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March 13, 2006

The Proof for Prevention: Beyond Observations

Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(5):486. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.5.486

A stitch in time saves nine. The proverb's meaning is obvious: catch something early and you save lots of trouble and expense down the road. This thinking has often been applied to various preventive measures, including screening programs that detect disease in a preclinical state. It seems obvious that such efforts would, indeed, save trouble and costly treatments down the road, but the evidence that preventive medicine is efficacious and cost-effective is not as strong as most people might think. Prevention has an intuitive appeal that seems self-evident, and thereby often escapes the scrutiny of evidence-based medicine.