Recommend wise lifestyle choices to preserve ocular health
With the elections and fiscal cliff behind us, it seems logical we all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Yet, it appears as though most have not. Maybe it is because November’s elections were anything but a mandate or that the economy continues to sputter. Or, perhaps it is the uncertainty of health care reform. There is no doubt health care remains first and foremost in everyone’s mind – politicians, media, corporations, insurers and, yes, even our patients. Of course, the big question is just what health care reform will entail and how it will impact each of us.
Regardless of how it is “spun,” to be successful, health care reform must achieve two goals: coverage for (nearly) everyone and doing so at a lower cost to society. While these goals seem diametrically opposed, accomplishing such will require commitment – and concessions – from all stakeholders. There is no doubt insurers must improve operating efficiencies and reduce the percentage of premium dollars allocated to administrative costs. Likewise, employers must trim health care expenditures by creating programs incentivizing employees to more wisely consume health care.
Certainly, we as health care providers must do our share. From hospitals to solo practitioners, we must eliminate duplicate services, adhere to evidence-based medicine and preferred practice guidelines, and prescribe intelligently. While each of these initiatives will make a difference, they collectively fail to address the bigger concern: the patient.
Certain health issues are inevitable and unpreventable, but other conditions are very much influenced by poor diet and lifestyle choices. The recent surge of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity-related maladies serve as a sobering reminder that we – as a populace – must do a better job. The benefit of exercise, healthy diet and better work-life balance in mitigating disease is well documented. Hardly a day passes without another study reminding us of these fundamental tenets. So, why are our patients not getting it? The answer might well lie in how the message is delivered.
While we are inundated daily with media coverage of health topics, sometimes the message is muddled and conflicted. Add in the public’s desensitization and skepticism and the message gets further diluted. This is where optometrists play such a critical role. We are – in our patients’ minds – a trusted and respected source.
We have the perfect opportunity to end each examination with more than just a discussion of eye health and visual correction. We have an opportunity to personalize the message that dietary and lifestyle choices are critical in preserving ocular health throughout life. While I am not so naïve as to believe all patients take this advice as gospel, I firmly believe it is the right thing to do. If we are consistent and sincere in our recommendations, patients will eventually heed our advice.
In this month’s Primary Care Optometry News, please take a few minutes and read Dr. Scott Edmonds’ commentary, “Today’s optometric physician provides primary health care.” As a knowledgeable and respected colleague, Scott provides sage advice on implementing this approach. I am sure you will agree it is a great way for optometry to do its share.