Healthcare Must Remain Top Priority
Officials at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital are warning all Americans to pay attention to their healthcare and not put off getting needed care -- whether preventative or physician recommended -- despite the tough economic times currently facing the country.
"When people defer care, conditions usually tend to worsen," said Hospital Chief of Staff Mark Sender, MD. "It is far better, and in the long run cheaper, to catch health issues early on before they turn into a long-range debilitating condition, such as heart attack, stroke or uncontrollable malignancy."
Chief among the areas of heightened concern that people are warned not to forgo are mammograms, colonoscopies, flu shots, childhood immunizations, and blood pressure and cholesterol checks. In addition, expectant mothers are urged not to sacrifice prenatal care, seniors are reminded to not skimp on the prescriptions they are taking, and everyone is reminded of the importance of an annual physical.
"It sometimes sounds like a cliche, but there truly is nothing more important than your health," says Gregory Jenkins, MD, a member of Henry Mayo's medical staff and the medical director of The Doctor's Office, one of the largest family practices in Santa Clarita. "Everyone is feeling the economic pinch, but healthcare must remain one of your absolute highest priorities, right next to food and shelter."
In this environment there is reason for concern. With the United States unemployment rate jumping from 4.7 percent to more than 6 percent over the past year, many Americans have lost their health insurance. Still others are being forced to make tough decisions regarding where to put their dollars and how to stretch their budgets. And the healthcare industry is already seeing scary results.
According to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of respondents who said they or a family member have put off needed care climbed to 36 percent in October, up from 29 percent just six months earlier. Nearly one-third had passed on a recommended test or treatment, up from 24 percent in that same period. In both instances, one-fifth said that the condition worsened as a result.
"There is a real and legitimate fear that people may try to cut corners and skip their annual cancer screenings this year, such as mammography, because of the recession," says Gregory Senofsky, MD, medical director of Henry Mayo's Breast Center, clinical faculty member at UCLA's surgical oncology department, and the author of The Patient's Guide to Outstanding Breast Cancer Care. "This could be disastrous. I tell people that your life is not worth jeopardizing due to the recession."
Along with individual responsibility, Dr. Sender believes that it is increasingly important for employers, who often bear the expenses of covering healthcare conditions, to keep their workforce as healthy as possible. "Employers need to focus on preventative care for their workforce and make sure that they don't put off such things as screenings and annual physicals. In the long run, nutrition education, screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol checks are relatively low cost in comparison with treating the health crisis that can result when bad lifestyle habits go unchecked."