Doctor Article: Fostering Long-term Patient Health

Doctor Article: Fostering Long-term Patient Health

By Dr. Timothy Wong, Family Practice

What does getting a child to eat broccoli have to do with health quality? The answer is based on human nature and something we do every day. When parents ask their child to eat broccoli, they are trying to teach their child. This can be a struggle as the child mostly understands that broccoli is not as tasty as French fries. The child minimally considers that broccoli offers more future benefits. The child is unwilling to give up instant joy (eating French fries) for a future reward (establishing healthy habits, being stronger and healthier).

The same dilemma exists daily in healthcare when we try to convince patients to give up present benefit for greater future benefit. When we ask patients to quit smoking, we are asking them to forgo the present benefit from a cigarette, for future benefit of much improved health. When asking a patient to get a colonoscopy, we face the same dilemma. In this case, we ask the patient to forgo short term benefit (being inconvenienced by a colonoscopy) for future reward (possibly finding colorectal cancer early).

This dilemma is one that society faces every day in various aspects. Planning for retirement, changing to winter tires, staying in school are similar challenges. What is the solution, then?

There most likely is not just one solution as this dilemma is one that we each face. A part of the solution is education and that is why educating our patients is so important and something we must strive towards.

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