President Obama and the National Institutes of Health have announced a Precision Medicine Initiative that complements other programs for Prevention and Wellness. That’s important because too many diseases don’t have a proven means of prevention or effective treatments.
Launched with a $215 million investment in the President’s 2016 Budget to accelerate the pace of innovation, the Precision Medicine Initiative hopes to gain better insights into the biology of these diseases to make a difference for the millions of Americans who suffer from them.
The program takes into account an individual’s genes, environment, and lifestyle to personalize drug treatment, and this might seem like a gift to the pharmaceutical industry. In some ways it is, but it will probably have the desired effect of speeding innovation in important areas. If the resulting research is shared equally among all drug companies, the program may actually help reduce, or at least contain, drug prices by encouraging competition.
An Ounce of Prevention
Modern Health Talk applauds the government funding of Precision Medicine and sees it as complementing other public health initiatives, because public health officials have known for decades that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Policies that prioritize prevention, health & wellness are important too, and more so. Besides saving on the need for expensive medicine and medical care in the first place, they can also lead to much greater workforce productivity, lifetime earning potential, global competitiveness, and GDP.
Those benefits, in the view of Modern Health Talk, should be large enough to get the attention of politicians and encourage them to focus on the three pillars of Health: nutrition, exercise & sleep. The challenge is to encourage healthy behavior among a population distracted by other priorities. Take Sleep, for example. The amount and quality of sleep that people get directly affects their health, and insufficient sleep is tied to dramatically higher risks of obesity, diabetes, heart & kidney disease, cancer, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s. That’s why the CDC has labeled sleep deficiency “a public health epidemic.”
But sleep also impacts safety (e.g. automotive & industrial accidents) and performance in school, work and sports. That’s because it’s tied to improved alertness, attention, creativity, decision-making, focus, judgement, learning ability, mood, reaction & recovery times, working memory, and more. To encourage better sleep habits and other healthy behaviors, we need policies for teaching people of all ages about the short- and long-term effects of their lifestyle decisions and put it in terms they can relate to.