International Conference on Prevention in Palma de Mallorca

"Is an ounce of prevention still worth a pound of cure?

Prevention is the action of stopping something from happening or arising. In the health system, to prevent it is not only about avoiding or delaying illnesses, but to improve the social welfare of the society. Therefore, prevention encompasses economic and social added values.

Currently, 63% of the deaths worldwide are due to illnesses that could be prevented. For instance, 75% of diseases associated to cardiovascular complications, diabetes, etc. and 40% of cancer cases could be avoided or postponed with preventive measures and a healthy lifestyle.

The economic crisis has hit the field of prevention severely. In fact, since 2009 prevention has been the area where budgetary cuts have been more significant in the health sector. Currently, it is crucial to raise awareness, evidence-based and effectiveness approaches to demonstrate policy-makers the benefits of investing in prevention. It is not only about investing in prevention, but to invest in effective interventions. In a nutshell, it is a moment to push for improving the intervention´s quality.

When it comes to unhealthy habits and practices related to the consumption of drugs, states could implement a series of measures that range between providing information to prohibiting the consumption – even though these threats to health involve behavioural change, which is the thing most difficult to achieve.

In addition, the economic interests of alcohol and tobacco industries at the global level do not converge with the prevention aims. Indeed, present economic structures are not health-friendly.

In order to increase the debate around these issues and to stress the key importance of conducting research in the field of prevention, the European Society for Prevention Research organized a conference in Palma de Mallorca from October 16-18th, 2014. The conference was entitled ¨Is an ounce of prevention still worth a pound of cure?¨, and it presented the latest findings, methodologies and controversies in the prevention field.  The encounter counted with around 200 representatives in the research field and was attended by a representative of Dianova International. The event was co-organized by IREFREA, the European Institute of Studies On Prevention and counted among others with the collaboration of the Spanish National Plan Against Drugs.

One of the main topics discussed was the cost-benefit analysis of the prevention interventions. Policy-makers should understand the relevance of prevention and be able to quantify it in monetary and social terms. To this point, it is important to point out the wide variety of impacts that certain policies can lead to. For example, prevention programs for illicit drugs have positive impacts on people who refrain consumption and thus affects positively the public health system in general, but at the same time they may also have repercussions in the judicial system, as these persons are generally less likely to engage in criminal activities.

While many researchers in this field complained about the lack of evidence-based cost-benefit analysis of prevention interventions, a good practice of the Washington State Institute for Public Policydemonstrated it is possible to advance in this field. The institute, which works for the policy-makers, is able to incorporate cost-benefit, effectiveness and risk analysis of concrete measures.

An ounce of prevention, particularly in these moments of economic crisis when there are fewer resources to invest and the interventions have to be more effective, is definitely worth a pound of cure.