Have a Story to Tell? Had a medical error?

This blog is about patient safety, medical malpractice, staying healthy, and preventing future errors. Help & empower someone else, Teach a lesson, Bear witness, Build our community - Email us or call 781-444-5525.

Frustrated with a health problem?

Need an ally in your health crisis? Call 781-444-5525, or learn more.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The war on cancer: A public health triumph

In the war on cancer, the American Cancer Society announced in a yearly report by Stacy Simon that over the last 20 years, 22% fewer people have died from cancer, representing 1.5 million avoided deaths.  The biggest single reduction occurred in lung cancer, according to the Society’s Vice President for Surveillance and Health Services Research, Ahmedin Jemal.  There are fewer smokers, as millions quit, and millions of others never started smoking.

This was not primarily the result of medical care, though doctors certainly advised many of their patients to quit.  Rather, quitters used a variety of methods over multiple attempts to quit, including advice from doctors and others, smoking cessation products like patches, gums, etc., reading generic or individualized materials, quitting cold turkey, etc.  So this wasn’t “patient engagement” by the medical system per se, as quitters were not primarily benefiting from their doctors’ active medical management of their smoking.  They weren’t patients; for most quitters, cancer had not developed to the point where they required treatment for cancer.  Rather, in most cases the successful quits came from multiple self-initiated efforts by the “worried well,” often with nudging by family members.

There is much credit to share for all the lives saved, e.g., for doctors who advised patients to quit.  Yet this victory seems due more to public health efforts than to the medical system. 

Efforts to meliorate the toxic effects of other lifestyle choices about alcohol, drugs, overeating, inactivity, etc., might also benefit from focusing on public health efforts addressed to the worried well, in similar ways. 

Advice:  Have a happy New Year!   Give a hug to your public health friends, and let’s celebrate!   

No comments: