COVID-19 highlights the importance of preventive care

Preventive care

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted our perspective on health and lifestyle; making people more aware of the need to learn about preventive care to reduce the risk of diseases, disabilities and death.

According to studies, Europeans spend less on healthcare than the average American – not because of better self-restraint in resisting the urge for a deep-fried quadruple cheeseburger stuffed with bacon and dipped in cheese but because processed foods are much more highly regulated to begin with. Europeans tend to develop less obesity and nutrition-related conditions on average over the course of their lives than the average American and therefore spend much less money on healthcare.

As an example, the amount of sugar found in soft drinks in the U.S is far greater than the recommended amount, and perfectly legal. Whereas in Europe, the sugar content is much lower, so much so that an American would not recognize the soft drink in question without the label.

In 2019 the U.S spent about $11,100 per person, with Switzerland following behind at $7,700, whereas the average of all other OECD country healthcare spending per person (excluding the U.S.) was around $5,500.

However, the idea that preventive care leads to less money being spent on healthcare is still a debatable one. Some studies have concluded that it does not actually lead to less healthcare spending per capita but may actually increase spending. The reason may be attributed to the fact that people live longer to spend more.

Amid COVID-19, observations have shown that smokers were either at a higher risk of serious complications from the virus, or suffered more in general, with higher counts of chest pain and greater risk of blood clotting. Providing support to smokers to reduce or eradicate risky smoking would be a way to prevent long-term health implications.

Despite people gaining a new-found sense of responsibility for their own health, it is not entirely up to us. Governments must step up efforts to change the food environment by regulating portion sizes of fast-food meals and sugar-sweetened beverages while promoting healthy eating. Preventive care does not save money, but it does save lives.