Primary care blogger Lynn Young extols the virtues of free health checks.
Significant people working in the NHS are busy sorting out the many issues which need to be dealt with in order to successfully implement the government-ordered cardiovascular health check.
The initiative was announced by the prime minister months ago, and we’re now in the business of converting policy into practice and, we hope, saving many lives.
From April 2009 onwards, every citizen living in England between the ages of 40 and 74 will be entitled to a vascular risk assessment. My great desire is that a media campaign will be created which successfully persuades our least healthy members of society that such a move is not about telling them how unhealthy and sick they are, but how we are going to work alongside them to help them enjoy a better lifestyle.
One of the big problems of the NHS is that it focuses on illness, not wellness. It must rapidly transform into a beast that positively exudes health and encourages us to live better - thus diminishing demand on our over-stretched services.
People living appalling lifestyles need good and knowledgeable people, not necessarily nurses and doctors, to help them see that even small changes in their eating and other habits could make life quite fabulous.
This is a truly tough business. It takes inordinate patience, skill and tenacity to help people, often at the edge of society, to reduce their intake of fat, sugar, alcohol and other unsavoury substances.
On top of these radical changes, we want people to leave the sofa, jump up and become more active. Yes, we want all our fine citizens to burst with vibrant health and be more resilient and energetic as a result.
However hard life is for us, it is easier to cope with if we are healthy in mind, body and spirit.
I am excited because we have a golden opportunity with this new vascular assessment to encourage those who normally choose not to have health checks to change their minds.
Health care support workers and our new health trainers can be supported in this massive exercise in bringing health gain to parts of population who are destined to be sick and die too young.
Primary care trusts have been charged with commissioning this service, though we can safely guess that, for most, general practice will prove to be the obvious choice. Success demands commitment and team effort in terms of seeking out our vulnerable local people.
The usual checks – blood pressure, cholesterol, family history, weight and lifestyle – will be carried out, and the referrals made when necessary. But most importantly, we want the time to partner people in their journeys towards a healthier and happier lifestyle.
We need social marketing techniques in place – everywhere – so practitioners are in a strong position to persuade people to live differently, rather then buy junk that is at best unnecessary and, at worst, a killer.
I want to see a media campaign like no other, which will drive the health agenda to our poorest and most desperate and socially deprived areas.