Prevention is better than Cure


‘Prevention is better than Cure’ is a Proverb which means that ‘One should act beforehand towards certain issues, situations etc. rather than looking for its solution later on’. In other words – ‘Do only those things in life for which you don’t have to rework’. This principle can be observed in our daily lives, for example – If we jump a traffic light we are bound to be charged for breaking the traffic law, however if we had waited for a few minutes we wouldn’t have to shell out extra money from our pocket. Similarly, if we issue a book from a library and do not return in time we will be fined, on the other hand if we had returned the book in time we wouldn’t be paying the fine. It is a very common habit to ignore preventive measures when there is time and to search for cure when things become really complicated. Health is one such aspect, it is only when a symptoms of the disease become unbearable that we seek doctor’s advice rather than dealing with symptoms when they initially became pronounced.

Technically or Academically speaking its Definition is:

  • “It is better to stop something bad from happening than it is to deal with it after it has happened’ (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary).
  • Other Definitions refer the saying as – “It's better to take care that a problem does not happen than to have to solve the problem afterwards”. 
  • “It's easier to stop something bad from happening in the first place than to fix the damage after it has happened.”

Prevention is better than Cure Quote is an Ancient one, one that is considered to have originated from ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ which has been traced back to ‘De Legibus’ (c. 1240) by English Jurist Henry De Bracton (d. 1268). Prevention is better than Cure meaning becomes more significant especially because it is a Reality which has been mentioned in the annals of the history, time and again.

Other References:

“Meet the malady on its way” - Roman poet Persius (A.D.c 58).
“Julius Caesar” - William Shakespeare (1623) “The cure is worse than the disease".
"Works" - Thomas Adams (1630), the first English version, "Preuention is so much better than healing beause it saues the labor of being sicke".
"The Clockmaker" or "The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville" - Thomas C. Haliburton (1837 English Satirist).
"Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" - Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (1993, Avon Books, New York, page 144.).
Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" - Gregory Y. Titelman (1996).

There are similar Saying or Idioms which signify a similar meaning:

  • A Stitch in Time saves Nine
  • Better Safe than Sorry
  • Look before you Leap
  • Nip it in the Bud

In the most Conventional Sense ‘Prevention is better than Cure’ is mostly associated with health related aspects. However there are some facets to this proverbial saying which can be set apart from the health perspective. Its existence can be observed in all spheres of the society be it Politics or Environment. Certain undesirable instances can be prevented from happening rather than dealing with the effects. In fact if we view microscopically, prevention itself is a cure as we is proven in the below passage.

Is Prevention better than Cure?

A question may pop, amongst many of us ‘How is Prevention better than Cure?’ The answer lies in the whole world around us. To prove this point we take into consideration certain examples that are a Reality and constantly remind us of the Wise Words.

AIDS - It is the Top Runner, if one is to put forth the Perfect Example of the Quote. Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome is its name and it has already killed millions of people, millions more continue to become infected with HIV. It is incurable; there is neither a vaccine nor a cure for AIDS.  The only way to remain safe from it is through Prevention. It is better to be wise before than regretting foolishly, later. As of 2009, AIDS Education and Research Trust (AVERT) estimated that there are 33.3 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, with 2.6 million new HIV infections per year and 1.8 million annual deaths due to AIDS.  What makes AIDS even more lethal is that a vast number of teens get infected with HIV much before they actually get to know about prevention. Added to the fact that the disease is being transmitted from HIV-positive mothers to their unborn children as well. These are not only showing simple statistics they also reflect the old words of wisdom which strongly reaffirm the ever existent Fact.

Obesity – A very major and common disease affecting millions across the world. If one is to wonder, how come so many? Let’s simply trace back the development of obesity in people. Not everyone is born obese, most of them happen to be obese because they couldn’t discipline themselves or more aptly put they ignored the fact in context. If most of the obese had observed a few simple rules like exercising and diet control, they wouldn’t be resorting to fat reduction surgeries, liquid diets, medication, slimming gadgets and so on. It takes more time to reduce weight than the time required to gain the same.

Diabetes - Diabetes is a disease characterized by abnormally high glucose levels in the blood, excessive urination and persistent thirst. Diabetes makes one’s life more cumbersome than before having the disease. It cannot be cured except in very specific situations. One becomes slave to medicines and food restrictions. One of its primary causes is lifestyle factor. If one had taken preventive measures like regular exercise, healthy diet etc., beforehand one wouldn’t be facing the ordeal. Many people still have a chance as there is a condition known as Pre-diabetes. In this condition a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. It can be reversed. People with this condition are in a “gray zone” between normal and diabetes, but are at risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes, with all its complications.

