In This Video
- Diverticulitis is one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions that patients present with to gastroenterologists and primary care physicians
- To date, little progress has been made in understanding diverticulitis prevention
- Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, is director of Cancer Epidemiology in the Mass General Cancer Center, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit and vice chief for clinical research in the GI Division
- In this video, he discusses advances in understanding of diverticulitis prevention and intervention
Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, is the director of Cancer Epidemiology in the Mass General Cancer Center, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Medicine and vice chief for clinical research in the Division of Gastroenterology. In this video, he discusses advances in understanding the causes of diverticulitis and the significance of his team's research on disease prevention.
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Diverticulitis is one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions that patients present with to primary care clinics and to gastroenterologists. Unfortunately, there has not been much progress made in how we can prevent diverticulitis.
We do know that treatment really requires either antibiotic therapy or surgery; but despite these treatments, patients have very few options when it comes to actually preventing flares. So our research has really been focused on trying to use population-scale data to understand what are risk factors for people who develop diverticulitis and how is it that we can modify lifestyle and diet to prevent episodes from occurring.
So with respect to diverticulitis, we know that there are very specific risk factors that put people at greater risk. For example, we've identified that specific types of dietary factors may be linked. We've shown that people who have a high intake of red meat or have relatively low fiber in their diet tend to be at higher risk. In addition, individuals that tend to be overweight or tend to be physically inactive have a higher risk of diverticulitis.
Our hope is that these research findings can be translated into effective clinical interventions by having doctors actually being able to recommend a patient-specific lifestyle intervention that could reduce the risk of having a flare. So this could include, for example, helping patients understand what foods might be better to eat and what foods might be better to avoid, and also encouraging patients to observe healthy lifestyle habits, like staying more active and trying to keep their body weight low.
This, I think, potentially could have a huge impact in terms of preventing patients from developing diverticulitis and ultimately requiring surgery; as such, I think this represents from a population scale, a very real intervention that could have significant public health benefits.
While we do understand that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in terms of disease prevention, a lot of medicine at this point is been focused on how do we better treat conditions when people develop them, how do we better deliver therapies. And while that's all very important, we do understand that an ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure. So if we can actually prevent diseases from occurring in the first place, we can actually have a broader public health impact and also really create some benefit for society as a whole. We know preventing disease can lower costs for the health care system and can also affect more individuals and have an impact that stretches beyond effective treatment.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research being done on disease prevention. There are also very few resources being focused on disease prevention. So research at Mass General and research in my group will hopefully be examples of how disease prevention research can be important and can have an important impact.
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