June 16th was a day of celebration. My sorority sister and your U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, along with Human Health Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announced the National Health Prevention Strategy under the Affordable Care Act. We are now headed in the right direction. Although Preventive Medicine is a medical specialty, very few medical students were interested. There was no glamour. No excitement. And of course, an income that wasn’t worth writing home about. Prevention was a public health issue. Well, now the tide has changed.
In 2008, the U.S. spent 2.3 trillion dollars on healthcare and most of that money was not spent on direct patient care. I love the AFLCIO Corporate Watch link that lists all of the corporate CEO’s salaries and compensation packages. United Health is one of the largest healthcare companies in the U.S. and their CEO earned $103 million dollars last year to the outrage of an Attorney General. Amerigroup is a Medicaid HMO that insures our nation’s poor. Want to guess how much their CEO earned last year? $10,491,542. I think you’re beginning to get my point. But let me provide a more inspiring example of why preventive interventions work.
In the African American community, the nationally syndicated radio show, Tom Joyner Morning Show is iconic. Each morning, millions of urban listeners are entertained and informed by Joyner and company. His guests have been legendary and elite, and have included both candidate and President Obama.
Joyner hosts an annual event called Taking Our Family to the Doctor Day. The purpose of the event is to improve the health of the African American community. Three years ago, Kevin* (name has been changed) took advantage of that opportunity. A dentist by training, he never practiced dentistry, opting to work in another profession that involved long hours and concentration. Like most men in their late fifties, he somewhat neglected his health. However, on a Saturday morning, he took advantage of a screening program at a local hospital that provided a PSA test for Prostate cancer. To his surprise, his test was positive. After procrastinating, he went to an urologist that was associated with the screening program and had a prostate exam. Kevin was given options regarding obtaining a biopsy but again, procrastinated. The urologist asked him a very poignant question: “What are you going to do? Wait until your value hits 100?” That statement hit home. Kevin states he was “scared into action.”
Kevin’s complimentary biopsy documented cancer. Thank God the cancer had not metastasized nor was it aggressive. Kevin subsequently had treatment, a very stormy post-operative course with numerous complications but he has celebrated an anniversary of being, alive, well and cancer free. One in 6 U.S. men has prostate cancer and 1 in 34 die annually. African American men have the highest incidence of prostate cancer and the highest mortality rate. Thank you, Tom Joyner for your innovation, foresight and compassion.
Prevention works. Just asks my friend, Kevin.