Putting Your Health First - For the Greater Good

Putting Your Health First - For the Greater Good

02.23.11 | By Kate Connors

With so much to write about last week, I managed to miss a particularly interesting article on The New York Times Prescriptions blog about a survey regarding how patients kept up with their wellness during the recession.

The survey of 3,000 people, conducted by Towers Watson, found that only 59 percent of respondents called managing their health a top priority, compared with 69 percent in 2008.

"Fewer employees - one in five - said they were using wellness programs designed to help them lose weight or stop smoking, for example, compared with one in four in 2008," according to Prescriptions.

This is understandable, but it's also unfortunate.

We believe that right now, when so much emphasis is being placed on deficit reduction, policymakers and other stakeholders see medical advances as a cost driver or a luxury that we can afford to do without, rather than a route to improved patient health and achieving long-term fiscal stability.

For example, controlling chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease now through relatively non-invasive medicines can avoid costly (and painful) treatments later in life - treatments that drive up healthcare costs throughout the system and across the country.

The Towers Watson survey boils that lesson down to the individual. In a stressful, complicated time, it may be hard to drag yourself out of bed in the morning to hit the gym before work, or perhaps that cigarette break is one of the calmest parts of your day. But the long-term costs - and even short-term costs - just don't make it worth it.

For example, a few years ago, the Yale School of Medicine found that cold and flu symptoms that are often mild and transient in non-smokers can seriously sicken smokers. We're all worried about our country's fiscal health. But one way to keep it strong is to stay on top of our own well-being.

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