Many of us have New Year’s resolutions but the most important one all Australians can make in 2022 is to get any health checks they put aside during the pandemic.
With the heavy focus on COVID-19 for the past two years, many of us haven’t prioritised other areas of our health.
Prevention is a key priority for the Morrison Government. Our 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy focuses on valuing health before illness, highlighting the immense value of maintaining good health throughout a person’s life.
Now is the time to do just that. Australia has a world-class health system and, like COVID, we can prevent many diseases and conditions from developing, or reduce their impact.
One of the best ways to prevent future illness is to keep up to date with regular health checks and early detection programs such as cancer screenings, regular immunisations, and tests for blood borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections.
Regular cancer screening saves lives and early detection leads to better outcomes for cancer treatments. Some types of cancer can be detected before symptoms appear, and screening can also find changes in cells before they become cancer.
There are three world-leading population-based cancer screening programs in Australia:
- Cervical screening every five years for women aged 25 to 74, subsidised by Medicare
- Breast screening – or mammograms – provided free every two years for women aged 40 to 74 years
- Bowel screening tests – a free, easy, at-home test posted to men and women aged 50 to 74 every two years.
The timing of your next screening will depend on your age, gender and when your last screening was. If you need screening in 2022, you may need to book an appointment.
To book in for a cervical screening test or check when you’re due, contact your GP or healthcare provider.
To book a free mammogram, call BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50 and you will automatically be directed to your nearest service.
For bowel screening, a kit will be mailed to you every two years once you become eligible. If you need a replacement kit, order one for free online.
Sexual health is also important to your overall health and decreases in testing and treatment for blood borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections (BBV and STI) mean there could be a lot of people who aren’t aware they have an infection.
If you think you may be at risk, talk to your GP about testing. Medicare items are available for telehealth consultations relating to BBV and STI.
For smokers, the best way to help your health in 2022 is to quit. We know it isn’t always easy, but help is available and there are huge benefits when you kick the habit.
For help to quit smoking, talk to your GP, call Quitline, or visit www.quit.org.au. Research shows that getting the support of a health professional greatly improves a smoker’s chance of successfully quitting.
To help, our Government has extended specific Medicare items for GP nicotine and smoking cessation services – including via telehealth – to 31 December 2023.
For those looking for assistance in reducing their reliance on alcohol and drugs, there is also support available.
Australians can talk to your GP or call the free and confidential National Alcohol and Other Drug hotline on 1800 250 015. If you prefer to seek online treatment, you can visit Counselling Online, a free and confidential service at: https://www.counsellingonline.org.au/.
The pandemic has not only taken a physical toll on some Australians. Many people have also experienced mental health issues.
Since March last year, our Government has provided more than $1 billion in funding to expand mental health services, including a substantial investment in telehealth.
Help is at hand if you are struggling with your mental health, and there are many ways you can get it. Talk to your GP or visit the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
Australians looking for support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can access the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service any time via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au.
Anyone experiencing distress can also seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14) and Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).
Our health system is in a strong position to support Australians with health challenges, throughout the pandemic and beyond.
COVID-19 has taught us the importance of our health and speaking to our health experts when we notice something out of the ordinary. In 2022, I urge you to attend medical appointments and health checks and follow through on any referrals for blood tests or scans. It is about living well for long - it could just save your life.