Fear of the unknown, cost, and a lack of awareness around preventative health screenings have been revealed as the top three reasons that a staggering one in two (50%) of the Irish public are putting off potentially life-saving tests and checks.
The research findings have been revealed today as part of a major campaign by laya healthcare that aims to heighten awareness of the critical importance of preventative screening and provide the public with useful information around the most important and most relevant health screening at different ages and life stages. A free-to-access educational hub featuring key information and assets is now available here.
A screen in time saves lives
The research findings reinforce the important role that screening plays in the early detection and treatment of a wide variety of health conditions. While a large portion of the population are putting off health checks, 80% of people understand the importance of preventative healthcare screening.
Of those who have participated in screening, more than a third (32%) identified a condition that they were unaware of. Of these, 55% required medical treatment and 38% needed to make lifestyle changes. For a quarter of people (25%) who found a condition through screening, the issue could have been terminal if not identified.
Commenting on the research findings, Sinéad Proos, Head of Health & Wellbeing at laya healthcare said, “The research shows that the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland believe that health screening is important but that distinct and enduring barriers to participation remain. By highlighting the vital health checks we all should be getting at different age milestones, we want to break down some of these barriers and increase engagement with screenings that are important and potentially lifesaving.”
“It can be a challenge for people to get to grips with the different types of preventative health screening options that are available, and more importantly, relevant to them. Taking care of your health from a preventative perspective can be as simple as going to the GP for a check-up or stepping on a scales and going online to calculate your BMI. What we want is for the public to get into the routine of checking in with different elements of their health throughout life. This is why we are making it even easier for laya healthcare members to engage with screening by giving them access to services like our HeartBeat cardiac screening which also checks your BMI and blood pressure and which members can now book online via the app for a cardiac screen every two years from the age of 12 onwards.”
Awareness of preventative health screening
Awareness levels amongst the public of certain health screenings are high (including female cancer screenings, blood tests, blood pressure and cholesterol), but fall to well below 50% for other important tests like male cancer screening (39%), bone density scanning (32%), genetic cancer screening (27%), and cardiac screening (44%).
Speaking in relation to the findings, Professor Carl Vaughan, Consultant Cardiologist and Lead Cardiologist at Advanced Medical Services, said, “There are lots of reasons why people choose not to participate in preventative screening but what we see year on year is the power of finding health conditions as early as possible in order to have the best possible outcome. An important first step is educating yourself on what the important checks are for you and how you can begin engaging. This can be something as simple as stepping on a weighing scales, having your cardiac check, sharing your family medical history with your GP, or having a simple blood test. Fear of the unknown is natural and something we can all understand but people shouldn’t be afraid of finding something early because that gives us the best opportunity to overcome an issue. By taking the time to look into your health now you are investing in a healthier and brighter future.”
When it comes to knowing the appropriate health screenings that the public should be accessing at different stages and ages, awareness levels are worryingly low. A perceived lack of access is one of the main barriers to people taking part in screening with 18% saying that this is the key thing stopping them from going and getting checked. While 53% of people aged 18 – 24 are aware of the importance of female cancer screening, only one third are aware that they should also be taking part in BMI screening at that age. Similarly, despite cardiac screening being recommended from the age of 12 upwards, awareness levels are low in younger age groups with only 32% of people aged 18 – 35 aware of its availability and importance.
Unsurprisingly the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing barriers and has added a new dimension to the fear that is acting as a barrier to public participation. Nearly a quarter (24%) of people have been less willing to attend screenings due to the ongoing pandemic with 39% stating that they are afraid of attending the hospital due to COVID-19.
Laya healthcare is helping both members and non-members stay a beat ahead of their own preventative health screening through the following activity:
Educational hub featuring a guide to the top five health screenings that could save your life developed in consultation with leading healthcare experts available here.
Practical resources detailing the preventative health screens suitable in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, available here.
A free-to-attend virtual event with Newstalk’s Claire McKenna in discussion with Professor Carl Vaughan on the potentially life-saving preventative health screens available at all stages of life on Thursday, 2nd December. Sign-up here to attend here.