By Monica Bender, VP of Care Management
About half of all adults in the U.S. make New Year’s resolutions. Many choose to focus on health, whether it’s in the form of exercising more or eating healthier. But a good intention to focus on this year – particularly with COVID-19 cases on the rise – is the use of preventive care. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And it’s no truer than in healthcare.
When it comes to healthcare, many people are reactive. They’ll only make a doctor’s appointment when they’re not feeling well, or they’ll start to take care of their bodies only after a health problem arises. When traveling abroad, I noticed a more proactive approach to medicine. I found many people in Europe focused on preventive care to improve their overall health. They had simple healthy habits, such as eating fresh vegetables with breakfast. They engaged in more movement, such as walking and biking to work or other desired locations. Overall, they were striving for a well-balanced life that helped reduce stress.
It can be difficult to convince people to focus on health and wellness, especially if they are busy and do not feel sick. However, it’s important to keep in mind that preventive care can improve long-term health, contribute to a longer lifespan, and help detect issues before they become serious life-threatening conditions. For instance, engaging in a healthy diet and regular exercise can prevent diseases, such as Type II diabetes and heart disease. Here are some other preventive measures to keep in mind to practice in 2021:
Annual exams, routine checkups and wellness visits
No matter what they’re called, these visits are instrumental in helping to detect and address health problems early. And during COVID-19, many checkups can be performed via telemedicine. It’s a good idea to discuss the availability of such appointments with your health plan and primary care physician. They can direct you on a case-by-case basis, if telemedicine is an option or an in-person visit is more appropriate.
Cancer awareness and screening
Cancer is a leading cause of death in the U.S. An important way to guard against this disease is to engage in screenings, which follow recommended medical guidelines. A screening can detect cancer early when there’s the greatest likelihood of treatment success. As such, most plans provide full or significant coverage for cancer screenings. Certain factors – such as age, family history and hazards, such as high sun exposure and tobacco use – can increase your risk, in which case, it’s even more important to get screened.
Ensuring a healthy pregnancy
If you’re an expectant mother, it’s good to have a place to turn to for advice and information. When a woman is pregnant, prenatal care is vital to ensure the health and wellbeing of both the mother and child. In 2018, approximately 658 women died while pregnant or shortly after giving birth. About 60% of these deaths were preventable without much cost or trouble.
This is one of the reasons HealthComp offers a Nurturing Together program, which helps expectant mothers learn about prenatal care and the changes and special needs that can occur during this exciting time. Although medical problems may occur during pregnancy, early identification aids in the success of treatment of those issues. It also gives the baby the best chance of being born strong and healthy.
According to the CDC, smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body. More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. The CDC outlines the detrimental effects to a person’s health. But if you’re a smoker who wants to quit, there’s good reason to take heart. Those effects are reversible. The American Cancer Society lists the benefits of quitting, many of which begin within minutes of your last cigarette.
To help support your goal to quit, HealthComp offers a smoking cessation program. One of the first things we recommend is that you speak to your physician about medications that can help reduce the urge to smoke, such as Nicotine gum or the patch. Such medications double and even triple the quit rate. We also recommend you clearly identify your motivations to quit – maybe you want to create a healthier environment for your kids or perhaps you want to be able to play with your grandkids. In addition, knowing the triggers that cause you to reach for a cigarette, such as stress, can help you find a healthier way to handle that trigger. Our program offers many other tips and strategies.
According to a new analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services, 50 to 129 million (19 to 50 percent of) non-elderly Americans have some type of pre-existing health condition. There are many ways to manage chronic conditions – such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels – to ensure you get a handle on the symptoms and avoid an urgent visit to the emergency department. In fact, HealthComp has established partnerships with many vendors that specialize in managing specific conditions. For example, we partner with Livongo for diabetes management and Hinge for musculoskeletal issues. These are in-home programs that help members address health issues before they escalate.
Prevention: A Long-Term Goal
Living a healthy life and helping those around me do the same was what led me into nursing and healthcare in the first place. I hope it inspires you as well. Even if you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, or you made one and it’s already fallen by the wayside, it’s never too late to make preventive care a model you strive for. As we said at the start, you just need an “ounce,” so take small steps and incorporate additional actions over time. Along this path, you’re sure to reap many rewards.