Take care! Here’s how.

By Meghan Cohen, MPH, Center for Health and Wellbeing

I always say “take care” to people when I’m saying goodbye, but sometimes I wonder  – are people taking care of themselves?

With the growing popularity of self-service resources like WebMD, it seems that health care providers want the patients (us!) to take more responsibility for their own health.  So should we wait until we’re seriously ill or injured to seek medical care? Of course not! But we also don’t need to go to the doctor at the first sniffle.

Data suggests that as many as 70% of all visits to doctors for new problems are unnecessary; 11% of those visits being for colds, and others for minor injuries like cuts that don’t require stitches and ankle sprains.

This idea of medical self-care can be difficult to understand.  It doesn’t mean you have to memorize medical textbooks or that you have to start using strange home remedies like applying mustard to burns – don’t ask.  It can be as simple as taking over-the-counter medicine for a cold or headache.  Here are some tips to help you “take care.”

  • Use your resources.  WebMD is a quick and convenient way to gather information about a variety of health topics, from the common cold to sex and relationships.  You can search the site based on your symptoms, read pertinent articles, or find more information about over-the-counter drugs and supplements. You could also invest in a book to keep at home, like the American Institute of Preventive Medicine’s “Healthier at Home.”
  •  Know thyself. What’s normal and what’s not?  Learn to recognize basic symptoms like pulse, temperature, congestion, etc.  This could help you to better utilize the resources mentioned above, and communicate more effectively with your doctor.
  • Get down with your doc.  Take an opportunity to familiarize yourself with your doctor and how he/she works and communicates.  It’s important to feel comfortable asking questions about your health. Familiarize yourself with the “Ask me 3” questions from the National Patient Safety Foundation and make them part of every conversation with your doctor.

And on that note, have ever been to the University Health Center? I know it can seem intimidating, but getting to know your health care providers (and where and how they work) is an important part of taking responsibility for your own health.

Conveniently, the University Health Center is having an Open House on Tuesday June 26th. You can come in and get a tour, meet the health care providers, get information about the services and resources, and maaaaybe even get some free Rita’s Ice!

There is no substitute for professional medical care when you’re seriously ill or injured, but we know you can handle the sniffles on your own.

Take responsibility for your own health, and keep in mind that health is NOT just the absence of disease.  Take time to improve your wellbeing every day – whether it’s physical, social, emotional, or spiritual.

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