By Ellen Langhans, MA, healthfinder.gov Program Manager, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
During open enrollment, many will gain access to health insurance for the first time and may want to know more about how health insurance can help them stay healthy. Those who have never had health insurance may be unaware of preventive services that are available to them at no additional out-of-pocket cost beyond applicable insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act. Preventive services are an important part of the health care delivery system, but research suggests people aren’t taking advantage of them at the rate they should be. At the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, we want to help people understand what preventive services are, why they matter, how they are important for everyone, and how to start taking advantage of them to lead a healthier life.
Preventive services include preventive medicines, screenings, and education or counseling sessions that help people stay healthy. In general, many people are aware of preventive services like keeping up to date with vaccines and getting regular screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and some types of cancer. Fewer people are aware that preventive services also include activities like diet counseling, tobacco cessation counseling, and depression screening. These three preventive services are described in detail below and are based on recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Preventive Service: Dietary counseling
Who is it recommended for? Adults who are at risk for heart disease or diabetes
What is it? Your doctor can refer you to behavioral counseling programs to help make changes to improve your diet. These programs involve education, goal setting, and regular conversations to help you stay on track.
Eating healthy includes getting enough “good” food to nourish your body with vitamins and minerals. Healthy foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, among others. When you eat healthy foods (and limit unhealthy foods), you can reduce your risk for many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and osteoporosis.
Preventive Service: Tobacco cessation counseling
Who is it recommended for? Adults who smoke
What is it? Most people know that if they smoke, they should quit if they want to get and stay healthy. If you smoke, your doctor can refer you to counseling programs, or prescribe smoking cessation medications, to help you quit.
Quitting smoking can help prevent many diseases, including (but not limited to) lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Preventive Service: Depression screening
Who is it recommended for? Children, teens, and adults
What is it? The goal of screening is to identify those that have depression so they can get the help they need. Screening is primarily done through short questionnaires.
Depression can be hard to talk about, particular because it’s an “unseen” disease. But it can affect your thoughts, feelings, behavior and mood, as well as your physical health. Getting help in the form of counseling, talk therapy, medication, support programs, or a combination of these, can help improve the quality of life for someone with depression.