It’s sad to know that we could prevent many of the health conditions we suffer from. The lifestyle choices and decisions we make every day can help or harm our health. Advances in medical technology have allowed developed nations to offer residents preventive healthcare. Find out what preventative measures you could be taking to live a longer, healthier, and more productive life.
What is Preventative Health Care?
Preventative health care is taking action to stay healthy and avoid the onset of illness, disease, and injury. The earlier in life we start taking preventive health measures, the better, but it’s never too late to start. Even someone diagnosed with a disease can take action to prevent the progression or concurrent illnesses.
Many of us take preventative actions every day without realising it. Brushing our teeth helps prevent periodontal disease. Eating fruits and vegetables contributes to nourishing our body and preventing diseases including some cancers. Wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk of injury in a motor vehicle accident, and washing our hands can stop us from contracting a cold, flu, or COVID-19.
Around 1.5% of the nation’s health spending goes to preventive health. The WA Government is committed to increasing its spending on preventive measures to 5% by 2029 through its Sustainable Health Review.
Why Preventative Health is Important
Preventive health can help you live longer because it can stop certain chronic illnesses from developing. However, if you develop an illness or condition, picking it up early can provide more treatment options and an increased likelihood of positive long-term outcomes. While the quantity of life (number of years to live) is important, many people are more concerned about the quality of those years. Taking a preventive approach means you’re doing what you can stay mentally and physically active.
For many people, medications are part of their preventive healthcare. These may include medications for high blood pressure, antidepressants for mental health, aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke, and many more.
Difference Between Preventive & Solution-Oriented Health
Solution-oriented health focuses on treating an illness, condition, or injury rather than trying to prevent it in the first place. For example, most Australians have been exposed to the public education campaign on the dangers of consuming sugary soft drinks over the past year. This preventive campaign encourages people to change their habits and switch to less sugar-laden options. A solution-oriented society may not use public education campaigns to change habits, and instead, spend money on the solution which would be funding more hospital beds for people suffering from obesity and diabetes resulting from poor eating habits.
Common Health Conditions Preventive Health Care Can Prevent
Half of all Australian adults have one of eight common chronic illnesses. These conditions include arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and mental health conditions. Nine in every 10 deaths are linked to one or more of these conditions. This is why it’s important to take preventive measures and avoid these conditions in the first place.
What the Australian Government is Doing for Preventive Health Care
The Australian government developed the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030, to see more Australians take a preventive health approach. The strategy is designed to ensure the whole population has the best possible start to life and lives a healthy life for as long as possible. The government is investing in preventive health and working towards health equity for every Australian.
5 Levels of Preventive Healthcare
There are 5 levels of healthcare that can have a preventive effect on the population.
#1 Primordial Prevention
This focuses on environmental factors and hazards that can affect a person’s health. These factors include access to healthy foods, getting enough physical activity, and ensuring clean air, water, and sanitation services.
The Australian government is responsible for making sure people have access to drinking water and wastewater treatment, and that the air is safe. Over the years, state governments have launched advertising campaigns to encourage healthy food choices and physical activity.
#2 Primary Prevention
Primary prevention is about reducing risk factors that can cause disease and disorders. This includes eating a healthy diet and getting enough physical activity. Being overweight, obese, and having high blood pressure are factors that contribute to a wide range of diseases. Immunisation is the final primary prevention to ensure the community is protected from infectious diseases.
#3 Secondary Prevention
Secondary prevention is used for the early detection of diseases and disorders. Early detection increases the likelihood of complete recovery or stops deterioration and long-term adverse effects. Types of secondary prevention include screening programs, medical check-ups, and identifying complications, and comorbidities.
#4 Tertiary Prevention
Once a person has a progressing disease or disorder, tertiary prevention aims at minimising impairments, and managing comorbidities, complications, and disabilities.
#5 Quaternary Prevention
Quaternary prevention is reducing the impact of medical interventions for a disease or disorder.
Preventive Healthcare in Action
The following are examples of secondary prevention programs that are run in Australia. The population programs target people at a stage of life where they are most likely to develop a disease or disorder. In the case of newborns, the screening is designed to identify any disorders that need an early diagnosis for early treatment.
Bowel Cancer Screening
At the age of 50, all Australians are mailed a bowel screening kit.
Breast Cancer Screening
Women between 50 and 74 years of age are offered a free mammogram every two years. But if you have a family history of breast cancer, it’s best to speak to your GP earlier than age 50.
It’s recommended that women aged 25 to 74 years have a cervical screening every five years.
Newborn Bloodspot Screening
Newborns are screened for a range of conditions. An early diagnosis of a condition can ensure they receive the medical treatment they require from the earliest age possible.
Neonatal Hearing Screening
A hearing screening test ensures babies receive early intervention to minimise the impact of any hearing impairment.
Counselling is also a common type of preventive service. A doctor may help a patient quit smoking before they develop lung cancer or encourage a patient to lose weight to prevent the onset of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. A patient may also visit a counsellor or psychologist to treat their depression before it becomes severe or to reduce alcohol or substance abuse.
The Australian government recommends a number of vaccinations for different ages to protect individuals and the collective community from outbreaks of preventable diseases. Some vaccinations last a lifetime while others are recommended annually such as the flu, due to the changing nature of the virus. The National Immunisation Program Schedule provides details of recommended vaccines according to age. Some state and territory health departments fund additional vaccines.
Peace of Mind
The five levels of preventive healthcare and screening programs help people stay on top of their healthcare. Older people may have more peace of mind knowing that they have completed all of their screening tests, had a general medical examination, are up to date with their vaccinations, and are following their doctor’s advice on making healthy lifestyle choices. Without having these benchmarks in place, people wouldn’t know if they’re at risk of one or more of the common conditions.
At HIF we are big believers that ‘prevention is better than cure’. We’re committed to helping you remain on track with your health by staying on top of your markers and aiming for a healthy lifestyle. Our hospital and extras cover help you take the necessary preventative measures to stay healthy. You’ll enjoy freedom and peace of mind knowing you’re doing everything you can to take care of yourself.