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

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007464.htm

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. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007462.htm

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.

Health anxiety & medical care avoidance

There are many reasons why individuals avoid medical care, however, when the avoidance results in a lack of preventative and medical care, individuals are more likely to have inadequate outcomes when it comes to their health. 

A study found that one-third of adults had skipped medical visits that had been deemed necessary. When evaluating the data, they could not pin-point avoidance behavior to one geographical area, socioeconomic status, or demographic — clearly, this is a global issue.

Top three reasons people avoid seeking medical care:

  1. “Low perceived need,” people who believe that their condition or ailment does not necessitate treatment. Most commonly, individuals believed that their condition would get better with time. Another reason was that individuals believed that they did not need routine care because they were not sick at the time. However, routine care is very important in preventing and detecting medical problems. For example, routine care may consist of vaccines, which are used to prevent diseases and illness, check-ups, which allow your provider to evaluate your vital signs, and make any adjustments or recommendations in order to keep you healthy. As we age, we are more prone to develop chronic diseases, cancer, or diabetes, so it is vital to keep up with routine care as we age in order to maintain our health. Unsure of what your routine care should look like? Head over here to view recommendations by age group.
  1. Medical care barriers,” another reason individuals reported not seeking care was because of inconvenient business hours of providers, limiting those who cannot miss work, or have other conflicting responsibilities. Another important factor was the high cost of health care. In the U.S, research shows that about 36% percent of individuals under the age of 45 are uninsured, lack of health insurance is one of the main obstacles for individuals seeking care. The financial burden of co-pays are also a huge barrier for individuals seeking care, in a recent survey of 1,000 people, 91% reported that their deductibles were “somewhat difficult” and 22% reported that theirs were “impossible” to meet.  

How does this affect care? Well, 64% of those surveyed reported that they had avoided medical care because of cost. A study published in the Journal of Health Care Finance sought to evaluate if payment plans had a positive outcome in terms of avoidance behavior. What they found was that patients who utilized payment plans were less likely to avoid medical care and were less likely to be associated with the adverse results of medical debt. Feeling the stress of medical debt? Ask your health care provider about a payment plan for your medical bills to break payments up over time.

  1. “Negative evaluation,” was attributed as the third most common reason why individuals did not seek care. One unfavorable visit to a medical provider can be damaging to the patient/provider relationship. Most commonly, this is attributed to communication issues, the bedside-manor, or the approach of the provider when interacting with the patient. It is important that patients feel that they are being heard during their appointments and have time to ask questions that are important to them. When patients feel as if they are not being heard or understood, they are less likely to trust the advice, recommendations, or treatment that are provided to them.

COVID-19 and Health Care Anxiety

There are many reasons why individuals avoid medical care, and in 2020, we were introduced to another reason: COVID-19. In a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41% of adults by June in the United States had avoided care due to concerns about COVID-19. It was found that individuals with disabilities and those with two or more underlying conditions were more commonly found to avoid care due to COVID-19. 

The CDC has provided guidance for individuals who need to get care for other conditions, recommending an open dialogue with your provider about your concerns, and having at least a 2-week supply of any necessary medications on hand. 

For more information and guidance, please visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.