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Changing Behaviors: Improving Health Outcomes Through Patient Activation

Ask almost any healthcare professional, and they’ll tell you that it’s sometimes tempting to blame the patient for what ails them. If only Mr. Smith would exercise more and cut down on those burgers. How many times have I told Mrs. Jones to quit smoking?


It’s easy to understand the frustration. Our unique genetic makeup predisposes us towards certain health conditions. But behaviors like tobacco and alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle play a very important role in our epigenetics, or how our genome functions and expresses itself. The effects can be highly detrimental to our health. In fact, lifestyle factors are the leading cause of chronic disease.


Chronic conditions are on the rise around the world. The reasons for this rise are systemic. The ageing global population is one prominent example. But the habits and behavior of individuals, when viewed at scale, are systemic as well. When one person at risk for chronic kidney disease skips his annual urine test, he may have missed an opportunity to detect the potentially fatal disease in its early stages. But when 80% of the Americans at risk for the disease don’t do their annual test, the consequences for society are enormous.


Tempting as it may be to blame a patient who didn’t adhere to a test or treatment plan, that clearly isn’t the right approach. As the World Health Organization stated in its seminal report on the prevention of chronic diseases: Read More

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