Is prevention medicine the future?
This program is an example of the booming interest in prevention-oriented medicine.
The current health care system in the U.S. is often more aptly described as a disease-care system. “It’s reactive,” says Mitesh Patel, a physician and assistant professor of health care management at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “We wait until people get sick and then spend lot of resources helping them get better.”
But Patel says there are signs this is beginning to change. “I think the paradigm shift has already begun,” he told us. Patel’s take on Geisinger’s new Fresh Food Pharmacy program: It includes the kind of financial and social incentives that can help motivate people to make changes.
For instance, the Fresh Food Pharmacy gives free, fresh food not just to the patients enrolled but to everyone in their household as well.
“The way we behave is really influenced by others around us,” says Patel. So promoting a group effort could “make the program a lot more sticky and more likely to succeed.”
It’s always a challenge to get people to maintain lifestyle changes over the long term. But, Patel says, “If you get the entire family to change the way they eat, you’re much more likely to improve health.”