We have become accustomed to turning to our very well-stocked medicine chests or if that fails us, to our friendly pharmacist for immediate relief to all our ailments. This tendency has led us to be symptomatic in our treatment of disease, rather than attempting to get to the root of the problem.
It is unfortunate that this attitude has crept into the manner in which health professionals approach most medical problems presented by patients. The quick fix consists of а prescription, or in the case of a pharmacist a recommendation for а particular drug or referral to a certain physician. This has led to an increase in the demand for medical services and pharmaceutical products, with a concomitant increase in the financial pressures on the payer, whether the cost is state-financed or paid out-of-pocket.
It is quite likely that a percentage of patients being treated with lipid-lowering pharmaceutical therapies and anti-hypertensive medication, would achieve the same or improved treatment outcomes, without treatment(or at least at a lower dose and variety), if induced to adopt lifestyle changes that are conducive to better health. In other words, if the patients on the above mentioned drugs are overweight, smoke and possibly consume amounts of alcohol that аре above the recommended limits, then there is room for improvement. Persuading these people, indeed the whole of the Maltese population that lifestyle and positive health outcomes are inexorably linked, would be beneficial to all of society as a whole.
In fact, not only would patients be better off if they required less or no medication, they would also reap the benefits of an improved well-being and healthy outlook. Society at large would gain, and the state would also see a reduction in the increase in pharmaceutical expenditure that is threatening to derail the whole public healthcare system.
The subject requires a much deeper and considered discussion, but one cannot discount and ignore the positive effects of combining health promotion and prevention together with treatment. It is unfortunate that, especially locally, we are dedicating most of our efforts and funding towards the latter, and ignoring the long-term benefits that the former could provide.