Growing up: health education

Do you remember the first time you took yourself to the doctor or health care professional? Was it for an injury or illness?  Maybe your first ob/gyn visit? Or a vaccination.

Did you know what questions to ask? Did you feel like you explained your symptoms properly? Did you know what treatment to choose? Did you feel comfortable?

During childhood and adolescents, we rely on our caretakers for our health care and wellness education. When we become adults we are responsible for our own health care and wellness. It may seem as if one day we find ourselves navigating the complex US healthcare system and insurance providers alone.

Throughout our lives we rely on our community, education systems, and workplaces to provide us with proper health education information.

School based health exams

All children in the United States are granted basic education through the public schooling system.The CDC has worked to identify health issues that act as barriers to children’s learning in our school systems. In order to combat these barriers, some schools require school-based health screenings in order to address any health care needs of the individual student. Other schools require documentation of healthcare visits and proof of vaccinations. 

However, schools do not mandate comprehensive wellness exams to address all of the barriers identified. In 2018, it was reported that overall 19% of children aged 6 to 11 and 44% of uninsured children in the US did not receive an annual wellness visit.

Health education impacts

In 1995, the CDC developed the National Health Education Standards to educate children in the schooling system from pre-k to grade 12. Health education covers a variety of topics ranging from disease prevention, family influences, access to valid information, ways to reduce health risks, and how to make positive health decisions. Students in pre-k to grade 2 receive forty hours of health education each year and students grade 3 to 12 receive eighty hours per year.

In 2017, researchers discovered that those who are healthier appear to learn better. However, research shows that our health education needs improvement: 

• In 2016, 20% of schools did not have policies in regards to education preventing alcohol and drug abuse.

But what is the impact of caretakers/elders who rely on the schooling systems for their students’ health care and take a back seat at home? What if a caretaker has their own health anxieties that result in avoiding care? How does our caretaker approach to health impact our own approach as adults?

Research shows that when parents or caretakers actively participate in their students’ health education, the students are more likely to have a positive outcome. The CDC has launched several campaigns that work with schools on ways to encourage parents and caretakers to be more involved with school health education and students wellness.

Adult health: continuing education

When was the last time you went to the doctor? Did you go to urgent care when you were sick? Did you visit your family doctor? Or does Google know more about your health than anyone else on this planet?

So much of our health and wellness education takes place at a young age when most of us can’t even imagine that we’ll ever get old.

As adults, our education and ideas about health come from what we are exposed to: public health awareness campaigns, corporate wellness programs, commercials, billboards, community organizations, and articles.  

Why is health education important? 

Well, for example did you know that men aged 18 to 39 are recommended the following?

  • Blood pressure check every 2 years
  • Cholesterol screening and heart disease prevention every five years in healthy men
  • Dental cleanings every six months
  • Eye exam every 2 years or more depending
  • Yearly flu shot
  • Tetanus booster every ten years
  • HPV vaccine
  • Hepatitis C lab
  • A physical exam during each exam
  • Skin checks for signs of cancer
  • STD screening

And women aged 18 to 39 are recommended:

  • Blood pressure check every 2 years
  • Cholesterol screening and heart disease prevention every five years in healthy men
  • Dental cleanings every six months
  • Eye exam every 2 years or more depending
  • Yearly flu shot
  • Tetanus booster every ten years
  • HPV vaccine
  • Hepatitis C lab
  • A physical exam during each exam
  • Skin checks for signs of cancer
  • STD screening
  • Monthly breast self-exam
  • Cervical cancer screening starting at twenty-one and once every three years
  • Mammograms are not recommended until forty, unless there is family history.

You may have read through this list and recognized these appointments as something that you have incorporated into your life. You may feel as if you see your provider more frequently than your friends. Or, you may be you did not know where, when, or who to go to for these health exams.

A study reported that only 44 million adults received their yearly preventative health exam and only about 17% of women received a preventive gynecological exam. 

Health insured: better outcomes

In 2018, a CDC survey found that 30.1 million people under the age of sixty-five were uninsured however, access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act decreased the percentage of uninsured adults over a two year period. 

Health insurance coverage has proven to be positively associated with better health outcomes, reduced disparities, and mortality.

Approach to wellness: why does it matter?

You may like to take a holistic approach to medicine, treating your whole system, addressing mind, body and spirit, instead of just the problem areas. This is known as an Osteopathic approach, and doctors with this approach are DO’s. 

