Sending your car in for a service once every six months is an accepted routine of car care and ownership.
It’s a mandatory one, too.
No self-respecting driver would deny his or her vehicle that most basic level of car care.
Especially if you want your car to continue faithfully doing its job, and/or if you expect to recoup anything close to what it should be worth when it comes time to sell it.
Owning a car without servicing it? Sacrilege.
So, why do we not do the same for our bodies?
When was the last time you went to a family physician or general practitioner (GP) for a check-up (even if you felt perfectly fine), and not because you had the sniffles or needed an MC after that punishing night out at Clarke Quay?
When was the last time you had your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels tested?
Doctors refer to this as Primary and Preventative care.
It is the human equivalent of a regular tune-up to prevent your later years being a crumbling quagmire of gangrenous limbs, broken bones and shattered constitutions.
I have to admit that I, too, did not quite understand this concept until I lived and received my medical education in Australia.
Australia and the UK are arguably world leaders in quality of primary care.
Whilst filling in a personal information form for university, I encountered this question: “Who is your General Practitioner/Family Physician?”
I was confused. “What does that mean?” I thought. My GP is whomever is nearest when I need one.
Turns out, many if not most Australians “have a GP.” Someone whom they go to regularly, and have seen them and their families through many years of healthy life. A GP is a specialist in family medicine.
A GP is an expert in holistic and preventative care.
He or she manages chronic conditions, performs screening tests and examinations, and coordinates care from other providers (such as organ-specific specialists) from an integrated perspective.
How Australia and the UK have managed to entrench such practices so successfully is a complex question.
The reasons include geographical, socio-political, cultural, and yes, economic factors (going to a doctor is often free, thanks to a welfare based economic system).
A healthcare system privileged with robust primary care is also one with a healthier population, better care at the community level, and less burdened Emergency Departments and tertiary institutions.
But that’s beyond the scope of this article.
What is without doubt, however, is the immense personal benefit. Beyond physical integrity, it means you are more educated about your own health.
It means you have someone to clarify your doubts. It means that when you feel unwell from a pre-existing chronic condition, you are more likely to know how to react, or failing which, have someone to ask.
Being able to receive simple advice, such as swopping white rice for brown rice, is of far greater benefit than even the most advanced and expensive injections, renal dialysis and mobility aids for when diabetes destroys a person’s nerves, kidneys and retinas.
Remember, doing simple regular maintenance is easier and far less costly than a full engine and transmission rebuild. Similarly, detecting and removing a stage one cancer is far preferable to having the world’s best surgeon remove your whole colon.
So, I implore you to put that fried chicken wing down and go pay your nearest polyclinic or friendly neighbourhood GP a visit. It might literally save your life.