The Wisdom of Prevention

Prevention is always superior to fixing but is not easy to do. Many people mistakenly think that prevention requires specialized knowledge. As a matter of fact, prevention only requires some common sense and the right attitude. We have all kinds of experts dedicated to fixing problems. However, we only need generalists who know how to advise prevention. Let me illustrate with some prevention methods in health care.

As in many ancient cultures, the Chinese emphasize prevention as much as cure, if not more. The concept of prevention was first introduced in the “Book of Interior”, or “Nei Jing 內經” circa 300 B.C. It says, “The superior healer is one who can successfully check diseases before they develop.”「上工治未病」

Everybody talks about cutting costs in health care nowadays. How many are really serious about prevention? There is a direct link between prevention and health care costs. We’ll be surprised how much savings prevention can achieve and how easy it can be done, if we put our mind to it.

What do we mean by prevention?
• Prevention does not mean free from illness, or no death due to illness. It means minimizing the occurrence and intensity of illness.
• Prevention should be pursued out of a desire to stay healthy, rather than out of fear of a particular disease or death.
• Prevention should be your own responsibility, for it’s your self-interest.
• It means cultivating a healthy habit, lifestyle, and state of mind.
• It should give us a sense of purpose like a long-term investment.
• Preventive methods promote good health, peace of mind, and fulfillment.
• Prevention should not be expensive, but it requires a sustaining effort.
• Prevention involves basically strengthening body and soul.

Some simple rules to remember:
• Practice moderation in whatever you do.
• Preserve some regularity in your life regarding eat, work, play and sleep.
• Exercise daily. The simplest method is walking or jogging.
• Remain active. Don’t be a couch potato or TV bum!
• Throw your bad habits out the window. This one is never easy!
• Maintain a healthy diet. Don’t burden your mind with what to eat and what not to eat. If you eat a reasonable diversity of food every week, you’ll have gotten all the nutrition your body needs. The keyword is diversity. Vegetarians can also find a diversity of non-meat products.
• Don’t follow strange and complicated rules that don’t make sense. They are merely commercialized or idiosyncratic methods of prevention.
• Don’t over-emphasize preventing a dreadful disease (cancer for instance) at the expense of marginalizing many others that may hit you.

Prevention should be practiced as a lifestyle, and so must be made enjoyable. It should be made easy and simple and fulfilling. Prevention does not need to have a lofty goal, but a consistent one to make your body more robust so that it does not succumb easily to stress or disease.

(February 2012)

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