Preventive Health

Overview of Preventive Health

Consistent with the World Health Organization’s definition, the AAFP believes that health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." As the largest society of primary care physicians, the AAFP is committed to building healthy communities, lowering health care costs, and improving patient health and well-being, through the provision of high-quality health care delivery and access.

The AAFP acknowledges that physicians play an important role in community health, both as clinicians and leaders who understand that what takes place outside of the doctor’s office (the social determinants) impacts health outcomes. Family physicians also understand that primary care (comprehensive, first contact, whole person, continuing care) is the foundation of an efficient health system.

For instance, U.S. states with higher ratios of primary care physician-to-population ratios have better health outcomes, including lower rates of all causes of mortality: mortality from heart disease, cancer, or stroke; infant mortality; low birth weight; and poor self-reported health. This is true even after controlling for socio-demographic measures (percentages of elderly, urban, and minority; education; income; unemployment; pollution) and lifestyle factors (seatbelt use, obesity, and smoking).

The dose of primary care can even be measured – an increase of one primary care physician per 10,000 people is associated with an average mortality reduction of 5.3%, or 49 fewer deaths per 100,000 per year. High quality primary care is necessary to achieve the triple aim of improving population health, enhancing the patient experience and lowering per capita costs due to their ability to encourage prevention, treat acute health issues, identify adverse health conditions, and manage chronic diseases.

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