Vaccination - Vaccination is the process of providing the body, a biological preparation, as a precaution against contracting a disease. Vaccination is one of the Oldest and Best Known Scientific Methods of Prevention.  Vaccines for measles, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chickenpox, meningitis, pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae bacteria have proven that ‘Prevention is actually better than cure’. Vaccination has saved so many lives and has eradicated a whole lot of diseases in many parts of the world. The incidents of diseases have been on the decline ever since. WHO targeted has already planned the eradication of polio throughout the world and is about to achieve the laurels. Vaccinations are also in development of various incurable diseases. If it was not for vaccinations many of us wouldn’t be alive or healthy at all.

Rising Population – Just like AIDS, rising population is a simple matter of not doing the recommended. Various societies consider more children as a source of more income or support. Some are illiterate and do not know about contraceptive methods, others have a mindset of having more children, merely to keep them company when the other siblings have grown up, then there are those who want a variety – a boy and a girl and last but not the least, people who consider abortion, a sin but will end up placing it an prphanage. Without realising or ignoring the effects of our acts we often end up being regretful or trouble ourselves.

Academics – Examinations and tests are one of the earliest examples in one’s life with which many of us are familiar with. Nothing is more pinching or hurting when we do not pass a test when we are in school. Apart from the embarrassing outburst of teachers, we have to face the consequences at home as well. For some of us, it is a prestige issue and the failure of not living up to expectations tends to take our lives. All this is preventable as is evident from this piece of matter.

Corruption – Bribery, Greed and other factors are source of all sorts of rampant corruption all over the world. If these malpractices had been nipped in the bud they wouldn’t be occurring at all. We all are responsible for its rise and growth. The practice in some nations have become a standard, a norm or a tradition which has taken so many complex forms and has become so entangled and assimilated in our lives that even though we talk against it we ourselves encourage these. Sometimes, it is the only way or a shortcut to a solution that we have to indulge in it. Scams and Scandals are the outcome of corruption and they have a high range of effect throughout the whole community as is evident in 2G Spectrum Scam - India, Oil and Gas Bribery Case (Panalpina) and various others are clear and cut of the outcome of ineffective or nonexistent measures.

Politics - The war between the Taliban and U.S. needs no introduction, however in the context of putting forth the view that ‘Prevention is better than Cure’, there is an issue which does need an introduction. The focus point here is that ‘USA knew about 9/11 two years earlier’. As revealed in various news media forms, the National Security Agency of the U.S. knew about the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks two years before the attacks were carried out. As per various News Agencies ‘The NSA made a big mistake just before the attacks as general Hayden, the director of the NSA, did not report about the terrorists that were going to attack the Pentagon’. If right action had been taken at the right time, the Twin Towers and the existence of all the victims wouldn’t be in danger.

‘L'Aquila earthquake’ – A negative aspect of ‘Cure is better than Prevention’ has been portrayed by the news media. In Central Italy during 2009 ‘L'Aquila earthquake’ occurred in the region of Abruzzo. As per the news agency reports – ‘Italian laboratory technician Giampaolo Giuliani had predicted a major earthquake on Italian television a month before’. But no action was taken due to political aspirations. Italy’s Civil Protection service Head, Guido Bertolaso stated during an interview on Italian RAI 24 news, that – ‘There is just no political mileage in prevention, which is why Italy’s politicians did not worry about this issue’. If Italy’s politicians had actually bothered to insist on the enforcement of anti-earthquake building measures, then much of the loss of life and damage could have been prevented.

Agriculture – We all are aware that if we don’t protect crops from various types of damage, e.g. pests, rain, snow etc. our hard work goes wasted. That is why farmers use precautionary measures to have a good crop. They till the land, sow the seeds properly, put manure, give water, put up a scarecrow in the fields etc. All this is done because they know that prevention is not only beneficial it is also a life saver.

Water – Natural resources like water need to be utilised and conserved. There is a shortage of water in many third world countries and one of the reasons, they suffer from it is because they didn’t realise the consequences. It is an example for the rest of the world that they should act before it’s too late. Wastage of water, misuse of water, ineffective or non-existent conservation methods, non-implementation or ineffective implementation of water conservation methods, water pollution are some of the barriers which don’t let the preventive strategies to become a cure itself.

