Check it out ... when you just can’t wait to get sick

SOMETIMES the simplest measures can make the biggest difference in people’s lives.

So it is with Hunter New England Health’s Better Health Check initiative, introduced in 2010 and now reaching more than 58,000 people.

Program manager Paula Wye said the program was started as a way to promote preventative health checks within the community and is part of a visit to any of Hunter New 

England Health’s community-based services.

“There are a number of factors that can impact an individual’s lifestyle,” Dr Wye said.

“The health check is a way for us to work with our clients and identify any factors that may impact their quality of life including their likelihood of illness, infection and injury and then finding ways to change these habits and reduce the risk.

“We ask questions about a client’s everyday habits like how and what they eat, the amount of exercise they do, if they smoke and drink alcohol, if they are fully up to date with schedule immunisations and their risk of falls.”

She said their answers helped identify any areas of risk so clinicians were then able to equip the client with the tools and support necessary to bring about change.

Dr Wye is a passionate believer in the program, which was actually first trialled in this region before being rolled out across the whole health district.

She said when half the district’s health care costs were devoted to the treatment of chronic disease, such as diabetes and heart conditions, a preventative program like the Better Health Check made perfect sense.

“Why I’m so passionate about it is that it’s a shift from a health system that waits for people to get sick ... to looking at keeping people well,” she said.

The proof of its success was in some of the examples of those who’d made drastic lifestyle changes.

“Quite elderly people have decided it’s to finally make changes after going through this check,” Dr Wye said.

One man in his 70s, she said who’d been a longtime smoker decided to quit, while a clinician going through the check with an elderly lady in her 90s who was at risk of falls, realised it was her poor eyesight that was to blame.

“We were able to get her to see an optometrist and she’s still living at home,” Dr Wye said.

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