June 21, 2016
By: Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, Director of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative
The Wellness Visit: A once a year visit with you healthcare provider to check-up on your overall physical and mental wellbeing. This prevention focused visit is a fundamental step in achieving your reproductive, health and life goals.
Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive services, like an annual well visit, should be covered by insurance with no out-of-pocket costs. This means if you have health insurance and the provider is covered under that plan, the visit shouldn’t cost you anything. While this may not yet be true for all health plans, it is likely a benefit you have that you didn’t know was available. During this annual appointment, you and your provider can evaluate your current health status, discuss your life and health goals, and work together to prevent health problems. This can include screenings, discussion of medical history, review of immunizations, and physical vital signs (blood pressure, height/weight, etc.). The content of the visit is up to each individual and their healthcare provider. To make the most of a visit, you can create a list of questions and concerns to discuss during your doctor face-time.
Well visits help ALL young adults achieve optimal preconception care. How do these visits differ for males and females? Here’s what you can expect:
An annual well visit is not just for women, they are just as important for men. However, nearly one-third of men report not having a primary care physician. A well visit for men will include a medical history, which includes substance-use screening, a review of risk factors for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), diet and exercise habits, and screening for symptoms of depression. A physical examination should also include blood pressure and body mass index screening. An annual visit is an ideal time for men and their healthcare providers to discuss making a reproductive life plan based on the man’s personal values, goals, and resources.
Reproductive life planning is a time to discuss relationships, including the wish to become a father within the next year or not. Too often, men have been overlooked in discussions with their healthcare provider about preconception and reproductive health, including contraception. For men who plan to become a dad in the next year or so, there are key preconception health steps they can take to help improve their genetic and biologic contributions to the pregnancy, reproductive health for their partner, and their understanding of parenthood. For men who do not plan to be a father in the next year, there are choices they can make to prevent unintended pregnancies. Use this time to discuss contraception options with a healthcare provider.
More about well visits for men & life planning here: www.sylovedev.wpengine.com.
A well visit for women has often been thought of as primarily an appointment for a pelvic exam, but it is a much more comprehensive visit than that! In fact, a well visit may not even need to include a pelvic exam anymore. The contents of a woman’s well visit are up to each woman and her provider. Her visit could include contraceptive counseling, nutrition and diet counseling, vaccines and immunizations and screening for alcohol use, blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, and STIs.
Healthcare providers should be asking women and men if they’d like to become pregnant in the coming year or not during EVERY visit. If a healthcare provider does not discuss the reproductive goals during the visit, it is critical for women to speak up and share their feelings and plans and ask for help. If a woman plans to be pregnant within the year, there are critical preconception health steps that she can take now to enhance her health and the health of her baby. If a woman does not plan to become pregnant in a year there are vital lifestyle, behavior, and contraception topics to discuss as well.
More about well visits for women & life planning here: www.sylovedev.wpengine.com.
What’s new in preconception health?
The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, a public-private partnership of 70+ national organizations working to advance preconception health, is gearing up to launch Show Your Love. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has partnered with PCHHC on this first and only consumer-focused preconception health campaign. Show Your Love seeks to help young women and men understand the significance their choices and health have on their future families. The resource website and social media campaign is meant to spark action for consumers to “Show Your Love”—to themselves, their significant other, their family/future family—by taking care of their health today.
As part of the social media campaign, PCHHC is recruiting young adults ages 18-30 to join our team by serving as a Show Your Love Ambassador! As a Show Your Love Ambassador, you can help men and women nationwide understand the importance of daily health choices, be prominently featured by Show Your Love and PCHHC partners, and receive Show Your Love branded gear for fun photo-ops. Volunteer or nominate someone here:www.sylovedev.wpengine.com/jointhelove.
Sarah is the executive director at UNC Center for Maternal & Infant Health, which provides direct clinical services to high risk mothers and infants, conducts health services research, coordinates statewide programs, and provides patient and health care professional education. She serves as the director of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of over 70 organizations focused on improving the health of young women and men and any children they may choose to have. Sarah is a clinical associate professor at the UNC School of Social Work. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @S_Verbiest or connect with Sarah onLinkedIn.