By Janice Bohan
In a surprising move by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), supervised exercised programs will now be covered by CMS for patients with previously diagnosed heart disease. This decision has been made in an effort to prevent worsening peripheral artery disease (PAD), a serious medical condition that could lead to increased lower extremity pain, decreased mobility, and ultimately the loss of functional independence.
While the health benefits of exercise have been known for decades, this acknowledgement by CMS is a monumental forward leap in revolutionizing the way medicine has been practiced in the U.S. Historically, we have invested more funding into technological advances in the treatment of medical conditions and diseases rather than into prevention. While CMS’ decision to extend exercise benefits to patients suffering with pre-existing PAD may still be considered treatment, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. This CMS initiative may be just the catalyst needed to spark a paradigm shift in the way medicine is approached.
So, why has prevention been neglected for so long? Globally, it hasn’t. The U.S. is one of the only first-world countries to focus on the treatment of medical conditions rather than prevention. Case in point: a 1999 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that less than one-half of obese adults were counseled by their primary care physicians (PCPs) to lose weight. The reason? Research has shown that inadequate training in medical school on how to properly counsel patients with sound medical advice on diet and exercise may be partially to blame. Where does this leave the patient?
As with any new healthcare initiative, its foundation is always built on the hope of improving the quality of life of the patient. Maybe one day we’ll realize that people will lead longer, healthier lives if we prevented diseases from developing in the first place.