Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Commentary: Spending More Resources on Preventive Services is our Common Strategy

Akira Babazono, MS, MD, PhD**
Chair and Professor
Department of Health Care Administration and Management
Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Japan

Dr. Saito and I visited JSPH to meet most faculty members, with the help of. Dr. Nash, this past August. We thanked them to have given precious information concerning healthcare problems. We are very happy to agree that we need more resources on primary care, including prevention, rather than for specialized care in developed countries where chronic diseases are prevalent.

Lifestyle-related diseases account for about 60% of deaths and we spend majority of health care expenditure on treatment for those diseases in Japan. The Japanese government has mandated insurers to provide health examinations and guidance related to metabolic syndrome since 2010. Insurers have to determine the risk for metabolic syndrome, including level of obesity (abdominal circumference and BMI), blood glucose and lipid levels, blood pressure, and the presence or absence of a smoking habit for every insured person aged 40 and over. Then, insurers are obliged to offer health guidance interventions according to the degree of risk of each insured person.

There are several studies that have reported favorable outcomes. The health examinations and guidance program would be productive because it is the efficient way to motivate patients to continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent chronic diseases.

I hear that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates insurers to make co-payments on cancer screening free and to give subsidies to the insured to participate in fitness programs. I believe that we are on the right track because chronic diseases, which cannot always be cured by procedures, are preventable.

** Dr. Babazono and his colleague, Dr. Takao Saito, MD, PhD, attended the Tenth Quality Colloquium at Harvard in August, 2011 and spent the following week at JSPH. This is Dr. Babazono’s 3rd visit with JSPH.

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