Thursday, September 17, 2009

Policymakers and federal bean-counters don't always apply the same standards to prevention that they apply to medical treatment. Partnership for Prevention Executive VP Corinne G. Husten, MD, MPH expounded on this long-running concern in a recent interview on "Radio Health Journal."

"When someone comes in with chest pain, we don’t say, 'Oh, is it going to save money if we do an angiogram and a bypass or put them on beta blockers?' Husten asked. "We know we just need to treat them, they’re sick.

But somehow with prevention, instead of saying 'this is important and we need to do it because our goal is to have the healthiest people we can have because we value it,'" she added " … sometimes it seems like it’s only worth doing if it saves money. I would argue that it really is the wrong question, or if we ask that question we should ask it of all our treatment services as well the prevention services."

Husten's views were echoed by Dr. George Miller, a fellow at the Altera Institute.

"I think where there has sometimes been a difficulty is that we don’t expect treatments to save money; we would like them to be worth what we spend for them," Miller said. "Whereas there has been occasionally this view that prevention isn’t worth doing unless it’s actually cost saving, which is a much more stringent standard than being cost-effective.

"I believe that’s too harsh a requirement to put on it," he said. "I think prevention has other benefits besides saving money that ought to be taken into account in deciding which preventive measures to adopt."


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