Predicting health needs before disease

EMORY (US) — Delivering care in the future may focus on predicting health needs rather than waiting for disease to begin.

Assessing fundamental physiological and psychological processes to predict potential health risks—and providing a health partner to help people develop and implement their own health goals—could result in a greater chance of staying healthy throughout life, according to a new study.

Details appear online in the October issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Study researchers are also aiming to define health as effectively as modern science permits, and to learn what physical, psychological, and emotional factors describe and predict health.

With this knowledge, interventions could be designed that are affordable and effective instead of waiting for disease and illness to set in.

“One premise of predictive health is that it should be less expensive, more efficient, and thus yield a greater return on the investment of keeping people healthy as opposed to waiting for illness and disease,” says Kenneth Brigham, associate vice president and director of Emory University’s Predictive Health Initiative.

For just that reason, the term “predictive health,” has been chosen to emphasize prediction instead of diagnosis, and health instead of disease, says Brigham, author of the paper.

Thus, the aim of predictive health is to define, predict and maintain health—throughout the entire lifespan.

Researchers are finding one way to accomplish this goal is through health assessments and matching participants with health partners.

The current study collected detailed data from participants on their family situation, anxiety level, depression, diet and exercise habits, as well as physical measurements such as blood pressure, heart rate, body fat, bone density, and various biomarkers.

The data were then assembled into a health assessment report, a summary and interpretation of the information.

At this point, health partners provided more information and support for each participant to develop a health action plan aimed at meeting specific goals to help participants develop and maintain their optimum health.

Study results show statistically significant reductions in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood glucose, body fat, depression, anxiety, and stress.

“We have found that in just six months time, many of our participants have experienced significant improvements in metabolic, cardiovascular, immune, and emotional health,” says Brigham.

Longer-term follow-up studies are planned. Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) contributed to the study.

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