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Health Advocacy

We all have the right and the responsibility to take charge of our health.  Be your own advocate and become directly involve in your health care.  Learn about communicating with your doctor, navigating the healthcare system, and addressing health issues important to your community.   Advocacy efforts not only support and promote your health, but also provide access to resources that mobilize you and your community members closer to the goal of reducing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes.

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Preparing for My Doctor’s Visit

 

Recent Changes in Your Health:

Pay attention to your symptom(s), especially if there are new symptoms.

  • What is the location, duration, and character of the discomfort?
  • What brings them on?  What worsens them?  What relieves them?

List all your medications and dosages.

  • Include all prescription and nonprescription medications and over-the-counter supplements, vitamins, and minerals.
    • Consider bringing them with you to show your doctor.

Bring any hospitalization/emergency records and procedures reports with you.

 

Before your appointment, make a list of questions and concerns.

Overall, there are 3 types of doctor visits:

 1. Sick patient

2. Follow-up visit

3. Routine check-up

       1.    When You Are Sick:

When preparing for this type of visit, you would like to know, “What illness do I have?”

When you are sick, the doctor will want to know about your illness.  The following are several questions you should be ready to answer:

1. What are your symptoms?

2. When did your symptoms start?

3. Have you ever had these symptoms in the past?

4. Did you recently start a new medicine, increase in stress, a new injury, or other new event?

5. What were you doing when your symptoms started?

6. Did these symptoms change over time?

7. What made your symptoms better or worse?

8. What made you come to the doctor suddenly?

 

If the doctor prescribes a new medication, be sure to ask:

√  How long should I take the medicine?

√  What are the side effects to these medications?

√  Will the new medication for this illness interfere with any medicine I am already on?

  1.  2.    Follow-Up Visit:


Follow-up visits should help you and your doctor evaluate your treatment progress.  The purpose of the follow-up visit is for your doctor to know if you are progressing as expected. The following are several questions to consider on the follow-up visit:

1. How am I doing?

2. Should I be doing anything else?

3. If/When will I be able to stop the treatment?

4. When should I make my next appointment?

5. Have I been feeling worse or better since my first visit?

On the other hand, if you have not improved, ask questions for a sick visit and some of the questions for a follow-up visit as listed below.  If you have improved, the following type of questions may be used to monitor your progress:

1. How did the symptom change since the last visit?

2. Have you noticed any new symptoms since your last visit?

3. Do you have any medication side effects?

4. Were you able to take your medicine or treatment routinely?  Did you miss any doses?  If so, why did you miss your dose?

5. Did you make any lifestyle changes?

6. What makes your symptoms better or worse?

7. When, after starting treatment, did you notice a difference?

3.    Routine Visit:

A routine visit is a “baseline” or reference point for other visits. This is the visit to discuss preventive medicine, ending certain medications that you may be on, health maintenance issues (screening tests), and overall health. The following are some of the type of questions to consider:

1. How are you feeling on your current treatment?

2. Are there any lifestyle changes that you should make?

3. What preventive or screening tests should you undergo?

4. Is there a way you could change your medications to decrease the number of pills you take each day?

5. Are you happy with your current treatment your quality of life? Why or why not?

 

New Patient Information Needed for Initial Visit:

Contact information:

Name

Date of Birth

Gender

Home Address (including city, state, and zip code)

Phone Number

E-mail

 

Parent/Guardian/Other Support Person

Phone Number/Other Contact Information

Relationship

 

Primary Care Physician:

Name

Location

Phone Number

 

Specialist Physician/Other Health Care Provider:          

Name

Location

Phone Number

 

Preferred Pharmacy:

Name

Location

Phone Number

 

Insurance information:

Insurance Provider:   

Policy Number:

Phone Number:

 

Pharmacy Insurance Provider:

Policy Number:

Phone Number:

 

Medications:

Medication name

Instructions/Dosage

 

Medical History :

Blood Type:

Allergies:

Dietary Restrictions:

Immunizations (attach copies of immunization records, including dates):

 

Recent Laboratory Results:           

 

Recent Hospitalizations (include dates): 

 

Recent Surgeries (include dates):

 

Resources:

1.    Talk With Your Doctor:  http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/diaginf4.htm
2.    Talking to Your Doctor, Resources from NIH: http://www.nih.gov/clearcommunication/talktoyourdoctor.htm
3.    http://www.planforyourhealth.com/living-healthy/at-the-doctor/article/show/prepare-for-your-visit-to-the-doctor-a-checklist/

 

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Screening Tests for Health

Screening is a test or exam done to find out if a condition exists before symptoms start.  Screening tests can help prevent or find diseases early-on, when they are easier to treat. Which tests you need depends on your age, gender, family history and whether you have risk factors for certain diseases. For example, being overweight can increase your risk of developing diabetes.  There are several kinds of screening tests, including:

Cardiovascular

√  High blood pressure


    • Adults, age 18 and older should be screened for high blood pressure, at least every 2 years

√  High cholesterol                                                                                      


    • Cholesterol testing should be done in men 35 years and older and women 45 years and older who have heart disease risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of cardiovascular disease.

√  Diabetes

    •  Anyone 45 years of age or older should consider getting tested for diabetes.
      • If you are younger than 45, overweight, and have one or more risk factors (ex. overweight, physical inactivity, family history, ethnic minority [African American, Hispanic, Native American], high blood pressure, or high cholesterol), you should also be screened for diabetes.

Cancer

√   Women:  Breast and cervical cancer

    • Breast cancer:  Women should have a yearly clinical breast exam by a doctor to feel for any lumps and bumps.  If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, you should get the first mammogram 10 years before your relative was diagnosed.
      • Starting at age 40, a mammogram (breast X-ray) should be done every one or two years.  
      • Women older than 50 should have yearly mammograms.
    • Cervical cancer:  Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., but the widespread use of the pap test has significantly decreased deaths from this cancer.
      •  According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, after becoming sexually active for three years or by age 21, women need an annual pap test to detect any abnormal cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer.  The pap test should be done yearly until age 30; after 30, if a healthy woman has had three completely normal pap tests, she may be able to have a pap test every two to three years (but should still see a gynecologist every year for an exam).

√    Men:  Prostate cancer

    • In men 50 years and older, the use of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test along with a digital rectal exam can help detect prostate cancer.
      • In high risk men (ex. African American men and men who have a first-degree relative [father, brother, or son] diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than age 65), the screening discussion should begin at age 40 for these men at high risk of developing prostate cancer.

√     Colorectal cancer: 

    • According to the American Cancer Society, beginning at age 50, men and women should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
      • If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to be screened earlier.
      • A colonoscopy allows a doctor to view the inside of the entire colon for signs of cancer or polyps or small growths that can eventually become cancerous.

Osteoporosis:  Condition of increased susceptibility to fractures due to fragile bones.

√    Beginning at age 65, women should be screened routinely for osteoporosis.

    • Screening should begin at age 60 for women who are at increased risk for fractures (ex. family history of fractures, Caucasian, slender frame, history of smoking or alcohol abuse)

 

Resources:

1.    Health Screening:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/healthscreening.html

 

2.    Screening Tests and Vaccines: 

      http://www.womenshealth.gov/screening-tests-and-vaccines/