Look, let’s not beat around the bush. Yes, we can see the irony. Yes, we work in healthcare communications and yes, we spend every working day encouraging people to seek healthcare advice to ensure the correct diagnosis, lifestyle change or treatment is implemented early. But do we always practice what we preach? The honest answer is no. So, let’s talk about it, because if you’re reading this and you also work in the healthcare industry, it might sound all too familiar.
We’re not here to lecture you.
We don’t need to tell you that delaying seeing a healthcare professional can impact health outcomes, including mortality (yes scary, but it needs to be said). We’ve worked on enough disease awareness campaigns throughout the years to know better. But there’s something within us that stops us from booking that much needed GP, dentist or physio appointment – the list goes on.
Everyone’s busy, and we’re all human. But we can’t advise others about positively changing behaviour if we’re not holding the big old healthcare mirror up to ourselves too. As one of our 10 Challenges for 10 Years of CHC, we’ve decided to challenge our team to nip their inner health hypocrite in the bud for the rest of the year and get those lingering health concerns addressed.
We’ve all got different reasons for not accessing healthcare when we need it.
We’ve explored some of the most common barriers to seeking healthcare. While many of these barriers require system level change, some can be overcome by the individual. The first step of any behaviour change is to be conscious of your thinking and actions, so that you can change them. So, what’s stopping us from taking action?
1. Trust: Sharing health concerns and symptoms, seeking advice and making decisions all require trust in the healthcare professional and service being used. Mistrust and misinformation can prevent access to healthcare for many people
2. Accessibility: Navigating the healthcare system is not always easy with multiple barriers along the way from language and digital literacy to travel and time to attend appointments
3. Shame: Perceived embarrassment and stigma around seeking health advice for ‘taboo’ issues, such as mental and sexual health, substance abuse, menopause or dementia can prevent people from seeing a GP or nurse
4. Fear: We all know that feeling of ‘what if it’s really serious?’ So, burying our head in the sand can feel like the easier option at the time
In addition to the points above, we can’t forget good old ‘Dr Google’. Pre-Google, we went to our trusty family doctor or maybe popped into the local pharmacy, but this is no longer the case. With access to a vast array of online health information at our fingertips (literally), faster-paced lifestyles, the rise of artificial intelligence, and continued pressure on NHS resources, having an in-person, pre-booked appointment can feel very disconnected from our very connected lives. And this means we can often put off making that all-important appointment.
We’ve made progress with our challenge and feel better for it!
Since writing this blog and exploring our own barriers, members of the CHC team have taken this latest challenge head-on. Across the team, we’ve tackled a range of health worries that we’ve been avoiding for too long. An odd-looking mole was checked out, and an abdominal ultrasound was completed – both were given the all-clear. We registered for a new doctor following a city move and visited the optician for what we now know is a lazy eye! Without getting into detail or oversharing, we have collectively felt a sense of relief to finally have had these health worries checked out.
Look out for our next blog on how some of our team, and their families, are going one step further to look after their health.