I am a firm believer in being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to your health.
What does that mean?
In the United States, the cost of preventable illnesses was estimated at $730.4B in 2016 and that number continues to rise. The healthcare system invests more on medical treatment than medical prevention. That is one of the many reasons I decided to pursue a Master's in public health. My other reason is that Black women in the U.S are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions such as anemia, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. The issue with chronic conditions is not only an issue for Black women, as 60% of Americans have at least one chronic illness, but racial and gender inequity raises the alarm for Black women.
Preventative care services are underutilized in the United States. Researchers have found that underutilization of health services is not an information gap, but an implementation gap.
In other words, doctors are paid to treat rather than prevent disease. So, without people getting sick, there is no gain for them. But with the understanding that not all illnesses are preventative, is there not some incentive to try to stop those that can be? To this I say - the solution lies in patients. People have to be more proactive about their health.
In 2022, I set my goals to be more proactive about my health. I wanted to utilize all the preventative services my health insurance gave me. Privileged to have good insurance through my employer, I knew I had to utilize the benefit that most Americans cannot get. I was going to go to my Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN), Ophthalmologist, Dentist, and Primary care physician. To ensure I succeeded with these visits, I gave myself a deadline at the end of the financial Q1. If my healthcare was going to be privatized, then I was going to make my response based on a financial quarter.
Eager to succeed, even though the definition of success would be a clean bill of health, I made my first stop – the OB/GYN office.
Every woman in their life needs to see an OB/GYN, especially Black women. Black women’s reproductive health is consistently under battle. Black women in the United States suffer from high rates of poor health outcomes and maternal mortality. Particularly, Black women suffer from Uterine fibroids, the most common benign pelvic tumor at a higher rate than other women. According to researchers, more than 80% of Black women will have uterine fibroids by age 50 but only 20%-50% have fibroid related symptoms. Additionally, not all doctors routinely perform screening for fibroids. This leaves the true incidence of the disease at bay. However with the high incidence rate, it is shocking to know that there is little understanding about the disease.
To make a long story shorter, during this one particular OB/GYN appointment, I had a sonogram for the first time. As I mentioned before, I am not one to shy away from my annual exams, but I was surprised to have received a sonogram at this new office. To my surprise, I found out I had several uterine fibroids.
I was shocked!
I wanted to learn more! Are they dangerous? Can they be removed?
Here is some information from the research I conducted about fibroids:
They can grow, but they can also shrink!
You can have a single fibroid or multiple fibroids.
Some women experience no symptoms.
For those who do have symptoms, they can include heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, backache, or leg pains.
A few known risk factors include race, genetics, diet, obesity, and vitamin D deficiency.
Treatment for uterine fibroids includes Myomectomy, which is a procedure that removes the fibroid while preserving the uterus, or a hysterectomy where they draw the uterus entirely.
“You can't know what you don't know. You don't know about things you have yet to discover" - Jonathan Raymond
And that is where my call to action is. Prevention is always key! American healthcare prioritizes treatment, but you can prioritize prevention as the patient. 2022 is the year of preventative health, and I hope this article inspires you to book all your doctor's appointments immediately.
Sandro Galea, Nason Maani, The cost of preventable disease in the USA
Susan Levine, DVM, PHD, Erin Malone,MPH Akaki Lekiachvili,MD,MBA, Peter Briss,MD,MPH Health Care Industry Insights: Why the Use of Preventative Services is Still Low
Juanita J. Chinn, Iman K. Martin, Nicole Redmond, Health Equity Among Black Women in the United States
Heba M. Eltoukhi, MD, Monica N. Modi, MD, Meredith Weston, MS, Alicia Y Armstrong, MD, MHSCR, and Elizabeth A. Stewart, MD, The Health Disparities of Uterine Fibroids for African American Women: A Public Health Issue
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs: African American Health
Mayo Clinic, Uterine Fibroids