Because recommended vaccines are required for kids to enter school, parents do an excellent job of getting their children the required vaccines. The same cannot be said for adults, largely due to a lack of awareness of the benefits of preventive care. Many American adults fail to get the basic health screenings and vaccines recommended by doctors.
You can be a champion for the health of others by motivating them to get recommended screenings and vaccines. Screenings like mammograms and cholesterol checks often detect chronic diseases in their early, most treatable stages. Vaccines can help stave off illnesses, like influenza and pneumonia, which kill tens of thousands of Americans every year. You can also educate others on the benefits of preventive care and help them to find convenient, affordable locations to get that preventive care.
Only 25% of the nearly 55 million Americans ages 50-64, and even fewer African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, receive recommended preventive services.
Many screenings and vaccines are available in walk-in clinics, community centers and even retail stores. Most screenings and vaccines take only a few minutes, although some, like a colonoscopy, can take a few hours.
By completing this project guide you will:
- Help people in your community learn the value of screenings and vaccines.
- Help people understand the screens they need and when they need them.
- Help people adopt healthier lifestyles by building good relationships with providers.
- Help people avoid and/or manage some health conditions by getting them to see their health care providers.
WHAT DO TO
STEP 1: REVIEW THE STAYING HEALTHY CHECKLIST
Review the staying healthy checklists (for women: www.ahrq.gov/ppip/women50.htm; and for men: www.ahrq.gov/ppip/men50.htm; also listed under Additional Resources) to see which screenings and vaccines your friends, family or people in your community should be getting. Healthy working adults who receive flu shots report fewer respiratory illnesses, fewer days of sick leave and fewer visits to a doctor.
Healthy working adults who receive flu shots report fewer respiratory illnesses, fewer days of sick leave and fewer visits to a doctor.
STEP 2: PERSUADE SOMEONE TO GET THE NEEDED SCREENS AND VACCINES
You might need to turn on your powers of persuasion to get people to agree to tests and shots. Show them the “Staying Healthy” checklist for their age and sex (under Additional Resources). Share some statistics from the Tip Sheet in this guide on how preventive care really helps people stay healthier later in life.
Many people have a long list of reasons for avoiding medical visits. Don’t fight them on every point. Just ask them to do it for you and for their family. Tell them that the people who love them want to enjoy their company for many more years to come, and this is one quick, easy step in helping to make that happen. Keep reading this guide for more suggestions about how to convince reluctant individuals.
Make note of all the medications the person is taking so they can share that information with the health care provider, if asked. This is more important with vaccines than with screenings, but could be useful information in either case.
For additional tips on helping someone prepare for a checkup, see Create the Good’s Take a Loved One to the Doctor project guide at http://www.createthegood.org/toolkit/take-loved-one-doctor.
“Here I am, the health and fitness ambassador for AARP, speaking to millions each month about staying healthy, and I let my annual checkups fall to the bottom of my to-do list. It's not all about eating right and exercising: preventive steps can make just as much — or in some cases more — of a difference. Getting my mammogram literally saved my life.”
— Martina Navratilova AARP Health and Fitness Ambassador
STEP 3: IDENTIFY LOCATIONS FOR SERVICES AND HELP SOMEONE GET THERE
Doctors’ offices, hospitals and health clinics offer screenings and vaccines, but they’re not your only options. Your local pharmacy, community center and other gathering places often will offer flu shots, cholesterol screenings and other simple preventive services. Many employers offer such services as well. Check with your human resources department to see if they have anything planned for the year. Even if they don’t, they may have suggestions for efficient, reliable and affordable screens and vaccines.
Also check with your local health department and read the local newspaper; both should have information on screenings and vaccines in your community. Another option is The AARP/Walgreens Wellness Tour (http://www.waytowelltour.com/). The Wellness Tour buses are driving across America offering free screenings in many communities. Some sites may require an appointment, so call before taking or sending anyone there.
Find out from a web search or a quick call to the provider what to expect at the visit. Quick, noninvasive screening? Taking a drop of blood? A mildly painful shot? A few minutes on a treadmill? Then share this information with the person who will get the care. If people know what to expect at the visit and don’t encounter any unwanted surprises, they are more likely to appreciate the value of the care — and that means they’ll be more willing to return for screens and vaccines in the future.
