Prevention vs Treatment

What is more important in the fight against obesity – prevention or treatment?

Often times, I am invited to speak on panels as an advocate for treatment and am often pitted against a leading expert from the prevention world. Organizers, in my opinion, do this to create some fireworks, hoping for a lively debate, during the panels, but one thing I notice lately is that there aren’t any fireworks. Reality is both treatment and prevention experts acknowledge that both are equally important. Here’s my perspective on why both are equally important?

First, treatment is important because we can’t simply write off the 2/3 of American adults and 1/3 of children who are affected by overweight or obesity. They already have the condition, so it is simply too late to prevent it. This population in my opinion needs treatment. Denying them such would be like telling someone diagnosed with skin cancer just to keep applying more sunscreen and doing nothing else. Obviously, we don’t do that with skin cancer, so why do some people insist we keep applying the same prevention methods to obesity.

With that being said, prevention is important as well. Let’s say we start treating large portions of people successfully for obesity. Reality is if they don’t live in an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice, they are likely to face weight regain. This makes prevention very important as well. In addition, prevention in my opinion is also very important in children and expectant mothers. The reason in children is obvious, we want to encourage early healthy behaviors that hopefully make it so our children don’t face the issues so many of us face when it comes to weight. In expectant mothers, evidence is mounting that healthy behaviors by the mother while pregnant plus breastfeeding give some protection against obesity in the long-run. Encouraging such behaviors both at school and with expectant mothers is prevention in my mind and why it is very important.

I think they are equal and we should invest equally. What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts and challenge my views.

Making a Difference Together,


4 Comments for this Post
  • Janice Spiritas
    March 29, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Great article. Thanks Tammy Beaumont for sharing it. Cause, affect, solution-i am all over it!

  • Pam Davis
    March 31, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    There’s nothing to challenge because you are correct.

  • Rob Portinga
    April 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    You’re right Joe, they’re both important. As you said, prevention does nothing for the 2/3 of the population already dealing with obesity.

    As someone who has had treatment in the form of bariatric surgery… and gotten to a healthy place, a healthy in regard to not just my weight I could call it a day go in to “maintenance mode”.

    Instead, I now battle with prevention every day in the form of doing what I can to prevent myself from ending up at that unhealthy place I once was.

    It may seem like semantics, but for me it’s an important distinction and I think it does illustrate the importance of both treatment and prevention.

  • laura Boyer, RN
    April 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Great point, Rob, you hit it the nail on the head. It takes a multi-pronged approach. We need to educate at all levels ….We cannot teach children to adopt proper nutrtion and increased activity without including parents, teachers, and society. Much like the battle against smoking and drug use etc….
    Except with regards to nutrition we cant “just so NO” …..we all will need to take in food every day.
    For the treatment of existing disease, we must make a big noise to educate everyone that obesity is a disease and should be treated. Lifestyle changes alone will not be enough to alter real biologic and hormonal dysfunction.

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