Since the start of the pandemic, Americans have been postponing routine care. With more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, medical experts are urging patients to return to routine health care and get caught up on delayed or foregone preventive health screenings.
“While we know that prevention is the best medicine, the pandemic has caused many Americans to delay important routine health services vital to keeping themselves and their families healthy, particularly critical immunizations and preventive cancer screenings. We urge everyone to get up to date on their routine health care needs,” says Gerald E. Harmon, M.D., president of the American Medical Association (AMA).
According to the AMA, you and your family should take these six steps to get your health back on track:
- Get screened: Estimates based on statistical models show that since April 2020, 3.9 million breast cancer, 3.8 million colorectal cancer and 1.6 million prostate cancer diagnoses may have been missed due to pandemic-related care disruptions. Check in with your health care provider. If you’re due for preventive care, tests or screenings, make an appointment. These measures are designed to keep you healthy and help your doctor spot certain conditions before they become more serious.
- Don’t wait: An estimated 41% of adults with one or more chronic health conditions reported delaying or forgoing health care since the pandemic started. Additionally, one in three of those adults reported that doing so worsened one or more of their health conditions or limited their abilities to work or perform other daily activities. Whether you have a chronic health condition or not, don’t wait until something is wrong before seeing a doctor. If something does feel off, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
- Consider telehealth: If you’re uncomfortable or unable to go in person to your physician’s practice, check on telehealth options, which have greatly increased over the past two years.
- Visit your pediatrician: During the pandemic, pediatric immunizations decreased. As public health measures are rolled back, people gather in groups, and traveling resumes, non-COVID-19 infections that decreased during the pandemic are likely to increase again. Well-child visits and recommended vaccinations are essential to helping ensure children stay healthy and protected from serious diseases. If your child is due for a check-up, schedule one immediately.
- Get vaccinated: Adolescents and adult immunizations also sharply declined during the pandemic and an estimated 26 million recommended vaccinations were missed in 2020 as compared to 2019. Get up to date on vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Everyone who’s eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, including booster doses, should get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones. If you have questions, speak with your physician and review trusted resources, including getvaccineanswers.org.
- Don’t neglect mental health: While mental health screenings via digital health tools are up, routine care for mental health is down. Approximately 52% of adults with mental health conditions delayed or forewent care since the pandemic began. Given the adverse effects the events of the past two years have had on mental health, such as increasing anxiety, depression and loneliness, it’s especially important to prioritize this aspect of your health now.
For more resources, visit ama-assn.org.
“We encourage everyone to contact their trusted medical professional to schedule their annual physical and other vital care to help prevent serious health repercussions that could potentially last long past the pandemic,” says Dr. Harmon.