Make sure the person knows the appointment dates and times, and remind them a day or two in advance. If they do not have their own transportation, help ensure that they have reliable transport to and from the visits — from you, one of their family members or public transportation.
Screenings can help doctors detect and treat breast cancer and colorectal cancer. Hispanic/Latina women are more likely to die from breast cancer than from any other cancer. Breast cancer is also the second leading cancer death among black women. African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than people in other racial groups to die from colorectal cancer.
Screenings can help doctors detect and treat breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
STEP 4: ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO GET SERVICES
Share your enthusiasm for screenings and vaccines with your community! Use email lists, electronic newsletters, social networking websites and other online communications to reach a lot of people quickly and easily.
Encourage people to become familiar with the screenings and vaccines checklists, and let them know how you found places to get services.
Think of places you gather with friends and family and how you might help others in your group make themselves a priority. Take the checklist to family gatherings, church groups, neighborhood card games or garden clubs and talk to your friends about why it’s important to get immunized and screened. Include a reference in your annual holiday letter or add a tag line in your email signature (like “Get routine vaccines and screenings: Preventive care now saves lives later.”).
STEP 5: FOLLOW UP
Many screenings and shots need to be done annually. Here are some tips to continue with your screening and shot routines:
- Schedule the next appointment at the end of their visit.
- Have the doctor, clinic, or health provider send them a reminder in the mail or give them a call when the time for their next screening or immunization nears.
- Keep in touch with family and friends and remind each other of their next service.
- If eligible, have them enroll in Medicare to have a free annual well-visit to a doctor and receive a personalized disease prevention plan.
- Mark their calendar.
STEP 6: INSPIRE OTHERS ON CREATETHEGOOD.ORG
KEEP UP THE GOOD!
Visit www.CreateTheGood.org for a range of opportunities to use your life experience, skills and passions to benefit your community.
WHY GET PREVENTIVE SERVICES?
Many people don’t think they need screenings and vaccines. That’s understandable: It’s difficult to take time out of your day to go get a shot when you feel fine. The table below can help you convince friends, family and members of your community that preventive medicine makes sense.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT COMMON SHOTS & SCREENINGS
- The seasonal flu is a highly contagious disease caused by the influenza virus.
- Five percent to 20% of the U.S. population is affected each year.
- Flu shots help reduce the risk of being infected with the seasonal flu.
- The seasonal flu shot is recommended for individuals aged 50 and over annually.
- The medicine in the shot is made up of dead influenza virus, and the shot is given in the upper arm.
- Minor side effects can occur from the flu shot: aches, pain, swelling or bruising at the injection site and fever.
- Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that causes coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and nausea.
- To reduce the likelihood of getting pneumonia, the pneumococcal vaccine is available.
- All adults aged 65 and older, adults 19 through 64 who smoke or have asthma and nursing or long-term care residents should get the vaccine once if unvaccinated or if you are not sure if you've been vaccinated.
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women, regardless of race and ethnicity.
- Hispanic women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other cancer.
- Breast cancer is the second leading cancer death among African-American women.
- A mammogram can be used to detect breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages.
- Women should start breast cancer screening around age 50 (talk with a medical professional to determine your best starting point).
- Women aged 50-74 should have a mammogram every two years according to a doctor's order.
- Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women.
- African-American men and women are more likely to develop colorectal cancer: they are also more likely to die from the disease compared to other races and ethnicities.
- Hispanic/Latino populations also have a high risk for developing and dying from the disease, compared to other races and ethnicities.
- Colorectal cancer is the most common in people in over age 50.
- Screening is recommended for men and women aged 50-75.
- Up to 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women 50 and older were screened.
- Types of screening: high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy.
- Cholesterol is a natural substance needed by the body, but having too much can lead to stroke and heart disease, the number-one cause of death among adults in the U.S.
- “High cholesterol” is defined as 240 mg/dL and above; the desirable level for adults is less than 200 mg/dL.
- Nearly one in six adults has high cholesterol.
- Caucasians have the highest percentage of high cholesterol, followed by Mexican-Americans and then African-Americans.
- More women have high cholesterol than men.
- To test cholesterol, a health care provider performs a blood test that detects the good and bad cholesterol levels present in the blood.
