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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Beware the "pre" factor

Oct 01, 2023 04:20PM ● By Arthur Vidro

When I was growing up, plenty of folks had diabetes or hypertension, but nobody was diagnosed with pre-diabetes or pre-hypertension. Nowadays, those terms are common. Probably some medical facility or drug manufacturer figured they could draw in more customers by expanding the definitions to encompass more people.

So folks who in my day would have graded out as having normal health, are nowadays told they suffer from pre-hypertension or pre-diabetes. It doesn’t mean they’re going to develop hypertension or diabetes; it just means they’re somewhat closer to the unhealthy range.

But even with a “pre” diagnosis, you get offered immediate treatment. Some pre-screenings for medical conditions are free. But folks who go often find themselves receiving potentially alarming results, with the suggestion to get full testing, which of course costs money.

When I was 12, everyone in school was pre-screened for scoliosis, which involved us removing our shirts and bending over while a gym teacher looked for a few seconds for possible spine curvature. Some, including me, were told we had potential trouble and should go see a doctor.

Mom took me to a doctor. He studied my bare spine for less than 30 seconds, said I didn’t have scoliosis and we could leave. Hooray! Then came the bill in the mail for $120 (around $350 in today’s money)—for a 30-second look-see.

We couldn’t afford to pay so we didn’t. The doctor’s office sent statements for five years, then stopped. The bill and statements were addressed to me, not my parents. Perhaps because I was a minor, they let me off the hook.

But I learned my lesson. No more pre-screenings for me. I’ll wait until symptoms develop before seeking care.

An adult pre-screening often involves a test that gets sent to a lab. If your result lands on the wrong side of the ever-shifting parameters, then you’re told to go for more extensive, more invasive and more expensive testing.

Who sponsors free pre-screenings? Often it’s parties that benefit from having more medical treatments occurring. (A manufacturer of adult diapers has sponsored free pre-screenings for prostate cancer, knowing the common side effects to men who let doctors treat them for the condition.)

This also applies to the world of sports. They used to have exhibition games—meaningless games where neither team cared about winning but whose purpose was to gauge the talent of those trying out for the team. Anyone was allowed into the stadium to watch. The teams were happy to have some fans in the stands, and if they bought food and drink, so much the better.

Over the years, exhibition games morphed into “pre-season” games, which means you have to pay to get in. Yet the games are still meaningless. I can’t speak for the entire National Football League, but the Jets and Giants (the local markets where I grew up) charge the same money for admission to a pre-season game as for a regular game.

Not only that, season ticket holders are required to buy tickets for the pre-season too. If they don’t buy pre-season tickets, then they’re not allowed to buy regular-season tickets. They get knocked off the ticket holder list, and folks on the waiting list eagerly move up.

In education, somewhere along the way somebody coined the term “preschool.” I have never understood the purpose of preschool. It’s not really school, since the tots aren’t being instructed in anything. 

Perhaps some kids got their start on the alphabet in preschool or kindergarten. But mostly it was a huge room filled with blocks, paints and other toys for occupying toddlers’ time. If preschool is just a glorified version of daycare, then it should call itself a publicly funded daycare center, not a school.

Whether it’s in medicine, education or sports, beware the “pre” factor. ■