The Evolution of Preventive Health Care

In 1854, Dr. John Snow conducted a study in London around cholera, a severe gastrointestinal disorder. The reason for the inquiry was due to the deaths of 500 people over a short span of 10 days in a small area of London. Snow began to plot where these individuals lived in an attempt to find a pattern.

While the cure for cholera was not discovered, the pathway to exposure was. He was able to trace the exposure to cholera to a specific water pump in the city. People stopped using the water pump and cholera was nearly eliminated in the town.

This simple discovery forever changed how we viewed diseases and human health. If we are able to find causes and sources of disease, we could be proactive and eliminate illness and people would live long, healthy lives, right?

Well it is not that easy. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of death in 2010 in comparison to the causes in 1900:

1900: diptheria, senility, cancer, accidents, nephropathies, heart disease, infections, tuberculosis, and pneumonia

2010: heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, accidents, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes

At a quick glance we can see that some of the most common causes of death are quite different. Why? With advances in medicines, we are able to prevent disease and infection through vaccinations and sanitary environments. This is why some diseases that we do not currently suffer from in America may be common in other areas of the world.

However, we do have very serious health concerns in America like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Why do these health issues still exist with all of the advancements we have made? While some things are unpreventable and can be passed from person to person, the most common causes of death are created by lifestyle behaviors. In America we have gone from unpredictable, chance instances of spreading diseases to creating illness with how we choose to live our lives.

While that sounds bad, we can look at it as good news. It actually means we can control much of our health through the decisions we make. By taking care of our bodies through proper nutrition, exercise, healthy relationships, and low stress, we significantly decrease our chances dying from the above causes. There will always be medicine, but health starts with our daily choices.

What will you choose?