COLUMBIA, S.C.— Prisma Health encourages the community to maintain routine visits and preventative care as we continue to navigate the pandemic. This is especially important for minority groups as they have historically faced greater obstacles to preventing and treating illnesses, leading to higher morbidity and mortality rates than those of non-minorities.
“Minority groups are at a higher risk for many conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Diet, health literacy, trust and access are all driving forces behind them being at increased risk, but so is lack of preventative care,” said Dr. Sara Nelson-Owens, family medicine physician.
Social distancing guidelines and stay at home orders put a halt on many in-person physician visits during 2020, but with the decrease in COVID-19 positive cases and increased access to vaccines, the average adult should feel safe visiting the doctor—so long as their care provider is enforcing safety precautions in their practice and they are following proper protocol as well.
“It’s common for people to delay a doctor’s visit, and this has become even more common over the past year as the pandemic has forced us to think twice before leaving home,” added Dr. Nelson-Owens. “It is important that we take precautions and limit certain activities in order to stop the spread of the virus, but no one should ever put their health on hold. Many conditions can be treated if they are caught early, and your annual visit is a great time for your provider to offer guidance that can help prevent or reduce your risk for disease.”
In addition to minority groups being at a higher rate for many medical conditions, they have also been disproportionately affected by COVID-19—having been twice as likely to die from the disease than non-minorities according to the CDC, likely due to underlying conditions from which they suffer. For minority groups looking to establish or strengthen their relationship with a doctor, Dr. Nelson-Owens offers the following advice:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It can be hard to speak up during a doctor’s visit, but if you don’t understand the complicated medical terminology or are confused about your diagnosis, ask your doctor to clarify or explain in a different way. Read your own reports, research, and feel empowered to take charge of your health. If your doctor gives you a care plan, make sure you understand what is required of you and that you have contact information for any follow up visits before you leave the office. If you realize you have questions once you get home, feel free to give the office a call and get clarification.
Share your personal testimonies with those around you. Often times, our behaviors are inherited. If your elders had to decide between buying groceries or visiting the doctor, they likely didn’t prioritize check-ups and that behavior may have been passed down to you. We take advice from those that we trust, so encourage those around you to maintain a relationship with a doctor, but also be aware of the information you share with others. If someone’s only source for information is social media or others around them that are not medical professionals, they might not receive the medical advice or treatment they need.
Feel free to switch providers. A relationship with a doctor is one of the most important as they are responsible for some of the most serious aspects of your life. Don’t be afraid to bring up any issues you are experiencing with your provider. If you feel like the issues are not being resolved, that your doctor is not listening to you, or if you feel uncomfortable for any reason, trust your feelings and find a new care provider. Don’t let one frustrating visit prevent you from maintaining your care.
Dr. Nelson-Owens is located at Prisma Health Family Medicine – Parkridge in Columbia, S.C. For more information about her practice, call 803-907-7700.
About Prisma Health
Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually. Its goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit PrismaHealth.org.