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Avoiding Chronic Illnesses Through Preventative Care

Photo: Avoiding Chronic Illnesses Through Preventative Care
They say prevention is the best cure, and now it seems that the national healthcare system is catching on with the implementation of health care reforms targeted at preventative care.

Preventative care is the term used to describe the range of strategies and methods taken to educate the wider public on how to avoid chronic illnesses. It is an excellent way to prevent illnesses that can severely affect the quality of life of many individuals. These chronic illnesses include heart disease, diabetes, and stroke — amongst the biggest killers worldwide.

The role of nurses in preventative health care

Nurses play a pivotal role in preventative care, hence the increasing demand, and career opportunities, for new nurses. They are assigned the crucial task of implementing evidence-based recommendations whilst also providing support, motivation, and encouragement to those receiving preventative care services. With the aid of public health education, nurses can successfully improve the lives of thousands of patients. These patients can implement evidence-based recommendations in their daily lives and ultimately live healthier and for longer.
Through their influence, nurses can inspire:
  • Daily physical activity: National guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of regular exercise every day. This recommendation is backed by numerous powerful studies that include epidemiological investigations showing the benefits of exercise to human health. By promoting regular physical activity, nurses can prevent many from being diagnosed with chronic heart conditions, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Maintenance of a healthy weight: Through promoting regular exercise and healthy eating, nurses can encourage weight management. Along with the rise in general obesity comes a rise in chronic diseases. Through preventative measures and evidence-based recommendations nurses can reduce the burden of obesity on the economy and health care system.
  • Individuals to stop smoking and using drugs: Smoking and drug usage are two critical factors that cause a severe decline in the health of many. They increase the risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and multiple respiratory conditions.
  • Reduce alcohol usage: Many people exceed the daily recommended servings of alcohol. Long-term consumption of excessive alcohol has been linked to cancer, cognitive decline, liver disease, and high blood pressure. Nurses can fully educate people with regards to these dangerous side effects and help prevent the onset of such chronic illnesses.

Nurses may take part in three types of preventative care: primary, secondary, and tertiary. This depends upon their position in health care facilities and organisations.

Primary Prevention

Primary preventative care is where nurses have the role of educating individuals with tailored recommendations and counselling in order to encourage them to take positive steps in improving their health.

These recommendations may include:

  • Ensuring that individuals use seat belts and appropriate safety car seats for their children
  • Immunising infants to prevent future diseases that may endanger their lives
  • Dealing with patients with existing risk factors such as high blood pressure or excess weight to discuss preventative measures such as the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise
  • Teaching patients about the dangers of tobacco use

Secondary Prevention

The aim of secondary prevention initiatives is to identify disease at its earliest stage to prevent symptoms worsening and to make it more likely for the patient to achieve complete recovery. Examples of secondary prevention include:

  • Recommending routine mammograms for early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
  • Encouraging patients to get vaccinated.
  • Recommending colonoscopies for the detection of abnormalities in the colon. Colon cancer is one of the biggest killers and routine colonoscopies allow early detection.
  • Instructing patients to wash their hands routinely.
  • Recommending diet/exercise plans to patients already suffering from heart disease.
  • Implementing falls prevention programmes in nursing homes to prevent injuries/fractures in the elderly.

Tertiary Prevention

Tertiary prevention aims to actually treat the disease using the best possible modalities. Prevention programmes in this category aim to restore the patient’s self-sufficiency and allow them to carry on with their lives normally. If such measures are not taken then the patient’s condition may worsen, resulting in disability or further deterioration of their disease. Tertiary prevention programmes may involve:

  • Enrolling patients in comprehensive rehabilitation programmes following injuries or even in circumstances of drug/alcohol abuse.
  • Creating support groups with patients that support and encourage each other with the aid of a facilitator.

Tertiary prevention is the costliest of the three preventative measures as it involves the need for substantial financial input to fund rehabilitation programmes, surgical interventions, and lifelong management of chronic disease.

Clearly the role of nurses in preventative care is one that can transform the lives of many, as they act as educators and supporters in a patient’s journey to total health and well-being.



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