Literacy is knowing how to read and write while also knowing what words and terms mean. As personal health and healthcare continue to grow in complexity, it makes it harder for non-healthcare people to understand the meaning of terminology. This divide is an issue in Belize and all over the world. To improve this situation, people need to read more and have discussions to better understand words, terms, and potential long-term effects that might arise from not knowing the meanings of terminology.
We make choices every day that affect your health and your need for healthcare services. Consumers make choices based on their beliefs, attitudes, and values which influence how they interact with other people, health providers and the community. Overlooked choices that we make in our daily lives that affect our health include the foods we eat, the beverages that we drink, how we manage stress, the amount of physical activity we achieve in a week, and the risky behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
Research shows that a person’s health is based 50% on lifestyle choices, 20% from the environments where we live-work-play, 20% from genetics (your mom and dad), and 10% from access to healthcare. Many chronic conditions are a result of poor behavior choices during the prior years. As you make consumer choices – where and what you spend your money on, consider how it will affect your health. You make those same choices when participating in a healthcare visit and knowing your healthcare benefits.
Being more informed and educated about your health benefits and resources can go a long way in helping you maximize your consumer choices for positive health gains. In fact, consumers want and need guidance to help them make good and better decisions. They also report that convenient access, cost, and quality are important, however less than 20% of consumers research cost and quality prior to receiving service. 75% of consumers report not understanding their insurance benefits and are confused with benefits afforded to them.
Consumer preferences are becoming more sophisticated and the pathway from education to engagement to behavior change is not as simple as one thinks. Consumers also come from a variety of backgrounds with differing attitudes and expectations about health and healthcare.
Here are ten tips to being a good health and healthcare consumer:
- Be proactive in learning and practicing positive, healthy behaviors
- Know your health and disease risks
- Know your health plan coverage and resources
- Build a relationship with your healthcare provider during an annual physical exam
- Prepare for your appointments by having your questions ready for the discussion
- Do not hide information from your provider as this could work against you
- When under treatment and further care, be engaged and ask questions
- Do not go at it alone, include a loved one in your appointments and care plans
- If you travel, know your health plan benefits and healthcare options for the location where you are going
- Never forget that your daily choices and ongoing behaviors affect yours and your family’s health