Preventive medicine aims to prevent (rather than cure) disease, disability and death. It is practiced by government agencies, General Practitioners and importantly by individuals themselves. We can think of preventive medicine being neatly summarised by the timeless medical adage, ‘prevention is better than cure’.
At the level of primary care, preventive medicine practitioners (most often GPs, but also other physicians) utilise their expertise in medical, behavioural and social sciences to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities, through disease prevention and health promotion . At One5 Health, we also empower people to become their own ‘preventive practitioners’, by encouraging a proactive approach to health and providing evidence-based information on lifestyle changes that promote long-term health.
Why prevention matters
As the old adage suggests preventive medicine is not new, but when it comes to diseases associated with lifestyle, prevention really matters. Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) demonstrates that the commonest causes of death globally across all GDP categories and ages are increasingly non-communicable (non-infectious) and lifestyle related. In their 2019 study the WHO identified the top three causes of death globally as ischaemic heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and in high-income countries, dementia, kidney disease, cancers of the lungs and bowel, hypertensive heart disease and diabetes also featured in the top ten . The latest scientific and clinical research is demonstrating that nearly all these diseases are closely linked to lifestyle and hence often preventable. As practitioners and individuals, we therefore have an opportunity to protect our future health, through lifestyle changes we make today, and we think that’s really exciting.
Prevention in action
So, what does modern preventive medicine look like and how does it differ from more traditional ‘reactive’ approaches to healthcare?
Firstly, preventive medicine aims to predict and prevent the likelihood of diseases occurring by identifying known risk-factors and addressing behavioural or lifestyle factors accordingly. Rather than waiting for symptoms to show, by which time it may be too late to intervene, this proactive approach aims to prevent diseases before they occur. When you book an appointment with an expert One5 Health GP, we will take a thorough medical history to identify known risk-factors for key diseases and discuss any suggested lifestyle changes with you to optimise your health and wellbeing.
Secondly, preventive medicine aims to detect signs of diseases before they become established, therefore providing the best possible long-term outcomes. This is usually achieved through clinical consultation, physical examination and specific blood or other diagnostic tests, that look for early signs of disease. Some diseases, such as kidney, liver or heart disease, as well as certain cancers, produce biomarkers (specific proteins) that are detectable in the blood long before symptoms develop. Other diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure may be detectable on examination, or through blood or urine tests, and if caught at an early may be reversible through lifestyle measures alone.
Preventive Medicine in the UK
Unlike many other countries, proactive annual health check-ups are not routinely offered in the UK, either through the NHS or in the private sector. Whilst preventive health programmes are practiced by the NHS and UK public health authorities, this is constrained by public funding and therefore far from optimised. Childhood vaccinations, public health initiatives and age-specific cancer screening programmes are routine, but tailored, holistic assessments of health & wellbeing are (understandably) not funded by the NHS and rarely covered by major insurers, and therefore remain inaccessible to most.
Whilst several UK private health providers do offer ‘health MOT’ style packages, these are highly variable in their quality, often prohibitively priced and don’t offer a holistic, personalised and informative experience. Where screening tests are used, these are rarely communicated in the context of overall health, and opportunities for personal health education and empowerment are overlooked. For example, clients may be told their numbers are ‘in’ or ‘out of range’, but not why or how this reflects their overall state of health, and lifestyle changes they might consider to improve their health. At One5 Health we’re looking to change all that.
One5 Health is different
As expert preventive practitioners, we asses and treat each and every person on an individual basis, working with them to determine their unique needs and requirements, in the context of holistic health and wellbeing. We know it is essential to provide adequate follow up and context to any diagnostic tests we do and focus on identifying trends that may indicate early signs of disease, not just on diagnostic cut-offs. This is why every Well-person package includes a personalised report on your test results and a comprehensive follow up appointment with the same GP, who will answer your questions and work collaboratively with you to devise a suitable plan. This might include suggested changes to your lifestyle, diet or medications, with the ultimate aim of supporting you to maintain long-lasting health and wellbeing.
For further information on our tailored Well Man & Well Woman health checks, and our range of other comprehensive services, please see our website. Alternatively, click here to book your health check now.
To read more about how lifestyle changes can protect your future health, please check out the articles by One5 Health GP Dr Jessica Howitt, on Lifestyle Medicine, Intermittent Fasting and Understanding Cholesterol.
 American College of Preventive Medicine, "About Preventive Medicine," [Online]. Available: https://www.acpm.org/about-acpm/what-is-preventive-medicine/.
 World Health Organisation, "The top 10 causes of death," 9 December 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death.