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Disease prevention: what's really important?
  1. Gordon O Matheson1,2,
  2. Holly O Witteman3,4,5,
  3. Terry G Mochar6
  1. 1Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA
  2. 2Human Biology Program, School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  3. 3Department of Family and Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada
  4. 4Faculty of Medicine, Office of Education and Continuing Professional Development, Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada
  5. 5Research Centre of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec, Québec City, Québec, Canada
  6. 6Formal Global Director, Reckitt Benckiser plc
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gordon O Matheson, Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, 341 Galvez Street, Stanford, CA 94305, USA; gord{at}

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Preventable chronic disease has proven to be a stubborn problem, responsible for 60% of deaths worldwide, and its associated morbidity and mortality has not changed in 40 years. The real issue in disease prevention is the lack of progress and the seeming absence of innovation.1

Beedie et al's2 recent editorial reminds us of the importance of phase IV trials to study effectiveness, not just efficacy, of exercise, arguing that what matters to those who make funding decisions are health outcomes, not proxy measures. We argue that these are also the outcomes that matter to the people whom these interventions are supposed to help: patients and members of the public. It is well past time to include them in solving this long-standing problem.

Disease prevention is not a problem for which the core issue is a lack of scientific evidence for and against exercise, regardless of the phase of research. Restricting our perspective to what can be accomplished by continuing to accumulate scientific evidence in the fight against chronic disease relegates us to the fringes of a complex problem when …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • i Target audiences are not limited to healthcare professionals; they include patients/members of the public, researchers, administrators, workplace wellness, the fitness industry; medical insurance companies, public school administrators; and medical product companies—indeed, all service and industry sectors that cross the path of disease prevention.