Prevention is one of the most important pillars of public health, with missed prevention opportunities costing the United States $55 billion every year.(1) Preventive care and regular health screenings allow for early detection of diseases, often before symptoms appear, increasing the chances of successful treatment and improved outcomes. By identifying conditions in their early stages, healthcare providers can intervene promptly, potentially preventing disease progression and reducing risks and complications. Additionally, preventive care focuses on disease prevention and risk factor management, helping individuals adopt healthy behaviors, receive necessary vaccinations, and undergo screenings for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. By addressing risk factors and taking preventive measures, individuals can significantly reduce their chances of developing certain diseases, leading to better long-term health outcomes and potential cost savings for themselves and the healthcare system by avoiding more extensive treatments in the future.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the prevalence of chronic diseases and behavioral risk factors in adults is highest among those with Medicaid. 30% of non-elderly adult Medicaid members report that they are in only fair or poor health, 10% of adult enrollees have a diagnosed mental illness, 70% are overweight or obese, 31% smoke tobacco.(2) Despite an increased risk for chronic conditions and other health concerns, many see preventive care as something they simply can’t afford or access. Immediate health concerns often take precedence over preventive measures.
When you’re struggling to meet basic needs like food and housing, preventive care may not seem like a top priority compared to dealing with acute illnesses or managing ongoing health conditions. There’s also a real sense of fear and mistrust of the healthcare system in many historically marginalized communities, due to past experiences of mistreatment, discrimination, or inadequate healthcare. This can lead people to avoid seeking preventive care.
To encourage preventive care and regular health screenings in low-income neighborhoods, Medicaid plans can leverage strategic partnerships with organizations, like Ounce, that provide on-site care navigation and health screenings to residents of affordable housing communities. By meeting members where they live, our Community Health Leads are able to work closely with residents to address unmet health and health-related social needs, effectively closing care gaps and improving engagement with preventive care services.