PC Anti-Virus – Taking consideration of the existent technology PC Antivirus Software’s are an example which the present generation will find more of their interest. The reason being that majority of us have had virus problem in the past or the present. The importance of an antivirus can be seen when we call an expert or try to resolve the situation ourselves. The frustration and the anger that we have to face due to virus in our PC only strengthen the old idiom.

Insurance – Insurance, whether it is of health, television or anything else, it is a very effective preventive measure to counter the ill effects of a mishap. Take the case of an expensive jewellery item, what if it was to be stolen or damaged in an accident or an environmental disaster who would pay for your loss?, here the insurance firms provide a solution for your loss.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Smoking – Smoking is a major cause of various illnesses like cancer and various mouth diseases. It is only when the victims daily routine is interrupted by bouts of illnesses’ that they seek remedial measures. Smokers not only suffer but they also make others suffer as those around them become passive smokers which can be at times more dangerous than active smoking. If only the smokers had really cared about themselves and others around him/her, he/she would be doing some good to other as well.

Deforestation and its Consequent EffectsForests are the lungs the world and it is these lungs that we are infecting and destroying at an alarming rate. Deforestation leads to other harmful effects whose consequences we are all ready facing in the form of floods, desertification and their subsequent outcomes like famine and disease. Similarly most of the products that we use come from forests in one form or the other like medicines. Various species of animals are becoming endangered which are important for the ecosystem, like the tiger. The forest cover of the earth has been reduced to such an extent that if immediate steps are not taken, there might not be a cure at all.

Rising Pollution and Changing Weather – Pollution and changing weather conditions are right-in-the-face consequences for those who have not realised how important is to put efforts in prevention rather than looking for the cure when things really start to get out of control. Industries are growing like mushrooms and churning out loads of waste in air, water and soil. Vehicular Traffic has increased to enormous proportions. These problems are becoming a nemesis for everyone because very few measures are being taken to prevent them. As a result, the weather pattern is changing all over the world.

Depletion of Non-Renewable Sources of Energy – On one side of the Scale, we have so many applications for which non-renewable sources of energy are required. On the other side of the Scale we have a limited supply of Non-Renewable Sources of Energy. There is an urgent need to find preventive solutions to conserve the Non-Renewable Sources of Energy. Cost effective solutions need to be implemented for which Renewable sources are to be popularised and made cost effective for the consumers.

Substance Addiction – Cocaine, Marijuana, LSD, Alcohol are all substances which undoubtedly are harmful to our health. Addiction has resulted in so many deaths including famous celebrities like Heath Ledger, Amy Wineshouse etc. If only they could prevent themselves to be dominated by addictive substances they wouldn’t have ended up the way they did.   

Folk Tale – A folk tale relating to the issue being addressed is that ofThe Grasshopper and the Ant’. It is one of Aesop's Fables, providing a useful lesson of how we should prevent the laziness and work hard.

Cure is better than Prevention?

It may sound like that we have misspelled the Adage but it is not a grammatical mistake; it is a Counterview of the traditional. It has also been propounded by Austro-British, Philosopher ‘Karl Popper’ who has said that “In the realm of errors, cure is better than prevention.” Overenthusiastic scientists, politicians, and so on, tend to forget that the realm of error in which we live is large. Prevention is permissible only in well understood and controllable conditions. If ‘Prevention is better than Cure’ than it is also Vice-Versa, just like so many existent exceptions to a rule.

War Scenario - Sometimes Cure is better than Prevention as it is and might be in certain conditions. For example if we are to analyse the amount of expenditure incurred on Defence Budget wouldn’t it be better that we invest in Cure itself i.e. Peace Initiatives. This Unconventional Perspective can be understood in the context of Warring Nations like USA and Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel and other rivals. There is so much chaos and suffering when both the sides initiate a violent course of action in order to prevent an ugly situation. If so much money can be invested in Defensive Strategies then why not in finding a Peaceful Solution, one which is suitable for all.

Food Preservation - To support the view, let’s take the Food Industry. AVEC - The Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU Countries published its annual report for 2008. It included the mention of the chlorination of poultry meat. Chlorinated water is used in some countries as a carcass rinse to remove pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella. This is a Preventive Measure but as per AVEC research, strict hygienic measures at European farm level are adequate. There is no need to introduce the use of other substances than potable water for decontamination of poultry carcasses. The available figures of the level of poultry meat contaminated with Salmonella in the EU and third countries demonstrate that the current EU-control programs in the production chain, without the use of these substances produces better results than the programs in third countries using antimicrobial carcass treatments. Their treatment has not proved as effective as the hygiene measures used in the EU.

