General practitioners (GPs) and other healthcare providers are concerned people are delaying ‘health and help seeking’ due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and with no end to the pandemic in sight they say now more than ever people need to get on top of their health.
Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (EMPHN) Chair, Professor Stephen Duckett, said while our attention has been gripped by the pandemic we shouldn’t lose focus on screening, early diagnosis and treatment to improve health outcomes.
“We know lockdown has been tough on people’s mental health and GPs are a great first port of call for mental health concerns.
“Now the risk of Coronavirus is low we encourage people to make an appointment with your GP, have a check-up and make sure you’re up to date on cancer screening.
“In Australia, we’ve seen 102 deaths from Coronavirus whereas Australia’s leading cause of death¹, coronary heart disease, causes 48 deaths every day.
“Even in countries, such as the US, where more than 90,000 people have died so far you still have a higher chance of dying of preventable illnesses such as heart disease² than of Coronavirus.
“There’s no doubt these deaths have impacted families, friends and communities and I don’t want to diminish the toll this virus has had on so many lives, however we need to remain vigilant about preventable health conditions in our society,” he said.
Data from countries where there’s been a large number of deaths and quality data is available, shows severe COVID-19 can occur in otherwise healthy individuals of any age, but it predominantly occurs in adults with advanced age or underlying medical comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions³.
Camberwell GP Dr Malcolm Clark said the decline in patient numbers could be because people fear they’re being a burden on our health system.
“We need people to understand that looking after your health is the best way not to be a burden to our health system,” he said.
Templestowe GP, Dr Arthur Zulman, said the uptake of telehealth by doctors and other healthcare providers is making healthcare more accessible than ever.
“Patients are reporting consultations through telehealth are a very convenient, comfortable and accommodating experience.
“Particularly for mental health related consultations, patients feel very comfortable expressing their emotions on a video call, a powerful indicator to determine physical and mental wellbeing,” he said.
Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network, an Australian Government funded health commissioner, is launching a marketing campaign to encourage people to see their GP, particularly people with mental health issues, chronic conditions and those ignoring symptoms or avoiding preventative screening.
EMPHN Interim CEO, Geoff Lavender, said we want people to understand Coronavirus may not be the biggest threat to their health.
“Now more than ever it’s important to get on top of your health, with many of Australia’s biggest killers being preventable.
“Better overall health, including mental health and wellbeing, may even help protect you as we continue to live in a world without a Coronavirus vaccine,” he said.
Interviewees available for comment.
Claire James firstname.lastname@example.org 0425 887 397
About EMPHN: Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network is primarily funded by the Australian Government to improve the care and support people receive from health services. We aim to improve the health of our community by ensuring people receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time. www.emphn.org.au
^ 1 Jan-27 May 2020
*Estimate based on Heart Foundation data