This article reimagines the health care system to focus on risk factors rather than outcomes in order to improve patient-centered care and reduce health care expenditure. Patient-centered care has been a global priority since 2001 when the Institute of Medicine declared it an essential aim for health care systems. As part of this discussion and to help facilitate this change, the concept of the big four risk factors – diet and nutrition; physical activity; smoking and tobacco use; and excessive alcohol consumption – is introduced in the context of the Americas from which it originates. Using peer-reviewed literature, health policy guidelines, theories, frameworks, and transdisciplinary implementation science strategies, this article explains how public health research and medical centers are set up in terms of disease, or outcome, rather than risk factor, or exposure. It suggests how moving from outcome-based health care models to focus on prevention using the big four risk factors will lead to better patient-centered care and health outcomes. Transdisciplinary research and complexity science, a framework largely developed and tested in Latin America, are recommended to facilitate this change and develop multicomponent, multistakeholder action and cooperation. Future research should pilot the proposed changes at various health-system levels and in different settings and report on the outcomes of implementation to assess effectiveness and improve translation of research, perhaps using the standardized RE-AIM (Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, Maintenance) evaluation framework.
Opinion and analysis