Whatever Happened To Well-Adult Care?

If you’re a parent, then you’re probably familiar with Well-Child Care, a series of scheduled medical check-ups to support optimal health and development for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a comprehensive set of health guidelines to support Well-Child Care visits from age 0-21. At these visits, a physician reviews developmental milestones, nutritional needs, family dynamics and emotional well-being, among other things. It’s a fairly proactive and broad-based approach.

So, what happens when you turn 21? Do you turn into a pumpkin?

Why isn’t there a similar Well-Adult Care program? It certainly wouldn’t be created by the AAP, but it should exist nonetheless. Am I missing something? Why is it that we stop all monitoring, preventive maintenance and collaborative care once we enter adulthood?

I think this is part of the reason that we have seen such a sharp rise in chronic disease. As you’ve heard me say before, healthcare is in the details - the small decisions that we make everyday. And proactive medical care is part of that equation.

Peter Drucker, a great thinker on the topic of business management, has said "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." And this is absolutely true of our health.

This concept has two parts:

  1. You don’t know what needs to change unless you measure it (and thus identify an imbalance)

  2. You don’t know how to change something unless you measure progress against your efforts

Given this, I would encourage us all to reconsider what medical care should look like for adults. Instead of the “sick care” model where we only see our doctors when there’s a problem, how can we incorporate “wellness care” into our medical model? Annual check-ups are one piece of the puzzle but it’s much more than that. It’s about taking a more holistic and proactive view of healthcare.

Functional medicine has the potential to play a starring role in this new care model - a model where we proactively monitor developmental milestones, nutritional needs, family dynamics and emotional well-being, just as we do for children. A model where we correct imbalances before they become full-blown disease. A model where we take the whole person into account, rather than the sum of their parts. A model where lifestyle medicine is as important as clinical medicine. A model where the patient plays a leading role in their own recovery. This is the future of medicine.