With the announced changes to Australia’s healthcare system in last night’s Budget, the affordability of quality health and medical services has become an even greater concern for the average Australian. The impact upon those who already utilise services such as Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is expected to be significant, with great concerns many will no longer attend primary health care or purchase essential medications as a result of new and increased co-payment systems. It is not a good time to get sick in Australia.
Many healthcare professionals have long advocated for people to undertake preventative health measures. There is a wealth of research showing evidence that preventative health strategies decrease the burden of illness and disease in individuals, families, and the broader community. You can liken it to running a car: most car owners have their vehicle routinely serviced to check everything is running well and identify potential problems. Early identification of problems gives an opportunity for the owner to address the issue before it becomes a major problem. Addressing the issue early not only reduces the likelihood of averting a catastrophic event in relation to the car – like a breakdown, or an accident – but also all the events that follow on as a result: expenses in relation to towing and repair, potential loss of income if reliant on it for work, inability to attend to activities due to lack of transport, potential increase in insurance premiums (in the case of an accident), and so on. Most car owners don’t think twice about undertaking preventative maintenance of their vehicle. Why then do so many of us not engage in preventative care of our health? Aren’t we more important than a car?
In its 2013 report, The Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA) reported that Australia is a world leader in preventative health practice, however we face ever-increasing problems in non-communicable – and preventable – diseases, such as obesity. The indication is that the tools are available – policy, programs and promotion – however the uptake by the Australian public seems to be lacking. There can be numerous reasons across a variety of socioeconomic factors for this, however there is one thing that remains consistent: it is up to each individual to take ownership and control of their own health, and make the decision to engage in preventative health measures.
With the costs associated with doctor’s visits and medications to rise from 2015, and expected increases to other health and medical services, including health insurance premiums, as a flow-on effect of the Budget, now is the time to make the decision to look after your health, and do your best to prevent future illness. Here’s three tips that can help you engage in preventative health:
- Take an Honest Look at Your Health
Sit down and ask yourself honestly, “am I as healthy as I can be?” It can be a tough question to answer, particularly if you feel well. We often believe that if we don’t feel unwell, we’re healthy, and therefore there’s no reason to change anything. Yet if you’re really honest with yourself, you will likely think of things that might not make you feel sick (yet), but that you know could put your health at risk. For example:
- do you smoke? Do you know the risk factors associated with smoking?
- do you drink alcohol? Do you know what the recommended daily allowance for alcohol is?
- do you know your waist measurement? Do you know what measurements are related to increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers?
- do you know what your heart rate and blood pressure are? What about your cholesterol? Do you know what safe levels are to minimise the risk of having a heart attack or stroke?
- do you know what your blood sugar level is? What about your triglycerides? Do you know how these relate to being diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and what this means in terms of developing type 2 diabetes?
- do you feel good about yourself, and life in general? Would you know if you’re depressed? Do you know therisks associated with long term or untreated depression?
Sometimes it can be difficult to really take a critical look at your own health, and there might be benefit asking the opinion of someone you’re close to and trust. They may identify issues that you haven’t considered or aren’t aware of.
- Have a Check-Up
There is nothing wrong with going to see a doctor (or other healthcare professional) when you are well. In fact, you’ll probably find they’re happily surprised! Having a regular check-up is just like regularly servicing your car; it’s an opportunity to make sure everything is working the way it should, or if not, identify and manage potential problems. Knowing that everything is okay can be just as useful as knowing what’s wrong.
- Engage in Preventative Behaviours
Even without seeing a healthcare professional, most of us know that eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, stopping smoking, drinking in moderation, and reducing stress will have a positive effect on our health. If you try tips one and two above, you’ll most likely discover other ways you can maximise your health, and reduce your risk of illness or injury. However, knowing what to do isn’t enough: you need to do it, and the only person who can make you do that, is you. You need to take ownership of your health, decide what level of health you want to achieve and maintain, and take action to make your optimal level of health a reality. You do not have to do this alone, your healthcare professionals can provide advice, assistance, and education on what you can do to maximise your health and prevent future problems. The help you need is out there and available; the decision to do it is yours.
Do you engage in preventative health measures? If so, what do you find most helpful or works well for you? If not, what do you think is stopping you? Please feel free to add your comments below.