by DR. JOY JACKSON
During the start of a new year, people typically make promises to themselves to improve and better their lives. The Department of Health in Polk County would like to encourage Polk residents to make a substantial change in their thinking toward health, and that is practicing preventive health.
Why Is Preventive Health Important?
Preventive health is proactive instead of reactive. It anticipates potential health issues before they arise, rather than reacting to urgent health crises. Our bodies are finely tuned engines. Much like we take in our vehicles for routine tune-ups so that they perform optimally, our bodies require a similar level of care. Thus, preventive health is about what we do on a regular basis in order to prevent chronic disease and detect health problems as early as possible so we can live our best lives.
In Florida, 77.7% of adults had a medical checkup in 12 months in 2021. The most recent Polk County statistics from 2019 were similar—75.6% of Polk County residents had a medical checkup in a 12-month timespan. In comparison to Florida, Polk County has higher rates of death from such chronic diseases as heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as deaths from various cancers. Preventive health measures can mitigate the risk of chronic disease as well as diagnose and treat cancers before they become fatal.
What Are Some Ways You Can Practice Preventive Health?
Routine Health Checkups: Prioritize regular visits to medical providers for comprehensive examinations and screenings. These checkups serve as proactive measures to identify and address potential health issues.
Vaccinations: Vaccinations are one of the best and safest ways to proactively protect your health. Children need vaccinations throughout their childhood before they are exposed to potential life-threatening illnesses. Adults need to keep vaccinations up-to-date as the immunity provided from some childhood vaccinations can wear off. Ask your healthcare provider about vaccination schedules. You can also stay informed about recommended vaccinations based on age and health condition by visiting cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html.
Screenings: Screenings are tests that detect diseases early. Many diseases present no symptoms and can only be detected via screening. Participate in screenings tailored to your health needs, such as cancer screenings. Early detection through screening is key to preventing the progression of diseases. Many diseases left untreated or caught too late may lead to serious complications and even death. You can learn about cancer screenings for breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers at cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/screening.htm.
Know Family History: Some health conditions run in families. For instance, if you have a close family member with a condition like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or osteoporosis, you’re more likely to develop that condition yourself. Ultimately, knowledge is empowering for your health. Talk to your family members and inform your healthcare providers of your medical family history. Armed with this knowledge, you and your healthcare provider can be prepared and take steps to prevent and catch diseases early.
Where Can You Go in Polk County for Preventive Health Care?
If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can contact the Department of Health in Polk County. No one is denied services due to financial difficulties. You can call us at 863-519-7910 for screenings and preventive exam information and you can call 863-519-8233 for vaccination schedules.
Early detection and prevention not only benefit individuals but also contribute to the overall health of our Polk County community. In 2024, take proactive steps for your health.
About the Author: Dr. Joy Jackson, an internal medicine physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk). For more information about DOH-Polk, visit mypolkhealth.org. Follow DOH-Polk on Twitter at twitter.com/FLHealthPolk.