Life expectancy has experienced extraordinary growth, lengthening for five years worldwide to reach an average of 71.4 years of life. However, inequalities persist. While life expectancy in Japan is 86.8 years, in Sierra Leone, the average is 50.8. Many external factors, which we cannot control, influence this gap and affect our health in various ways. Beyond them, what can we do to better manage our health?
Be proactive in self-care
It is important to avoid risky behaviours for health, such as tobacco consumption and alcohol abuse, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating, and replace them with healthy habits. This includes exercising regularly and adopting a diet enriched with fruits and vegetables and low in carbohydrates. These measures can prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, and some types of cancers.
Go to the annual medical check-up, even if you think you don’t need it.
The annual medical check-up allows making timely detections and, therefore, improving the results in the treatment and the quality of life. This is specifically true for diabetes, hypertension, and early forms of breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate, and skin cancers.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a chronic illness, adopting this practice can save your life. Most chronic diseases begin without symptoms and progress to advanced stages. This is when urgent complications appear that require complex treatments, and it can be too late to perform them effectively, as in the case of cancer.
Actively participate in the process of taking care of your health.
If the doctor does his part, you must do yours. This means taking the prescribed medicines regularly and regularly attending scheduled appointments, participating in making decisions about your treatment and adhering to the full treatment, following the recommendations on diet and exercise, among others.
Find out about how the care you receive should be …
Multiple investigations have revealed that health care is often inadequate, both from the technical-medical point of view and from the patient’s perspective on the treatment and conditions of care. This negative situation reduces the possibility of achieving good health results, both for detection and prevention actions and for treatment and self-care at home.
Examples of inadequate technical-medical care include ineffective treatment according to evidence-based clinical guidelines, lack of coordination of care between different health services, and lack of continuity of care, among others. In addition to technical quality failures, inadequate care can be reflected in negative patient experiences.
And it demands high-quality care!
The evidence highlights that as countries move towards universal health coverage and achieve it, health systems must provide people with high-quality care. Patients should expect respectful treatment from competent providers who can promote and maintain health throughout their life cycle.
Just as important is that people be active participants in their health care and care. During the consultation with health professionals, they must make themselves heard and demand respectful treatment and clear information about their condition and treatment to perform the best possible self-care. They should also participate in the evaluations of health professionals and services through surveys that allow them to share their experiences with health services and other mechanisms to send their complaints or comments on deficiencies in the care received. Community groups, such as local health councils, play an important role in promoting transparency in the performance of health institutions through regular public reporting on what matters most to citizens.
Each of these activities will allow the problems detected in health care to become essential components in the design and delivery of a high-quality and truly patient-centred model of care. But without your involvement, little will be accomplished. Your health needs you as much as you need it!