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A Matter of Health: Staying on top of routine health care during the pandemic

Doctors say it's important not to fall behind on preventive screenings and immunization schedules.

Health care discussions have been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months. However, health experts are worried that some people may be avoiding routine visits to their doctor's office.

"It’s safe to visit your doctor," said Dr. Julia Joseph Di Caprio, Chief Medical Officer for UCare. "Clinics are taking special precautions to protect patients, including social distancing, disinfecting exam rooms, providing hand sanitizers and wearing masks. It’s time to schedule your routine care, screenings, child immunizations and checkups."

Dr. Di Caprio said the primary concern is that delaying care now could result in serious health problems later.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly six out of every ten adults in the United States have a chronic illness, and four out of ten have two or more chronic illnesses. Dr. Di Caprio said putting off routine care can lead to serious consequences for this group.

"Simple screenings save lives," Dr. Di Caprio said.

Routine screenings are also down sharply. Data collected by electronic medical records vendor Epic shows screenings for breast, cervical, and colon cancers were down between 86% and 94% since March.

"The findings raise concerns that deadly cancers may go undetected if screening appointments aren’t rescheduled soon," Dr. Di Caprio said. "Cancer doesn’t take a break, no matter what is happening in the world."

The American Academy of Pediatrics also estimates that up to 40% of children have missed scheduled vaccinations in recent months, or up to 80% when the estimate is extended to include teenagers who missed vaccinations for human papillomavirus, or HPV.

CDC data also showed child vaccinations were down across all age groups from January to May, and warned of a possible measles or whooping cough outbreak due to the decline in routine vaccinations.

"If you have children, keep your little ones and teens on schedule for their immunizations to protect them from infectious diseases," Dr. Di Caprio said. "Action now will prevent health care trouble down the road."

HealthFair 11's A Matter of Health is a monthly segment on KARE 11 News at 4, sponsored by UCare.

Credit: KARE

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