Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Best Medicine: Prevention

Benjamin Franklin is one of my personal heroes. He's certainly an American icon, but I don't believe his myriad of contributions to our way of life are realized so much by the general public any more. His contributions to the medical world were concrete and practical, for example, the flexible urinary catheter that he invented for his ailing brother. But his analytical mind also lead to innovative discoveries, such as the relationship between lead exposure and nerve damage. As a public health advocate, Ben Franklin was co-founder of our nation's first public hospital. He was also an advocate for early advocate for the vaccine against smallpox.

Although some sources attribute one of Ben's most famous quotes to fire-prevention, it is an exquisite and absolutely perfect philosophy for just about any problem imagineable:

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

My health-related advice to everyone for years has been simple: "Don't get sick." That's my flippant summary of Ben Franklin's quote. I don't want to see anyone be placed in the hospital setting if it can be avoided, because quite frankly the care given is marginal in many, many settings--and it saddens and sometimes scares me. That sentence is putting it nicely, based on my wide-ranging experience, and will offend many people with a vested interest in keeping the status quo in current hospital and extended care settings. Any health care worker with recent "boots on the ground" experience in these settings and a conscience will understand my concerns.

Exercise, eat right, and avoid bad habits--that's how we can make the attempt towards the best possible health status. And those three general behaviors will help in mitigating the consequences of illness or injury that we can't avoid.

A CDC co-sponsored health campaign called "Ounce of Prevention" recently caught my attention. Posters and other resources are available which emphasize prevention through knowledge about some central issues: cleanliness, food preparation, antibiotics, immunizations, and issues regarding pets and wildlife. A kid-focused component to the Ounce of Prevention campaign is brought to you by the makers of LYSOL® and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP). Order a free "Healthy Habits" activity book for kids or download a copy now.


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