Originally published in The Tennessean, January 2022
We’ve entered a third year where COVID-19 remains a primary health concern on the minds of not only all Tennesseans, but practically everyone on the planet. We should remain vigilant and do our part to slow its spread. But we can’t lose sight of the everyday health concerns that are so often set aside.
During this past year, odds are you haven’t felt well and experienced symptoms that aren’t indicative of COVID-19. Whether it’s a nagging pain, persistent heartburn or even symptoms of a condition that runs in your family, you may have put off seeking diagnoses and treatment from your doctor.
Other priorities like child care and work — or as I see with many colleagues and loved ones, managing both at the same time — have a way of pushing preventive health care to the back burner.
While this mindset is logical in the moment, we mustn’t neglect our long-term health goals and needs, either. And a new year remains an opportune time to reassess and recommit to our health.
Resolve for yourself
Managing our health may feel like a self-centered endeavor, which could be why so many of us struggle with it. As both a doctor and a parent, it’s sometimes difficult to put myself first, even just to make time for exercise. Juggling careers and the needs of our families, particularly young children, requires a lot of bandwidth.
But accepting the necessity to focus on yourself — and letting go of any accompanying guilt — is a hurdle many of us must clear. From there, you can dive into your diet, exercise and other preventive care needs.
Your first step should be scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider. They can help you establish an overall picture of your health and set realistic goals.
If you’re one of the many Tennesseans who live with ongoing health conditions like diabetes or heart disease, a primary care provider can help you keep up with medications and routine screenings.
Routine steps like these can improve your quality of life for the rest of your life.
Of course, the cost of care is always a concern, no matter the illness or injury. And making care more affordable is one of our most important jobs as a health insurance company. For BlueCross, it starts with our provider networks and the discounts we negotiate for health care services.
We’ve also introduced a new option for Tennesseans. BlueCross members can visit one of the eight primary care clinics, opened through a partnership between BlueCross and Sanitas, in Middle and West Tennessee. These clinics make access to primary care more affordable and convenient.
Don’t forget vaccines
No matter where you seek care, your provider will likely recommend you get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu. It remains your best defense against severe disease. Vaccines continue to significantly reduce cases of severe illness and death. That matters as hospital bed availability has dwindled, due not only to the Omicron surge but also to staffing shortages.
Hospitals are reporting that their intensive care units are primarily filled with unvaccinated patients.
But even with the increased demand on the health care system, your doctor would prefer to work with you to prevent illness or help you manage a condition you already have so that don’t end up with an emergency situation. If they advise you get tested before coming in, remember that every household can now get free at-home tests through covidtests.gov.
I’m confident we will get through these difficult days. I also know we all want health and happiness for those who matter most to us. They inspire us to be our best selves, as well.