It was a fight from the beginning.
Even though I tried to be stealth about it, he knew. Today, was the day to take my cat for his annual health check. Animals are not so different than their human counter parts. It was a struggle to get Max rounded up and ready to go to the vet. I know it can be equally difficult to convince my family or friends to go too. They minimize, deny, or self diagnose and self prescribe instead of being proactive and aggressive with their own health.
There are a plethora of excuses to avoid going to the doctor.
Medicine just makes you sicker. My great aunt, grandmother, [insert relative of choice here], was fine until s/he went to the doctor. The truth is, many of them were fine until they became ill AND they likely would have returned to health or lived longer with proper medical care. As a minority, I have also heard the fearful belief that They just want to experiment on us. Even though the Tuskegee experiment/ tragedy was many years ago, many African Americans seem to have that fear in the back of their minds.
In addition, the divisive electoral rhetoric about immigrants sucking up American resources also trickles down to healthcare practices. Would you want to risk documentation and governmental scrutiny at the doctor’s office if you immigrated from an oppressive country? How likely would you be to trust someone else in authority with your life or your child’s life?
Now, add to that heightened fear of deportation or jail.
Suddenly, healthcare is not a priority or you rely more on folk medicine and home remedies. Let me be clear, I am not against holistic or alternative care. These adjunct healthcare practices are becoming more accepted and evidence based. For example, there are several reputable studies on the benefits of meditation for pain management and healing by reputable scientists and medical schools.
We have progressed from using spider webs to “heal” a severely gouged finger (an example from my own mother) to various studies using apple cider vinegar or aloe vera and other naturally occurring substances. There are many books out there by reputable physicians and homeopathic physicians to help you understand what is available.
There are informative websites such as www.webmd.com and www.earthclinic.com. The key is knowing when to rely solely upon traditional medical treatment, to use a combination of traditional and alternative, or to use alternative treatment only. One must also know which treatments will be covered by insurance. Be sure to arm yourself with as much information as possible and ask as many questions as needed to make an informed decision.
It is well documented that individuals who do not participate in preventive care often are seen in critical care settings where costs are far greater, and for some, the prognosis of recovery is poor. I’m blessed to be able to pay for insurance for my pets and myself. Does it cover everything? No. Is it cheap? No. Do I have a high deductible? Yes. However, I DO have preventive care and the potential for rewards and discounts for engaging in healthy habits (e.g., going to the gym regularly or participating in health education). It was not easy finding a policy that fit, nor is it always easy navigating the massive rules and regulations that govern my care. Failure to comprehend those rules cost me $2000 out of pocket, an expensive lesson on how deductibles work. Now, I am even more vigilant about it and I never hesitate to call my insurance as many times as it takes to clarify my responsibility for costs and to help plan for expenses.
For those who cannot afford their own plan and are not provided one through their employer, there are still some free clinics through the Health Department or Planned Parenthood. You can even get some free health screenings at your local pharmacy. Some is much better than none and so is free or relatively cheap compared to 100% responsibility for an ER bill.
In summary, I urge everyone to be proactive and engage in preventive healthcare maintenance. I also urge you to get out and vote this season because many of these issues are on the ballot whether you are voting for the president or senators or congressman or judges, or amendments. If you are not registered, get registered. Many can do so at their libraries, online, or at the Supervisor of Elections’s website. Some candidates even have links to mobile applications that help you register. It is up to us as citizens to make our voice and our vote count!