Australians still falling behind with their health checks
New research* by RCPA reveals that 42% of Australians are not aware of the health checks that are recommended for their age group. As well, 32% admit they are not up-to-date, and 16% say they don’t know if they are currently up-to-date with the recommended health checks. Dr Lawrie Bott, President of the RCPA says that unless rates improve, there could be a wave of serious diseases over the next five years.
“We are encouraging everyone who has been putting off appointments or screenings, to take the first step and visit their GP for advice. Our message is clear, ‘don’t delay’. It is concerning that only 52% of Aussies could say that they are up-to-date with the health checks that are recommended for their age group, as the implication of missed checks can be very serious.
“We would like to remind the community not to neglect their health and to get those all-important health checks at the earliest opportunity. Our research shows that a large proportion of the population are delaying their checks. Early diagnosis improves health outcomes by providing care at the earliest possible stage and is therefore an important public health strategy in all settings. If you don’t know what checks are recommended for your age group, then check with your GP today,” said Dr Bott.
Age proved to be a determining factor, with the older generations more likely to be aware of the health checks they need.
“There are a number of tests that are recommended for different age groups to avoid delayed diagnosis for potentially treatable health conditions. Although older age groups seem to be better informed, 29% of those aged 55-64 say they are not up-to-date with their health checks and 11% don’t know if they are, which is a concern. Pathology results are vital to the diagnosis and management of diseases.” said Dr Bott.
One third (33%) of Australians say they had health check(s) postponed due to COVID-19. Of those, only 23% say they have already had their outstanding health check(s) and 20% say it is not their intention to reschedule within the next three months. However, a promising 58% say that it is their intention to reschedule within the next three months.
“There has been a worrying decline in participation rates since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and these levels have not yet returned to where they need to be. Unless we see rates improve, we could see a wave of serious disease over the next five years. It is promising to see that a number of Australians plan to reschedule their health checks in the next few months, which is good news.
“Those who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease must have regular pathology tests to manage their condition. If these tests are not arranged then it is likely that these people may find it difficult to maintain good health, their condition may deteriorate, and they might require hospital treatment,” said Dr Bott.
In addition to routine screenings for conditions such as bowel, breast and cervical cancer, there are a number of other health checks that people need to consider, particularly in the over 50’s age group.
Patients should visit their GPs to get specific advice on their individual health needs, however, as a general guide, the following tests are recommended.
For all men over the age of 50:
PSA (Prostate Cancer)
Faecal Occult Blood (Bowel Cancer)
Skin cancer check
For women over the age of 50:
Faecal Occult Blood
Skin cancer check
“If individuals visit their GPs now to begin receiving the checks they need, they will continue to see the benefits as they get older. The RCPA, therefore, recommends that anyone who thinks that they may be due for a health check, or if they fall into an at-risk category, should visit their GP to discuss what screening is advised for them,’ said Dr Bott.
*The research was conducted by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) in July 2022. 1,003 respondents participated, across a representative sample of the population.