Preventative medicine is a paradox.
And to be even clearer, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Public Health is based on preventative measures, as individual health is based on Primary Care. We need them both, like we need autonomy within structure. One without the other creates chaos.
But the term “preventative medicine” can be a euphemism for Power: to presume our intellect could dominate an individual’s tightly knit bio-chem-physical friendship.
Try as we may – and we have tried – to come up with preventative measures, we discover that what we lauded was good for us in one decade actually harmed us. Smoking is good. Smoking is bad. Good Cholesterol, or Not such a big deal cholesterol, Estrogen replacement is natural, Estrogen-alone can increase stroke, heart attack and breast cancer incidence. Everything has its day in the sun. I am not proposing that any one of these is wrong, it’s just that our object of affection – what we thought we were preventing – we were not.
The future, is not our specialty.
If I have learned anything in my growing years, it is that practicing medicine is the most humbling, un-powerful role one could be in. Often physicians are held with esteem and given power in our society,
but underneath the white coats we know it is an uncertain art
– that is the reality of being tasked with navigating the human mind, body, and spirit.
What we can be commended for is a willingness to help, like ballboys on a tennis court. Our strength is that when we fail, we try again, we put all our efforts in. We can’t prevent much, but we can usually manage what ails you. We are on your team.
I would seem highly unaware, or at the least, obnoxious to deny the leaps and bounds in preventative measures throughout history. I bow down to how clinical medicine & biology have understood how the immune system responds to deadly bacteria & viruses, and instigated the natural protective response in the body, a priori to being infected. I am amazed that we have encouraged entire urban environments to eliminate smoking from the norm. I myself have benefited from screening protocols to find conditions in their earliest forms.
Thank the stars that we have antibiotics and anti-virals for the scariest conditions.
What preventative measures have we done well? Vaccination & sanitation, though quite controversial in media, have assisted in decreasing the transmission of fatal diseases. We also have a long history of using natural substances to help us through our illness. This can hardly be labelled as preventative, as much as sensible, gentle and in some respects, effective biomimicry.
But perchance even these well-researched plans don’t always splay their feathers neatly. If small cell lung cancer develops, whooping cough takes your child’s life, or a heart condition destabilizes you, we don’t know why, and we cannot change your experience. There is no money-back guarantee, you cannot talk to the manager, and you most certainly can’t say that you could have prevented it.
Prevention in individualized medicine is like the “should” in life.
It is a useless feeling and guilt ridden sensation. What you can do is learn how be brightest you out there, and make the decisions that make sense to you. And don’t look back.
Perhaps the theory of preventative medicine, is merely sensible living. Health is our natural state. What we may have done is left our natural state – through over-consumption, under-nourishment, and losing passion – and compassion – for ourselves. Coming to a doctor for “prevention” might be coming for assistance in remembering who you are under all the layers you’ve built, either in pathology or psychology. We might not be able to prevent, but we can certainly help you remember. We can give you tools. We can keep you informed.
Previously, major improvements in our health came from altering our environments, and managing external threats. Now, most illness rises from chronic cell changes. The types of prevention we tend to research are on a cellular level. What will happen if we start poking around in our cells to increase X, Y, Z, so that we achieve our “health goal” or feed the dragon of discontent?
How much more time or life can we buy?
Maximum risk for minimal benefit. We may be meddling with a system that actually works quite well – though we might feel uncomfortable with our level of control over it.
What might happen if we actually affect something?
So I offer you something I have learned:
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with the way you are. You are not broken, You are not sub-optimal. You do not need preventative treatment. I do not condone nit-picking your body or life to an ideal. We are built to face challenge, make decisions, weigh out pros and cons – sometimes those outcomes aren’t great for the body, but wonderful for life.
Sometimes pruning the body drains the soul.
Sometimes the body is trying to get us to listen up and slow down – so that we can step into our lives with more vibrance. Which is happening for you?
Take a deep breath and move forward as an explorer. Change can occur, if you let it. That’s not prevention, that’s living and dealing.
I remember that I am a beautiful mess, and my unique perspective is what makes this world much more of a delight to be in.