- Screening can be done at any age — talking with a health care provider can help determine the best start point.
- Healthy adults should have their cholesterol levels tested every five years.
- High blood pressure can cause heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.
- One in three adults has high blood pressure.
- African-American men and women develop high blood pressure more often that other races.
- High blood pressure levels increase with age.
- You can get your blood pressure tested anywhere — by a doctor, using a machine at a drugstore or by a home monitoring kit.
A common health concern for many older men is prostate cancer. You may know someone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer or have seen the television commercials talking about screening. However, there is no prostate cancer screening recommendation that applies to all men. Instead, health care experts suggest men talk with a health care provider about prostate health.
Suggest to others that they may talk to a health care provider about:
- Prostate Cancer
- Tobacco Counseling
- Vision Tests
- Hearing Tests
- Physical Activity/Obesity
- Alcohol Counseling
- Depression Counseling
- Skin Cancer
WHERE TO GET SERVICES
No Health Insurance?
Screenings and vaccinations can be a financial burden on people who are without health insurance. Here are some tips for finding health centers when uninsured:
Where to Find Low-cost or Free Health Care Clinics
- Search for health centers near you or your loved ones that provide care regardless of ability to pay or insurance status.
- These clinics offer recommended vaccinations and screenings tests, along with many other important health services (such as dental care, mental health care and well-visit checkups).
Discover Federal and State Assistance Programs for Older Americans
- AARP Foundation has benefits finder tools that allows you to search a variety of federal- and state-level benefits programs.
- AARP Benefits QuickLINK focuses on benefits programs for older Americans, such as prescription and food assistance.
The table below suggests places where screenings and vaccines are typically offered.
HOW THE NEW HEALTH CARE LAW IMPACTS PREVENTIVE BENEFITS
The new health care law includes new prevention and wellness benefits that could help keep you healthy and catch health problems early. Under the new law, insurers must offer proven preventive services — like screenings, vaccines and checkups — to you at no additional out-of-pocket charge.
For People with Insurance:
The health care law requires some new health plans to cover important preventive and wellness benefits with no deductibles and copayments. Examples include services such as screenings and vaccines for cancer or influenza. This requirement applies to new individual and group insurance plans and is effective this year.
For People with Medicare:
Medicare will pay for an annual wellness visit and a personalized prevention plan.
The personalized prevention plan may include the following:
- An assessment of your health risks
- Your updated medical history
- A list of your current health care providers
- A list of your current prescription medications
- Your height, weight and blood pressure measurements
- A screening schedule for appropriate preventive services for you to follow over the next five to 10 years
- A list of your health risk factors along with treatment options
Medicare will also continue to cover a Welcome to Medicare physical exam for people who are new to the Medicare program. The Welcome to Medicare exam is free, with no deductibles and copayments. Those who are new to Medicare cannot get both the Welcome to Medicare exam and the annual wellness visit during their first 12 months of enrollment. The Welcome to Medicare exam is available during the first 12 months of enrollment into the Medicare program. The annual wellness visit takes place each year after that.
For those with a Medicare Advantage plan, most of these plans offer Medicare-covered preventive services with no deductibles and copayments. The new health care law does not require Medicare Advantage plans to offer preventive services free of charge. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, check to confirm what, if any,deductibles and copayments there are for preventive services.
Create the Good’s Take a Loved One to the Doctor Guide - www.CreateTheGood.org/toolkit/take-loved-one-doctor
Women: Stay Healthy at 50+ Checklists for your health - www.ahrq.gov/ppip/women50.htm
Men: Stay Healthy at 50+ Checklists for your health - www.ahrq.gov/ppip/men50.htm
Checklists for screening and health at any age - www.ahrq.gov/clinic/ppipix.htm#tools
Medicare Coverage of Preventive Health Services - http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10110.pdf
Top health issues among African-American and Hispanic/Latino populations - http://www.cdc.gov/minorityhealth/
Adult Vaccinations - adultvaccination.com/
AARP and Walgreens Wellness Tour: Free Health Screenings - http://www.waytowelltour.com/
Where to find low-cost or free health care clinics - http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/Search_HCC.aspx
Find a Flu Shot - www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/influenza/flu-clinic-locator/
Helping Children Diagnosed with Cancer with their Recovery- http://www.acco.org/