Panel: Lifestyle Changes Lead to Lower Healthcare Costs
Considering that 70% of diseases are preventable and that Connecticut spends more than $8 billion annually on healthcare, the best way to generate savings is by preventing chronic diseases.
That was the consensus at a forum entitled, “The Promise of Primary Prevention,” held Jan. 18 at the state Capitol.
The forum featured several medical professionals, state lawmakers, and CBIA Counsel Jennifer Herz, who monitors healthcare issues.
“CBIA has thousands of members throughout the state, large and small,” Herz said, “and they’re very concerned about healthcare costs.”
She said it’s vital to CBIA members to have a healthy workforce but, like everyone else, they’re concerned about rising costs.
“The prevalence of chronic disease is going up,” said Dr. Randy Trowbridge, a Danbury physician and president of the Fairfield County Medical Association.
“Heart disease and cancer are the top two killers.”
Ten Percent Cost Savings
Lifestyle changes across the state’s population could easily allow Connecticut to cut 10% from its annual healthcare costs, Trowbridge said. And if people stick with those changes, costs could be further reduced, he said.
There are many things that factor into a person’s health, said Dr. Kenneth Litwin, another Fairfield County physician.
But your genetics and heredity don’t play as big a role as your lifestyle does—specifically, what enters your body through your mouth and nose, Litwin said.
He noted a Harvard University study that estimates Americans will spend $47 trillion over the next 20 years treating diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and chronic lung diseases—yet none of those illnesses are communicable and all are preventable.
The best way to combat these increases is for people to make lifestyle changes, panelists said. People need to eat more fruit and vegetables, and exercise regularly.
Educational Role of Doctors Key
So why aren’t we taking more steps toward prevention?
Litwin put part of the blame on his fellow doctors.
“Doctors must be more emphatic about telling patients to make lifestyle changes” or they will get diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular or chronic-lung disease, he said.
State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan (R-Glastonbury), a physician, said that while doctors generally remind their patients of importance of regular exercise and a proper diet, “the message for us providers is to pay more attention to that aspect of our practice.”
“We need to get in front of this issue,” Trowbridge said. “Prevention is important. Anything we can do to reduce chronic disease and the cost of treating it will make a difference.”
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