By Allan Jones
Pride Health Columnist
With the media constantly bombarding us with the results of this or that medical study, and the many websites, TV programs, social media, friends and family offering information about the ability to self-diagnose, many of you may be not doing the annual medical check-up, thinking we know it all. On the other hand, there are many who, based on the various health information available, do the yearly routine, just to reassure themselves that everything is fine. According to a recent StatsCan survey, 63 percent of those who regularly go for physical exams do it for the sense of reassurance it provides.
There are two parts to the annual visit to your family doctor, the talking portion and your physical exam. The annual checkup is a good time to go through your list of issues. The time spent talking to your doctor is the most important part of the exam. This is where you will not only discuss physical symptoms you may be experiencing, but also any changes in your life, such as stress, weight issues, a new medication, a death in the family or divorce.
Even if you are living in Canada without the proper documentation, no health card etc., you should still do your annual check-up. Community Health Centres, like Rexdale, TAIBU, Black Creek, and Bramalea, will provide you with a doctor with no questions asked about your landed status.
Many patients go and see their family doctor for the examination, with many questions in their head, however during the examination they forget, and so the visit is not as useful as it could be, so how do you prepare for a doctor’s visit to do a physical?
First of all you need to set a date and arrive prepared. When you call to make your appointment tell the receptionist the reason for your visit is for a physical. Knowing this, your doctor will generally set aside about 30 minutes to meet with you. You should write down and bring any questions you may have for your doctor about your health, and you need to insist that the doctor answers the question, and that you understand the answers. It is also a good idea to bring a list of all the medication and supplements you are taking. This is especially important if other doctors have prescribed something your family doctor may be unaware of, or if you purchased some natural product on your own. Also, record any family history of disease and share with the doctor, for example, if your mother and father are diabetic, and you are not, there is a great possibility that you could develop diabetes. With this knowledge the doctor is able to discuss diabetes preventative measures with you.
If you are seeing a new doctor for the first time, you should try to have any previous medical records sent over to the doctor, prior to your exam. This information will help your new doctor understand your medical history.
Last year the Ontario government reached a deal with Ontario physicians, through the Ontario Medical Association to make the annual physical, by your family doctor, quicker and involve fewer tests for most healthy adults. The objective is to personalize the process, so that if you need more tests you will get more testing, and if you need fewer tests you will get fewer tests.
With this in mind, it is now even more critical that for Black individuals an annual check-up should involve diabetes screening, cholesterol check, blood pressure, kidneys and cancer screening. If you are Black and your doctor is not conducting these tests, please ask. It is also a good time where we as voters can talk to our MPP and MP and demand an extension of this personalizing of health care by the Ontario government to involve ethnicity. We need treatments and tests to be based on our ethnicity, recognizing the multicultural/diversity nature of Ontario’s makeup. It is documented through research that people have the propensity to contract different diseases and ailments based on their ethnic make-up.
Many of us have cars which we occasionally take for servicing. The body also needs servicing and this is what the annual physical examination offers. It allows us to identify problems before they become major problems, and can be treated easily. Remember though, that once the appointment is set, you should prepare yourself and have your questions ready for your doctor. Ask the questions, listen to the doctor’s answers carefully, and make sure you understand the answers. Act on the advice provided by your doctor. Your health is in your hands.
Allan Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.