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How Preventative Healthcare Can Make You Healthier

August 24, 2017
By Shannon Charles

Over the years preventative healthcare has become a topic of great discussion among health professionals.

With a rise in the number of individuals suffering from chronic diseases, preventative care and wellness practices are essential for sustaining a healthier and longer life. Preventive medicine focuses on the health of individuals, communities, and defined populations. Its goal is to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being and to prevent disease, disability, and death.

This idea of being proactive about health consists of regular check-ups and screenings with your physician as well as your dentist. Most health plans cover wellness visits at no cost to patients. Some of examples of preventative care visits include the following:

  • Blood pressure screenings
  • Cholesterol screenings
  • Depression screenings
  • Immunization vaccines
  • Breast cancer screenings
  • Tobacco screenings and interventions
  • STD screenings
  • Child developmental screenings
  • Obesity screenings and counseling

As consumers we should be mindful that we are paying for health coverage and should utilize the services being offered to us.

The emergence of the Health Insurance Marketplace had a major impact on the shape of healthcare when it was introduced in October 2013. Many individuals, who had never been enrolled into a health insurance plan, now had the option of selecting healthcare services to help alleviate elevated medical costs.

However, medical and dental plans were separate. There were very few plans that offered combined services under the same plan or insurance company. What was more striking, was the perception of dental services through the consumer’s lens. While assisting consumers with navigating the Marketplace, I noticed that when the topic of oral health was brought up, it was often seen as a luxury instead of a necessity. To many consumers the additional cost of oral health care was seen as a burden and many people elected to enroll solely in a medical plan. How do we address these issues? I believe it begins with changing the perception of oral health in today’s society and discussing the importance it has on our overall health.

Oral Health Concerns

Oral health has often been neglected in the overall scope of healthcare services. A greater emphasis must be placed on the importance of oral health; it can have very serious effects on our overall health status. Despite major improvements in oral health for the population as a whole, oral health disparities exist for many racial and ethnic groups, by socioeconomic status, gender, age, and geographic location. Some of the oral health disparities that exist include the following:

  • Overall. Non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives generally have the poorest oral health of any racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
  • Children and Tooth Decay. The greatest racial and ethnic disparity among children aged 2–4 years and aged 6–8 years is seen in Mexican American and Black, Non-Hispanic children.
  • Adults and Untreated Tooth Decay. Blacks, Non-Hispanics, and Mexican Americans aged 35–44 years experience untreated tooth decay nearly twice as much as white, non-Hispanics.
  • Tooth Decay and Education. Adults aged 35–44 years with less than a high school education experience untreated tooth decay nearly three times that of adults with at least some college education.
    • In addition, adults aged 35–44 years with less than a high school education experience destructive periodontal (gum) disease nearly three times that of adults with a least some college education.
  • Adults and Oral Cancer. The 5–year survival rate is lower for oral pharyngeal (throat) cancers among black men than whites (36% versus 61%).
  • Adults and Periodontitis. 47.2% of U.S. adults have some form of periodontal disease. In adults aged 65 and older, 70.1% have periodontal disease.
    • Periodontal Disease is higher in men than women, and greatest among Mexican Americans and Non-Hispanic blacks, and those with less than a high school education.

These figures are alarming.

Another major concern consumer’s face, especially the immigrant population, is the language barrier. Immigrants relate better with physicians and dentists who speak their native language. Residents of these communities also believe that healthcare providers treat them differently and assume they are less educated, poor, or deserving of less respect because of their race or culture. Health professionals and elected officials need to do more to address these concerns. The immigrant population in this country has grown over the last two decades and has had a major impact on the growth of this nation. We must find ways to ensure that we are all living in a balanced and thriving society in which all members are afforded the same opportunities.


Disparities in Health

The idea of preventative health looks very different when we consider a few factors:

1) race/ethnicity
2) gender
3) age.

When we tackle the idea of race and ethnicity, we must be aware that each group is different. African Americans have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease than other groups. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer), but it can often be treated successfully. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer. This type of cancer is also the most commonly diagnosed among African American men. The most important thing is early detection, which can be performed by a simple prostate exam. Men are recommended to complete an exam between the ages of 40-50.

Men and women have different healthcare needs and concerns. Outside of our routine yearly physical exams, women utilize their doctors more than men. Examples of these visits include:

  • Mammograms
  • Pap smears
  • Prenatal visits
  • Birth control medication
  • Folic acid tests

These visits are very important to ensure there are no increased health risks. As I mentioned earlier, detecting any health risks in their initial stages increases the chances of survival and living a healthier life. Moreover, it is important to consider age as it pertains to health.

Parents play an integral role in the overall development of their children. Parents are responsible for making sure that their children are up-to-date with their immunizations and that they are visiting their primary care physician and dentist at least twice a year. As we mature we must also realize that we are at a greater risk of facing health problems. Although routine checkups can help increase our chances of living a healthier life, we must also consider the effects proper nutrition and fitness have on our overall health.


Fitness and Nutrition

Healthy eating and daily exercise go hand-in-hand. In addition to quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption, a nutritious diet plus daily physical activity reduces the chances of developing chronic diseases. That daily activity does not need to be long and strenuous; a simple walk in the park or bike ride can be just as effective. Consistency and discipline are the keys to improving your health.

At Catalyst Miami, we offer health coaching as a part of our Prosperity program. The health coaching process includes providing educational material about the benefits of good nutrition and exercise, developing individual focus plans, and tracking progress made with program participants. In order to gain success, an individual must hold themselves accountable and follow the steps and suggestions in their plan. It is often wise to set short and long-term health goals to achieve. The Prosperity team has also built relationships with fitness centers such as the YMCA, Orange Theory, and 24 Hour Fitness to encourage clients to get gym memberships when affordable deals are available.

Addressing chronic healthcare issues begins with changing behavioral patterns. Being more proactive about our health increases our chances of living a healthier life. Furthermore, we need to speak with community members, health care professionals, and elected officials to address health disparities amongst different groups. As a society we need to utilize social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help spread information. We must continue to promote healthier living while also informing people of the consequences of inaction. Catalyst Miami has fostered strong community leaders and invited policy makers to events in order to get the conversation started. The only way to create a healthier thriving society is to continue working together. Lastly, as individuals we must rid ourselves of the mentality that because we feel fine there is no need to visit our physician. The human body is a work of art and we must regard it as such.


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