Health experts speak of the value of prevention

Jun 5, 2015

Health experts led a forum Friday morning on Buffalo's Darwin Martin campus, where they discussed the advantages of preventive health care, to both the individual and the community.

The breakfast forum, co-hosted by Independent Health and WNED-TV, featured comments by local health officials who say a large number of the chronic health cases in Erie County can be averted by more proactive, healthier lifestyles.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein speaks at a Friday morning forum on preventive health measures in Buffalo.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County's Health Commissioner, pointed out that the leading causes of death among adults in the county are cancer and heart disease. Cancer accounts for nearly 50 percent of those cases.

"That's all linked back to the choices we make about what we eat, and the type of physical activity that we engage in," she said.

"The total dollars spent on health care in the United States is over two and a half trillion dollars a year," said Dr. Thomas Foels, Chief Medical Officer at Independent Health. "If you consider that two thirds of that in some way could be affected by changes in lifestyle, or active participation in one's own health, that's a pretty significant savings."

But getting individuals to make more healthy choices is among the challenges, health officials admit. Some people simply don't take the initiative. Also posing a challenge is economic status. Lower-income families and neighborhoods do not necessarily have the same access to healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, while cheaper junk food is more affordable and readily available.

"The more efficient strategy is that we try to promote with public health is to reach a larger population," said Dr. Burstein. "Thinking about changing health care systems, trying to start new regulations or rules to really help make it easier for people to make healthier choices."

Businesses are also encouraged to do their part by taking steps including intiatives such as a gym within the workplace or exercise-related activities. Health insurance providers, meanwhile, offer preventive programs which come at no additional cost to the subscriber.