these organizations are built to find answers, then why is America still spending so much money on treating conditions if the majority of them are preventable in the first place?
The bulk of NIH funding goes into clinical research studies; last year $12.6 million went into funding clinical research topics like alcohol, depression, tobacco use, cancer, and HIV. In a majority of these studies, researchers are either looking for new ways to treat or to cure existing conditions.
But what about prevention?
If we were to invest at least half the amount of money that goes into researching cancer treatment and instead spend it researching key cancer risk factors, such as obesity research, could we begin to turn the tables on how people see food and exercise, and thus lower their risk for cancer? An example: It costs an average of $10,000 a month to treat a heart disease patient. If just one third of that cost each month had been applied to preventive measures, like regular check-ups with lab work, exercise regimens, or food education, they would have a better chance of staying disease free.
People who are born with cancer cells can even avoid the high cost of tertiary treatment by applying prevention measures as simple as keeping up-to-date on screenings. Preventive medicine focuses on protecting, promoting, and maintaining health as well as preventing disease, disability, and death. But what about the conditions that have already been studied, and we know how to prevent?
The NIH and CDC should study why the afflictions rates haven't dropped if we are already aware of the prevention methods, and how to stop a waterfall effect of co-occurring conditions. For example, obese patients will often develop diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea.
If we could track a standard progression path for these co-occurring conditions, isn't possible we could prevent at least of few of them in future patients? In 2017 approximately $7.8 million were spent on studies relating to preventive medicine.
While President Trump is cutting nearly six billion dollars in NIH funding, the prevention budget is going to be slashed by at least 14 percent. But if we can elevate ourselves to a higher understanding and acceptance of preventive medicine, we can more appropriately allocate the funds that are still available.
We need to start understanding the culture divide between the older and newer generations.
Both are stubborn when it comes to understanding and implementing preventive care into their daily lives. The newer generation wants a quick, painless fix to virtually everything and the older generation wants to continue to live their lives the way they always have, their own way.
There can and should be studies on how we can change this or even adapt to each population. If the NIH and CDC come together to work on more studies revolving around preventive care, it will make a huge difference in people's lives.