An Ounce of Prevention Is Still Worth a Pound of Cure, Especially in the Time of COVID-19

Karen A. Hacker, MD, MPH; Peter A. Briss, MD, MPH


Prev Chronic Dis. 2021;18(1):e03 

In This Article

Risk Factor Reduction is Still Important, and More Can be Done

Preventive care within the health care system is important, but risk reduction remains a mainstay for improving health and preventing disease. For example, tobacco use cessation is always important and perhaps even more so now given that tobacco product use is a risk factor for severe COVID-19 and that such use might plausibly increase risk of contracting COVID-19.[8] Resources for quitting can be accessed remotely and at no cost in many jurisdictions.

Regular physical activity can reduce risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Particularly important at this time is that physical activity can also improve mood. People of all ages need to stay active to stay healthy. Although physical activities have sometimes been implicated in COVID-19 transmission — particularly when done in public, indoor, crowded, and poorly ventilated places[9,10] — numerous available strategies can make staying active safe.[11]

Consuming healthy foods — including a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products — is another important component of health and wellness and can lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Unfortunately, access to healthy foods has been a major challenge during the pandemic, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.[12] Similarly, the availability of safe spaces for physical activity also varies by neighborhood. These conditions multiply the effect of other disparities and will require additional work to achieve short-term and long-term solutions.