In today's fast-paced and stressful lifestyle, preventive healthcare is a topic that is usually left out of conversations around health. By definition, preventive healthcare means the measures taken to prevent illness, to monitor and control lifestyle diseases and associated risk factors. Furthermore, these measures are rewarding and applicable throughout one's lifespan, at various points along the continuum of wellness and illness to prevent progressive deterioration.
Most people refuse to invest in healthcare until they are actually sick. Since pain is a major driver for people to seek medical help, and preventative care happens at a stage without symptoms, it's often overlooked. We, as a community, believe in reacting rather than being proactive, failing to realise that the emotional, physical, and financial costs are exponentially higher in fixing a problem rather than preventing it in the first place.
India was ranked 145th among 195 countries on Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) index in 2016. Even though clinical practice guidelines advocate providing care (preventative) to minimize chronic disease risk behaviours, the primary healthcare system fails to address those requirements adequately.
According to the Economic Survey 2019-20, the doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1456 as opposed to the WHO recommendation of 1:1000. With the skewed doctor-patient ratio, and with the persisting cultural negligence of our holistic well-being, the onus of our wellness and care falls on us, both at individual and community levels.
Demanding lifestyles and unhealthy life choices have led to a significant spike in diseases like hypertension and diabetes. One-third of adult Indians suffer from hypertension, and two-thirds of that number don't even know if they have it, as per the Cardiology Society of India. The neglect often results in the development of severe, sometimes terminal conditions, unless there is a prompt and timely intervention.
Canonically, early interventions and lifestyle changes substantially bring down the incidences of chronic diseases, and the disability and death associated with them. Also, several well-recognized preventive strategies such as intervening before conditions occur, diagnosing and treating the diseases early and managing chronic diseases to slow down or stop their progression may be adopted.
Unfortunately, clinical preventive services remain shockingly underserved, disregarding the demonstrated benefits and these well-known facts. One of the key reasons behind this is that the predisposition of providers is not to prioritize preventive care services, as the financial incentives do not align with the culture of preventing diseases in the first place. Thus, although preventive services can reduce the occurrence and burden of chronic diseases, most providers, including hospitals and physicians, are paid to treat conditions rather than prevent them. It is interesting to note how the availability and accessibility gap is responsible for the under penetration of preventive services, set aside the knowledge gap of the population.
Despite a fairly advanced healthcare system in the metros, many individuals struggle to access the benefits due to lack of information and unpredictability of experience. In addition, our healthcare system is fragmented and highly curative, which results in individuals facing multiple barriers such as finding the right specialist or receiving prompt assistance that is easily accessible. These factors contribute towards a lack of general interest in availing preventative care and, in turn, overall poor quality of health.
To address this, we must shift the focus from the traditional curative "sick care" system to holistic wellness and prevention. Identifying and arresting potential problems is not only an optimal strategy for improving health outcomes, but it also plays a significant role in streamlining and reducing the burden of the disease.
We need a two-pronged approach that would, on the one hand, inculcate a paradigm in the mindset of people towards healthcare and systems of care that accommodate and encourage preventative services in a community living environment and address the ease of accessibility issue on the other.
At LifeUno, our goal is to build a community-focused approach towards holistic well-being and health and act as a layer between the existing curative system and the patient to provide a predictive experience, along with offering preventative health services at your doorstep.