Use of Medicines – Many a times we recommend and or take self-medication even when it is not required. This happens because we have experienced similar symptoms of a sickness before. We try to resolve the situation by taking preventive measures in the form of antibiotics which are unnecessary and may make us immune to those antibiotics which we are consuming on regular level.

Use of Pesticides – Cure becomes better than Prevention when Farmers continue to use pesticide which are more harmful than being useful. Pesticides do provide good preventive measure against a host of pests but at the same time they also contaminate the underground water and other natural habitats. While they harvest a good crop, they are unaware that they are causing damage somewhere else and to themselves. This is because pests have started developing immunity towards pesticides and the contaminated water will recycle and fall as rainfall causing more problems.

Eating Habits – It is a widely accepted norm that one shouldn’t consume food except that has been home made. This norm is strictly followed by those who have suffered an illness or those who have phobia towards food made outside their homes. For those whom doctors have advised, it is better to stick to their advice. But for those of us who have endured sickness should know that food prepared in hotels, restaurants etc. should be taken in moderation. The reason being that some time or the other we might travel and homemade food will not be available. In such situations if we happen to eat the type of food that we don’t eat, we might fall sick. Our bodies are not accustomed to eating that type of food and thus we face the obvious end result. However, it doesn’t mean that you should start experimenting from every nook and corner.

Ineffective Vaccines – Vaccines are touted for their effectiveness but they are counterproductive as well. Some researchers have pointed out the ineffectiveness of the vaccines. Their research shows that vaccines are unable to address the root causes of disease and do nothing to remove the toxic conditions of the body out of which infection arises. This is because vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system to fight germs when in reality the germs are just feeding on the body's internal toxaemia which is their true biological role, a role that Biology refers to as Mutualistic Symbiosis. The New England Journal of Medicine July 1994 issue mentions a study found where 80% of children under 5 years of age contracted whooping cough even though they had been fully vaccinated.

Hygiene Freaks – There are certain people who develop a phobia for Preventive Measures. Here, the prevention itself has become a problem. These type of people are termed as ‘Hygiene Freaks’. They have a fear of contracting disease by germs and are obsessed with hygiene. They develop certain tendencies like - some of them will not shake hands with you, they will keep sanitising their hands and indulge in all sorts of activities.

False Alarms – Technology has developed various sorts of safety gadgets to prevent theft. But, technology is not perfect, alarms go off on their own due to technical or other faults. These cause unnecessary botheration and wastage of time. Then there are some pranksters who will place a distress call or place a dubious object to create a nuisance for fun sake.

Results of Observing this Principle

1.  Success – Those who follow this rule find success in all spheres of life be it academics or general life.

2.  Ease of Life – The wisdom gained by the quote will ensure a smooth path where there are less chances of falling in trouble.

3.  Brings Happiness – Those who have been observing this principle in their life gain happiness.

4.  Peaceful Life – If a plan of action towards the suggested has been put into place one will be ensured of a peaceful life as compared to others.

5.  Improvement in Quality of Life – When all things fall in their space, there is a gradual improvement in the quality of life.

6.  Reduction in Expenditure – As observed failure in exams, jumping traffic signals etc. is a costly affair. Simply following the rules can save useless expenditure.

Important Preventive Suggestions in General:

  • Brush your Teeth, Twice a day
  • Exercise Regularly
  • Eat Healthy Food
  • Early to Bed, Early to Rise
  • Use Contraceptives
  • Be Honest
  • Become a Hard Worker
  • Never shrug off Responsibilities
  • Observe, Listen and then Speak
  • Respect Elders, one day you will become an Elder too

The world is full of examples what happens when this rule of life is not followed or observed. Indisposed Garbage, Stagnant Water, Dirty Public Toilets, Dirty Floors, Stale Food, Corruption, Violence etc. are some of the few effects. Those who do not observe this principle usually suffer even if they are intelligent and hard-working. One should make it a fundamental principle of his life and reap the benefits. This and the above passages have cleared that in the Prevention v/s Cure issue, the Former has an Upper Hand wherever you may apply it.

Articles on Education
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