What hinders the vaunted preventive medicine

Traditional medicine focuses on curing or treating a health problem that has already manifested itself by various symptoms. Preventive medicine focuses on preventing potential health problems through a science-based approach to health management and early diagnosis. Doctors of integrative preventive medicine work at the subcellular level to prevent health problems from developing in the first place, including genetic disorders, which might not manifest themselves for a few more years. Modern preventive medicine is capable of helping the body unleash adaptive resources so that it could effectively resist the aggressive impact of the external environment, and avoid premature aging.

Everything new is well-forgotten old

The first attempts to build a preventive healthcare system were made in Soviet times by introducing compulsory medical examinations for citizens, developing the system of resorts and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

In 2018, the preventive approach in medicine was brought under regulation as part the state healthcare system. The system of mandatory medical insurance received increased financing for compulsory health check-ups, and a new type of medical facilities was created – health centers where anyone could undergo a basic check-up.

However, the efforts resulted in no breakthrough. The number of doctors did not increase, no financing was allocated for additional hours, and the connection between the results of the examinations and the real treatment process was not established. After receiving their results, most people did not bother to do anything about them.

The interest in preventive medicine sparked again amid the coronavirus pandemic. It turned out that COVID-19 had more complications in people with a weakened immune system and chronic diseases. It got people thinking about the importance of strengthening and diagnosing their immune system. Private clinics for preventive medicine saw an increased demand for their services.

Russia’s Ministry of Health expects that preventive medicine will help to increase citizens’ life expectancy to 78 years, an indicator envisaged in the Presidential Executive Order on the National Development Goals of the Russian Federation through 2030. The ministry rightly believes that a personalized healthcare system which considers a person’s age, as well as characteristics of their disease and predisposition to certain medical conditions, will become an important factor for increasing life expectancy.

Conditions for development of preventive medicine

• First of all, the government should take additional efforts to prompt people to take responsibility for their health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 75% of healthcare spending in the United States went for treatment of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory disorders, cancer and diabetes – health conditions that are causing the most deaths. In recent years, the budget has been redirected for detection of health disorders and targeted prevention measures. Increasing the cost of health insurance for those who opt out of annual screenings has prompted Americans to take greater control of their health.

• Educational activities are equally important. It has been proven that a person’s lifestyle and efforts to get rid of bad habits have a stronger effect on the body than genetic factors. Educational work should be organized by the government to ensure that it will reach large numbers of citizens. People normally start taking active actions when facing actual danger; now, with COVID-19 infection risks having decreased, they have become less responsible as regards their health, and particularly as regards preventive measures.

• Medicine is becoming a high-tech and knowledge-intensive sector; preventive medicine physicians need to combine innovative experience with practical medical work. Since 2018, when Russia’s Ministry of Health approved the Concept for Predictive, Preventive and Personalized Medicine, discussions have taken place on introducing a corresponding course in state universities’ academic programs; however, the plans have not materialized as this would require a major restructuring of the vocational education system based on an interdisciplinary approach. So far, development is occurring due to initiatives from the medical community, with scientific congresses and training modules organized with participation of Western experts. Doctors pay for overseas training courses on their own, traveling mostly to Europe and the USA which are known for their impressive schools of preventive medicine.

• New technologies are coming to the fore to expand healthcare options. Many specialty areas of preventive medicine are efficient physiotherapy methods, such as hydrotherapy, inert gas therapy, oxygen therapy, cryotherapy, xenon therapy, and hyperbaric chamber treatment. All these technologies are also successfully used for post-COVID-19 rehabilitation. The availability of these technologies for citizens can be increased only through further development of insurance medicine.

By Olga Shuppo, Academic Director, GrandClinic chain of clinics for immune rehabilitation and preventive medicine

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