Living the healthy life
Part II of Xpress‘ two part special wellness feature (see Wellness Issues stories sidebar for articles from both special wellness issues).
by Susan Foster, Wellness editor
Increasingly, researchers, care providers, government agencies and even insurance companies are recognizing that social factors play a much larger role in determining health outcomes than the specific health services provided. Social and economic circumstances, such as education, job status, family/social support, income and community safety all have major impacts. The physical environment, including air and water quality, plays a big part too.
But individual health behaviors, including tobacco and alcohol use, as well as things like diet and exercise, also loom large in the equation, having an even greater influence on health than either access to or quality of care. It’s now widely accepted that taken together, socioeconomic, environmental and behavioral factors account for about 80 percent of health outcomes, whereas actual medical care accounts for only 20 percent.
And in 2014, a large-scale study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund noted, “These findings are not lost on health care providers: 80 percent of physicians conclude that addressing patients’ social needs is as critical as addressing their medical needs.”
Dale Neal’s story “Asheville-area clinics instill hope and optimism” examines the way these important attitudes impact the results of medical interventions.
Then we look specifically at health-related behaviors as drivers of health outcomes, because these are the things individuals , regardless of their socioeconomic situation or physical environment, have some control over. What kind of lifestyle people choose — whether they smoke, drink, exercise, and eat a healthy diet — has a major impact on their health. In the following pages, we explore these four factors.
“Asheville fitness experts say exercise builds optimal health” by Jameson O’Hanlon takes a look at the type, amount and frequency of exercise as variables that affect health.
O’Hanlon also considers, in “Asheville experts discuss health benefits of plant-based diets,” the impact of a plant-based diet on common First World ailments such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
In “Nicotine addiction remains a danger to WNC as popularity of e-cigarettes grows,” Katia Martinez addresses the prevalence of tobacco use, including vaping, in the Asheville area, its effect on health, and efforts to reduce it through smoking-cessation programs.
In “Moderate alcohol consumption has proven health benefits,” Leslie Boyd examines different choices about drinking and considers whether moderate consumption of alcohol can actually improve health.
By expanding our scope, looking at all the factors that affect health, we can take a more comprehensive approach to improving health and well-being across all segments of society.
Preventive health care saves money, enriches lives
by Susan Foster, wellness editor
For many people, health care begins when they’re diagnosed with a disease or other issue. They visit care providers, take medications and pursue other practices to mitigate the symptoms and help them heal.
But there’s a different vision of health that’s more proactive, focusing on preventing diseases rather than treating them once they’ve already taken root. Preventive medicine aims to protect and promote the health and well-being of both individuals and communities; it’s more cost-effective and leads to improved quality of life. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance providers to cover certain preventive services, but this could change under the new administration.
An estimated 80 percent of diseases and 90 percent of health care services stem from preventable causes. Preventive health measures often focus on such illnesses as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, unintentional injuries, infectious diseases and cancer.
In Part I of Xpress’ two-part wellness special feature, we take a look at local programs and resources aimed at promoting health and preventing disease. We invite readers to explore these options as a gateway to enhanced well-being.
In this issue:
- “Cure for pain: Preventing opioid-related deaths,” Dan Hesse’s story on opioid addiction, addresses prevention on a very broad social level.
- Similarly, in “Asheville professionals help mothers birth healthy babies,” Kate Lundquist looks at primal prevention, which seeks to ensure that children receive the attention and affection they need in the first year of life. Both these pieces reflect attempts to head off larger social harms. From this angle, maternal health is seen as a first step in promoting child health.
The remaining stories in this week’s supplement focus on primary prevention, which tries to avoid disease by eliminating potential causes or increasing resistance to particular ailments.
- “Buncombe County groups collaborate to prevent childhood obesity,” by Nick Wilson, considers the problem of childhood obesity and local efforts to prevent it.
- In “Vaccinations prevent disease and build ‘herd immunity,’” Clarke Morrison examines community attitudes toward immunization efforts aimed at creating “herd immunity,” including the question of whether vaccines are related to autism.
- Cindy Kunst, in “Local dentists offer tips for preventing oral health problems,” presents information from local dentists about pre-emptive ways to promote oral health.
Together, these stories provide assorted windows into the diverse world of preventive medicine.