May 27 | Tennessean: Establishing a stable health routine helps prepare for unexpected such as COVID-19 | Opinion

Establishing a stable health routine helps prepare for unexpected such as COVID-19 | Opinion

The Tennessean
Dr. Andrea Willis

May 27, 2020

 

Taking preventive steps in your health can help you or your loved ones, whether it be a new fight like COVID-19, or a familiar one like the flu.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have put off your routine medical care. It may feel natural, as many of us have been following safety protocols and postponing non-essential appointments of all kinds over the past few months. But now more than ever, it’s important for all of us to get the preventive care we need — and easier since BlueCross and some other insurers are waiving some member costs and making telehealth resources more accessible.

I often hear about people who haven’t managed health conditions like heart disease as well as they should. For example, a woman in her mid-60s with heart disease who may have been unable to make healthy lifestyle choices after her diagnosis, or hasn’t addressed the depression that may have resulted from it, or doesn’t take her medications as directed by her physician.

This can all lead to her immune system being compromised, and her being more at risk of complications from other illnesses, such as the novel coronavirus.

That doesn’t mean falling ill from the coronavirus is the fault of anyone living with a chronic health condition. Even if someone is taking all the recommended steps, they could still have a harder time managing their health due to factors outside their control.

 

Seeking to create better health routines

Minorities often serve in public-facing essential roles, and as a result, are less able to work from home. These communities face unique social challenges related to housing and food deserts. The coronavirus has disproportionately impacted those communities here in Tennessee (and across the country).

When compared to white Americans, minorities often face higher rates of illness and worse health outcomes, whether from common ailments (such as heart disease) or a novel coronavirus like COVID-19.

As of May 19, African Americans in particular represent 21% of COVID-19 cases and roughly 31% of deaths across the state — despite comprising only 17% of the population.

These disparities and what can result for certain communities amplify why preventive care and maintenance are so important.

As a physician, I stress making your provider your partner in your care. They are committed to your health journey and can recommend and schedule routine preventive health screenings. You can also work with your PCP to build a medical support team. Have questions about healthy food choices when options are limited? Consult a dietitian who can identify resources in your area. Concerned about your mental health? Find a behavioral health care coordinator with whom you can share your feelings.

And as many of us continue to stay home more than usual, make healthy lifestyle changes a family-and-friends affair. For example, you can plan meals as a family or create a fitness routine together.

Taking preventive steps in your health can help you or your loved ones, whether it be a new fight like COVID-19, or a familiar one like the flu.

Whatever your path forward, BlueCross is committed to supporting you. We’ve made it easier for our members to get the care they need by waiving all cost-sharing for testing and treatment related to COVID-19.

For challenged communities, we’re sharing information on COVID-19 testing, texting online resources to members who are high-risk and face social or health care disparities, and proactively contacting and emailing members who fall into certain susceptible categories to discuss safety precautions.

We’re also helping you manage your chronic conditions by expanding access to in-network telehealth services permanently. This allows virtual visits from the comfort of your home.

With proper management, you can still enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life. During these difficult times, resources to help you do so are available.

 

Andrea D. Willis, M.D., MPH, FAAP, is senior vice president and chief medical officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.