The real health issue

The real challenge we face on healthcare is the huge amount spent on preventable illness that would be better spent on engineers developing aids to help the seriously disabled and infirm.

Richard Beaman (letters, 10 April) doubts that preventive healthcare would in reality save much cost. There is strong evidence that it would. A staggeringly large slice of the NHS budget — maybe half — is spent on treating illness that is not only preventable but is also absorbing a steadily increasing proportion. The solution is not to find better cures but to prevent it in the first place.

Rather than being aimed at preventing illness, our healthcare system operates like a manufacturer without a preventive quality system. We all know that a manufacturer’s preventive regime can slash their costs of quality and achieve six-sigma. So why isn’t the same principle – to identify and tackle the root cause – applied to healthcare?

Irrefutable evidence shows that our diet and lifestyle cause these preventable illnesses. Some areas of the world suffer no cancer, heart or respiratory disease and live active lives to well beyond our life expectancy. But when they come to live in the West and adopt our diet and lifestyle they suffer all our maladies.

The animal world provides further evidence. Eminent field zoologists like Engels (see book, Wild Health) observe that wild animals instinctively practise prevention and self-medication. They usually live healthy and active lives until whatever end they meet. Endemic illness is rare. They (and many household pets) often live to seven times the age of maturity whereas we humans barely manage four or five times.

The current healthcare regime is becoming unaffordable and one day, someone has to bite the bullet and revise its philosophy from curing to preventing illness. Prevention is not about taking some magic new pharmaceutical pill or vaccination. It’s about preventive education, with cooperation from the food, agricultural and retail industries.

When that day comes, we shall all live longer and more active, productive (and engineering) lives.

Colin Mynott

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