Prevention Paradox

Few would argue that prevention is an obviously good thing almost all the time. “Why, then, don’t we do it more regularly, more consistently, more widely, more effectively? What’s stopping us?” asked Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, during a lecture Tuesday at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

Fineberg discussed a dozen top challenges that make prevention a hard-sell such as invisibility, lack of drama and our bias against errors of commission—just to name a few. Then he offered observations on how they might be overcome: involving employers, using policy, and making prevention cheaper than free, for instance.

The key, he insisted, is to make prevention the norm. “My definition of a culture of health is when it’s a choice without a decision. It’s just the natural, easy, obvious easy way to live your life. And when we’ve gotten to that point, then we can honestly say we’ve overcome these obstacles, and we have made prevention not simply celebrated in principle but effective in practice.”  

Fineberg spoke as part of a celebration of 50 years of Preventive Medicine Training at the Bloomberg School. —Maryalice Yakutchik, Editor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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