In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explored why preventive measures are underutilized in the U.S. Their takeaway, while not surprising, is still incredibly disturbing. Simply put, the health care system puts their bottom line above a patient’s best interests. According to their summary, “providers do not prioritize preventive care services although they know that preventive services can reduce the incidence and burden of chronic diseases… financial incentives do not align with a focus on preventing chronic diseases.”
For women, this is particularly dangerous when paired with the gender bias women face when seeking help. To understand how we got here and how women can advocate for themselves, we spoke with Wellcore advisor M. Roxana Cocos, APRN, MSN, FNP-C. Cocos is passionate about Integrative Health and Medicine and empowering patients to take control of their own health. She sees the “pill for every ill” model dysfunctional and misleading, as, simply treating the symptoms rather than the causes, not only failed to resolve the patients’ conditions but often caused even more side effects.
Why do you think the healthcare industry prefers to treat rather than prevent?
It hit me really hard when early in my nursing career as an ICU nurse I realized the dollar signs associated with every sick patient and every filled hospital bed. I have seen women and men dying miserable deaths, tortured by the most modern devices we have to help them take an extra breath, although death was imminent. Unfortunately, there is no money in healthcare but top dollars in sick care. The sicker people get, the more drugs, testing, and procedures are recommended to them to none or very little benefit if any.
Why is preventive healthcare so important for women in particular?
Women are faced with chronic comorbidities, higher risk of cancers, chronic stress and poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, lack of access to adequate healthcare, and they are being victimized and falling through the cracks of a bankrupt and failing so-called healthcare model. We are being told it's all in our heads and we should eat better and exercise more but no one seems to understand that imbalance in our hormones has a lot to do with what the brain craves and what our body is able to do, with motivation, energy, metabolism, and ultimately, zest for life.
What can be done to encourage change?
I follow Dr. Mark Hyman who is one of the greatest minds in Functional Medicine. He advocated to our politicians, medical societies and insurance companies to shift our paradigm of healthcare to “preventive medicine” and to paraphrase him “he was told “we - the powers that be - are not interested.” So, the only way to provoke change is to turn one rock at the time, to educate women, our friends, families, people we love and care about and to spread the truth to the world.
Women need to educate themselves and claim their power back, no longer be victims of poor health, nutritional deficiencies, and terminal cancers which could have been prevented. Social media has so much power nowadays - however we can connect and help each other is the way to go.
Do you have any suggestions for how women can be better advocates for themselves when navigating healthcare?
Find a clinician who gets to the root cause of your symptoms, who truthfully listens to you. Lean on word of mouth, referrals from people you know and trust, social media to a certain extent, although sometimes it can be misleading. Above all, educate yourself and ask them as many questions as you can think of. An educated patient will have better motivation and outcomes in reclaiming their health.
Questions to ask include:
What are some of the most important preventive healthcare measures women can take?
Know your body, your anatomy, and your hormones, Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Think of food as either the best medicine or the worst poison you can put in your body – keep the poison away. Avoid non-bio-identical hormones, keep up with your yearly ob/gyn exam, mammogram and transvaginal ultrasound if indicated, a Dexa scan if postmenopausal, and a colonoscopy after the age of 50 or earlier if you have significant family history of colon cancer.
Why are you so passionate about preventive healthcare?
To paraphrase the Mandalorian, “This is the way.” This is the only way to achieve graceful aging, improved quality of life, and a healthy and happy life. No one wants to be sick and miserable… People naturally want to be happy and live up to their full potential.
Nutritional education should start in kindergarten. The Big Food industry needs to be held responsible for the poison that is promoted as food to us and our children. We need law makers to promote rules and regulations who protect us, our children, and our families, not their pockets.
The emphasis should be on prevention and education and that is where the money should go, not to procedures and drugs.
About M. Roxana Cocos, APRN, MSN, FNP-C
Roxana graduated with honors (cum laude) from the University of Texas in Dallas with a Bachelors in Neuroscience as well as from the Texas Woman’s University with a Bachelors in Nursing. In 2011, she completed her education with a Master of Science in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University. She is board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, a proud alumni of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, and member of the Academy of Preventive and Innovative Medicine.
As a Family Nurse Practitioner, she has worked in Family Practice, in Primary Care, Urgent Care, Endocrinology, and Functional Medicine giving her a well-rounded foundation of experience in treating patients. She has completed with honors the two-year postgraduate fellowship in Integrative Health and Medicine.
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