Prevention is the heart and soul of Integrative Medicine. Yes, we are doctors and we are well trained in identifying diseases in treating symptomatically to relieve suffering. But that is only step one.
We need to look at the diseases and illnesses not only as enemies to be defeated, but as starting points for prevention and the rebuilding of good health after illness. Chronic and complex illnesses tend to diminish vitality and reserves of even the strongest person, and we have a responsibility to take those people back to a level of health which will sustain them for the years or decades ahead.
It is sad but true that we doctors miss this opportunity more often than we seize it, and the effect is that we turn sick people into patients-for-life. One could cynically argue that this is the business model of medicine, but I don't believe that for a second. Doctors are inhibited from taking this final step with their patience because of the very Medicare system that we work within in Australia.
While Medicare does a great job in making disease care affordable to all Australians, it is not a health-care system. It is a disease treatment system. Patients do not receive rebates for screening test or preventive medicine beyond a few simple diagnostic procedures. Prevention is seen as something that each individual should carry out without any knowledge of their own vulnerable areas.
In my practice, when diseases and disease processes are identified and treated in one individual, attention turns not only to that individual and their long-term sustainable management, but to other family members who share genetics and environment with the target patient, and sometimes even to co-workers when there is an occupational contribution.
Prevention is the highest level of the art of medicine, but it is also the most difficult and the hardest to prove. Taking a sensible approach of identifying one's personal risks, genetic weaknesses, and biological strengths, a programme involving diet, lifestyle, exercise, sleep and supplementation can make significant differences to quality of life in the short term, and are most likely the types of things which will extend one's healthy years while beyond their current trajectory.