By Judy Kirkwood
If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as Ben Franklin noted long ago, shouldn’t our health system reward and emphasize prevention rather than the cure?
In fact, just a few days ago the Obama administration hired a PR firm to conduct a public education campaign about the utilization of preventive benefits and services included in the Affordable Care Act.
A prevention model of healthcare is something Florida physician Dr. Steven Charlap has dreamed about for a long time. A few years ago, after selling a company called HealthDrive that he had established to provide onsite medical services at extended care facilities, Dr. Charlap discovered that for the first time Medicare would begin reimbursing doctors for disease prevention.
After immersing himself in preventive medicine studies and consulting experts, Dr. Charlap founded the MDPrevent center in Delray Beach. He hopes his concept will spread across the nation. MDPrevent offers the analysis, education, and tools to change and extend people’s lives, plus cooking classes, the LEAN (Lifestyle Education and Nutrition) weight loss program for all ages, exercise classes, and counseling.
“I started MD Prevent to change the world,” says Dr. Charlap. “If we start living a healthy lifestyle at any age, it will positively impact our health and longevity.” He brushes aside arguments about people living too long and costing the government too much by pointing out that preventive care results in people living longer because they have fewer health problems, not more health problems. Offering preventive care for life extension is not the same as prolonging life when someone is already dying.
Dr. Charlap is concerned, however, that many people don’t realize there are preventive care benefits in their Medicare. That includes "primary prevention" such as screening and vaccines that keep you from getting sick in the first place as well as "secondary prevention" to help you live well with a medical condition and ward off future complications. “If you have a blood sugar of 125 or above, you are diagnosed as diabetic and you can get 10 hours of diabetes self-education management with a certified educator and 2 hours of medical nutritional therapy," Dr. Charlap observed. You pay only 20% of the Medicare Approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible and as Dr. Charlap says, "There are probably 25,000 diabetics in this area who would benefit from these services who don’t even know they exist.”
“I decided that my mission was to teach people how to stay healthy enough to enjoy a longer life,” says Dr. Charlap. His MDPrevent addresses nutrition, physical fitness, stress and anxiety, sleep, and even how to manage relationship issues. He calls his team of experts – dietitians/nutritionists, nurse practitioners, health psychologists, exercise physiologists, and fitness instructors – “preventioneers,” pioneers of prevention.
With endless evidence to support the efficacy of prevention rather than groping for after-the-fact cures for medical conditions, as well as government support for preventive care, Dr. Charlap's mission is to get more people to take advantage of their preventive care benefits.
After all, he says, “If you have good genes and die at 98 when you could have lived til you were 110, you died early.”
ThirdAge Contributing writer and Forums Director Judy Kirkwood lives in Delray Beach, Florida.