"MY GOAL is to have you never have a health problem," says Dr. Shaun Roe, of Morristown Family Practice Center and Barnesville Hospital. "I would say my biggest encouragement and advice is to get these things done."
Dr. Roe is talking about preventive health: taking measures to improve general heath before a serious issue occurs. He adds that more people are coming in for screenings and tests that could identify potential illnesses or conditions early and, more importantly, even save lives.
For instance, in seven Ohio Valley counties (Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson and Monroe in Ohio and Brooke, Ohio and Marshall in West Virginia) the obesity rate ranges from 30 percent in Ohio County to 37 percent in Jefferson County. The national average is 25 percent according to the 2013 "County Health Rankings and Roadmaps" report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Obesity is one of the high risk factors for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
These high percentages may explain in part the high number of "preventable hospital stays" in relation to the national average of 47 for last year. Ohio County had the lowest number at 68, but the numbers for the remaining counties ranged from 100 in Monroe County to 131 in Belmont County.
In addition, the Ohio Valley Medical Center "Community Health Needs Assessment" identified the need for diabetes education, adult weight loss and nutrition education and child and adolescent nutrition education. The OVMC report also noted the above average heart disease rate for their service area.
Many preventive health screenings, tests and counseling programs are covered under the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. These include tests for high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer, high blood pressure and depression. The plans also include counseling for alcohol abuse, depression, obesity and diet, sexually transmitted diseases and tobacco cessation. On the Healthcare.gov website there are at least 15 general screenings and tests listed, with 22 more for women and 25 for children that are readily available.
Dr. Roe recommends using family history as a starting point when deciding on preventive care and scheduling yearly screenings and lab work to catch any potential problems. After 50 years of age, patients should consider an annual colonoscopy for colon cancer. This disease in particular can be stopped with early detection. He says other important tests include PAP smears, mammograms, bone density screenings and the PSA, as well as blood pressure and diabetes tests, where patients may be unaware that they have the diseases.
The forecast for highest growth in population in this region is the 65 years and older group according to the OVMC report. Another benefit to utilizing preventive care measures early is that more retirees could find nest egg dollars being used for retirement activities like travel or hobbies rather than medical bills.
What is the most important preventive health measure that anyone can and should take?
"The best measure that applies to everyone is eating a healthy diet and exercising," says Dr. Roe. "These only take a little time, but people are becoming more knowledgeable and taking preventive actions."
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.