I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and to add insult to injury on the week preceding the big day I received a letter inviting me to an NHS Health Check.
Sifting through my mountain of birthday cards, the letter from my GP surgery was put to one side. It was not my most welcome item of post, although it was something I had been expecting.
Having spent a number of years helping various clients to promote their NHS Health Check schemes to their target audience of 40 to 74 year olds, this meant I had to admit the fact that I was now entering a new lifestage.
Health Check invitation letters are typically sent out by your GP surgery around your 40th, 45th, 50th, 55th, 60th, 65th and 70th birthdays. It’s a free health assessment to check if you are at risk of potentially avoidable conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.
I’ve worked on strategising ways to engage with this age group in order to increase uptake levels. And now the poacher had turned gamekeeper.
My big day came and went, and the weeks that followed turned to months. Amid the general clutter of my busy 40+ life, the invitation letter slipped further and further down the pile of papers marked ‘things to do’.
Now that our kids are both of school age, visits to the doctor’s surgery had fortunately become increasingly seldom. I realised that I hadn’t been to the doctors for anything to do with my own health for over ten years, and had no idea of my blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
So, I booked myself in, and eventually went through the process I had read so much about whilst working on previous NHS Health Check promotional campaigns. It was a good experience and I was in and out in less than 30 minutes with a clean bill of health and a nice promotional leaflet that recorded my results for prosperity.
The NHS Health Check is one of the only national programmes for preventative healthcare. Over five years, more than 2,500 people will have avoided a major cardiovascular incident such as heart attack or stroke, as a result of receiving treatment following their NHS Health Check.
And whilst I was fortunate enough to not require any further treatment, it was a chance to get to know my numbers and reflect on how I live my life.
Despite significant progress in raising awareness of the importance of NHS Health Checks, still only 50% of people invited will take-up the offer.
So my advice is to embrace being in the 40+ age category (if and when this applies to you), don’t let your invitation letter gather dust, and take advantage of one of the few free perks for people in this age group…that is, until you’re lucky enough to qualify for a free bus pass!