Or you might prefer an evidence-based approach. This is commonly referred to as Western Medicine, but is considered Allopathic Medicine

Having an idea of your providers training, education, and approach to treatment can help ease any pre-appointment anxiety. Knowing what to expect from your provider in terms of recommendations, suggestions, and questions can help make you feel more comfortable with your treatment and health care exam.

Appointment style: everybody has one

Do you prefer to go to your appointments alone? Or do you prefer to bring a friend. 

Everyone has their own preferences, if you feel comfortable going alone, that’s great! If you prefer to bring a friend or relative, you should feel more than comfortable. In fact, during high stress appointments having a companion can help with any nervousness you might have, they can also take notes, and remind you of anything you might have forgotten to ask!

Do you remember your first ‘adult’ wellness visit? What was it like?

Do you have any health care experiences that have impacted you over the years? Whether it was a good experience or a bad experience?

We’d love to hear about how you’ve navigated your health care.

5 Ways to Jump on the Self-Care Bandwagon:

Is self-care selfish?  

Actually, we consider it to be quite the opposite.  Self-care can be the catalyst for providing the people you love the most with even better care than what you could give them if you continue to ignore your own needs.  Acts of service like taking care of others are a love language that heaps of us show our affection with, however, their effectiveness is greatly decreased if we don’t nurture our physical and emotional needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs delineates the needs that are imperative to functioning as a person in this crazy little world–arranged from the most basic to the deepest:  physical, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization.  Although it is the most essential of all the needs, our physical health is often put on the backburner.

Let’s get physical    

Our physical bodies are temporary but that doesn’t mean we should forsake them.  There are three foundations of wellness that need our care: sleep, exercise, and nutrition.  

The benefits to recharging your body through a good night’s sleep are enough to not feel guilty for pushing the snooze button.  Adequate sleep will help you control your weight, accelerate muscle recovery which in turn maximizes your exercise performance, and could possibly save your life if you are driving.  With 1 in 3 Americans not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, sleepy drivers and distracted, lower quality conversations are a huge danger.  

The body and mind are interlinked, so it’s no wonder that a good exercise session can have noteworthy effects on our mental states.  The endorphins that are produced after a bike ride or yoga session make us happier in more ways than one. Exercise has been proven to heighten self-esteem and cognitive function while reducing depression, anxiety and negative feelings

What we eat and how we eat are both equally important to our physical and psychological well being.  Diet choices that are high in fast food, sugar and processed meat are linked to depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and diabetes.  Even factors like mealtimes and whether kids get involved in food preparation can determine future eating habits which will impact our overall health.    

Strengthen your bonds

The Mental Health Foundation’s definition of a relationship is “the way in which two or more people are connected, or the state of being connected”.  One of the domains of self-care that we’d like to pay special attention to is that of our relationships; be they family members, friends, work colleagues, healthcare professionals, teachers, pets or lovers.

In order to feel that you truly belong in a community, your connections simply cannot be shallow.  Being human is not something that we are meant to experience alone, and thankfully there are 7.6 billion people in the world to accompany us on this journey.

There’s a misconception that more is better.  In the relationship arena though, quality rules over quantity.  Quality relationships with your family, friends and community can lead to physically healthier bodies and less mental health issues than those who are better connected to the people in their lives.  Apart from that, good connections are vital for living a longer life that is filled with a sense of purpose and belonging.  

5 Ways to Jump on the Self-Care Bandwagon:

1. Stop talking to yourself like you are your worst enemy! 

Self-talk can drastically change how we experience the world.  It can shape your mood and stress levels; ultimately deciding whether you perceive a busy day to be overwhelming or as an opportunity to overcome a challenge.

2. Indulge in experiences instead of things. 

Our brains get used to things extremely easily and experience “hedonic adaptation”  when we repeatedly expose ourselves to the same things.  A museum trip with a friend or a microadventure wild camping an hour or two outside of your city can be an act of self-care.

3. Invest in close relationships. 

Sometimes people have been in our lives so long that we start to forsake them. Take time to foster strong connections with people and let them know how grateful you are that they exist simultaneously with you.

4. Get a little nostalgic and send some snail mail. 

The amount of mail we send has fallen by 43% since 2001.  However, an overwhelming majority of people agree that receiving something in the mail makes them feel special. So, get that stationary and pen out!

5. Pet a dog, cat or any animal of preference.  

Research has found that a mere 10 minutes of petting an animal can produce a significant reduction in the infamous stress hormone, cortisol.  That is enough to make us want to head over to our nearest friend who owns a pet, ASAP.  


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