Scientific Council considers new approaches to prevention

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Written By Kampretz Bianca

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Berlin Health prevention is a topic of the future and a challenge to which more attention will need to be paid across all disciplines in the coming years. This is the conclusion reached by the experts who met yesterday at the invitation of Scientific Council met in Berlin for the Rethinking Prevention symposium. Wolfgang Wick, President of the Scientific Council, analyzed the current situation in the field of prevention. This is not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of implementation.

To progress, new thinking, especially interdisciplinary thinking, network action and good communication are essential. Wick also sees challenges for the future in better use of existing financing instruments, promoting research, more training on the topic of prevention and earlier approaches.

Large deficits in prevention

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also emphasized that Germany is clearly lagging behind other countries when it comes to preventive medicine. There has been no success in preventive measures for 40 years. This is unacceptable, he said at the symposium. Lauterbach highlighted the great potential for health: 80 to 90 percent of ischemic heart diseases can be prevented through preventive measures; for cancer, the rate is between 40 and 60 percent; in dementia by 20 percent. We have big deficits in prevention, says Lauterbach.

It is certainly necessary to use the possibilities of early detection, but the minister is convinced that primary prevention will bring more. This potential must be increased, otherwise within a few years the population’s health problems will only increase due to demographic change. We have many tasks and we will approach them systematically, he promised. The real discipline is the laws.

In this context, Lauterbach referred to legislative proposals that are already being planned, such as digital laws, the Healthy Heart Law, which will be implemented soon, and the heat protection plan. Furthermore, the Federal Institute for Prevention and Education in Medicine (BIPAM) should, in the future, strengthen the prevention of cancer and dementia, as well as cardiovascular diseases. It is great that the Scientific Council has now addressed the topic of prevention, emphasized Lauterbach. He expects suggestions and ideas.

Necessary strategies and networking

Michael Baumann, CEO of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), I would like to give more emphasis to the topic of prevention. This could make a contribution in this regard National Cancer Prevention Center achieve, he said. The building’s inauguration ceremony will take place next month. Baumann is convinced that a strategic partnership is needed to strengthen prevention research and prevention implementation. Frustration cannot be the right response, he said. We need strategies, interdisciplinary networks and new ideas.

In particular, behavioral and cultural outcomes should also be included and used to understand and then influence behavior, said Cornelia Betsch, Professor of Health Communication at the University of Erfurt. It is necessary to ask ourselves what influence psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors have on an individual’s decision-making and behavior in everyday life.

What is needed is not necessarily a radical renewal of health-related measures, but rather a strengthening of approaches. You have to plan with people in mind, Betsch said. But this requires structures. According to the psychologist, the data obtained would then have to be translated into group-specific formats. It is also necessary to evaluate the effects and, if necessary, adapt the strategy.

Jochen O. Mierau, Professor of Public Health Economics at the University of Groningen, is also convinced that prevention is an effective method for improving health. Not only do external influences threaten people’s health, but above all the consequences of economic conditions, he said. The dark sides of economic development and growing industrialization currently threaten the protection of people and nature. Public health suffers from the business models of some companies. Measures such as a sugar tax or a ban on alcohol or cigarette advertising would pose a challenge.

From the perspective of the Helmholtz Centers, prevention is also a topic for the future, emphasized Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Centers Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. We are trying to create structures that address this issue, she emphasized. He is convinced that success can only be achieved in an interdisciplinary way. The time has come for a national initiative. If this is successful, you too could be one of the international pioneers who actually implement prevention effectively.

Prevention is always better than therapy

Alena Buyx, former president of German Ethics Council, pointed out ethical problems. In principle, there is no ethical disagreement. Prevention is always better than therapy. However, implementation often doesn’t work, she said. This can also be attributed to three ethical conflicts. Firstly, it is important to consider between avoiding current damage and avoiding future damage. This is not trivial in times of tight budgets. This distribution conflict should not be underestimated, she said. Secondly, prevention is often seen as an individual’s responsibility and, thirdly, it is necessary to assess how much society can expect from an individual without interfering too much in their private life.

During the symposium it became clear that the need for exchange is great. The prevention symposium was intended to be the start of a comprehensive discussion, Wick emphasized. Technical discussions should follow with other stakeholders from other specialized areas. Michael Hallek, member of the Scientific Council, also stated that the topic of prevention should be considered more comprehensively in the future. We have to think about prevention in a centralized way, but implement it in a decentralized way, he said. The topic of prevention was initiated in medicine, but it is not just located there, Wick emphasized. The Scientific Council intends to network with other stakeholders and possibly organize another symposium within a year, before presenting its first recommendations. © ER/

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