Remember your preventive maintenance

  • Published
  • By Col. Daniel Shoor
  • 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander
In today's Air Force of limited resources, preventive maintenance strategies are critical in aircraft, communications, vehicles, and space systems to prevent unexpected or complete failure. Preventive maintenance also decreases the strain on wing resources because of replacement or near replacement of these systems.

In the medical field, the resources allocated for the maintenance of the Airmen in the 21st Space Wing are similarly limited. In the 21st Medical Group, we bring preventive maintenance strategies -- preventive medicine -- to try to ease the strain and promote readiness, and to keep you healthy.

Preventive medicine is the part of medicine which promotes health and prevents disease rather than waiting on curing it. It is made up of three points for intervention: primary prevention, secondary prevention and tertiary prevention.

Primary prevention is the cornerstone of preventive medicine. It involves preventing diseases and conditions before they take root in your body. There are many ways to promote health and prevent disease such as improving human resistance to disease, changing or eliminating the hazardous environmental exposures, and changing risky behaviors that increase the risk of disease.

Every year during one's preventive health assessment, Air Force medical doctors, nurses and technicians, directly or indirectly counsel patients on their risky activities. Diet, exercise, hearing protection, seatbelt usage and drinking habits are a few of the many issues that a person has control of that can significantly impact their health both physical and mental.

For deployments, where the risks can be significantly different, our deployment medicine personnel add other primary preventive medicine strategies. Giving immunizations, teaching about sanitation and clean water, or even teaching about what types of food to avoid are additional strategies to keep you healthy and medically ready to do the mission.

Primary prevention is the least expensive intervention, but it can be difficult to convince people to make permanent lifestyle changes or ask communities to change cultural activities that can be hazardous to their health. Please keep this in mind the next time we see you for your PHA.

Secondary prevention includes identifying diseases that are in someone's body but have not progressed to the point of causing symptoms or organ dysfunction. These conditions are detected by conducting screening exams or tests and then following up on the findings.

This level of prevention can also be detected and targeted during your PHA.

Depending on the risk for each patient and the last time examined, we routinely screen for high blood pressure. Those who have a high reading are then referred to their primary care manager for continued testing and possible disease management. While easily controllable in its early stages, high blood pressure can go on to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other dangerous diseases.

Other screenings that could be part of a secondary prevention program include obesity and cholesterol checks to monitor cardiac disease risks, Pap smears to detect cervical cancer or infectious disease, and pregnancy screening tests to prevent disease transmission to the child.

The final intervention point is called tertiary prevention. This intervention is the most expensive and uses many resources. This point of intervention is also known as disease management. It tries to manage obvious chronic disease and prevent it from causing further organ damage. This might include using steroids or avoiding allergens for people suffering from asthma; screening foot care, eye care and kidney status of diabetics; or anti-clotting medications and physical therapy for stoke patients to regain use of affected body parts.

For preventable diseases, waiting until tertiary prevention is unnecessary, stresses the health care system, and hurts your readiness to complete the mission. You'd never consider running your car until the engine seized -- a little check during an oil change can detect failing parts before that.

So, remember to complete your personal preventive maintenance, your PHA, and work with the medical group personnel to learn about what you can do to prevent disease.