TakeCharge Reports

Are we taking charge of our own health?

Most of us know that proper car maintenance is necessary to assure that our vehicle runs well and lasts a long time. We take responsibility for that by periodically changing the oil, installing new filters and rotating the tires.

That same sense of responsibility applies to our own personal health. We know that routine "maintenance" - including getting moderate exercise, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and avoiding known health risks - will keep our "engines" running well.

In 2004, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield introduced StepUp, an online tool to encourage upstate New Yorkers to get daily physical exercise and eat healthy meals, the foundations for better health. Since then, StepUp has helped 64,000 registered users to log more than 18 million miles and 14 million servings of fruits and vegetables.

Many of us have health conditions - such as diabetes or heart disease - stemming from our genes, past behaviors or other circumstances. If you do, your doctor will recommend steps you can take to manage the condition. In addition to staying active and eating a well-balanced diet, other actions may be as simple as regularly taking your medicines or scheduling more frequent medical appointments.

By taking those additional steps, we assume greater personal responsibility for staying as healthy as possible. Actively managing our health can add years to our lives, improve our quality of life and save us the time, effort and money that go with treating more serious health conditions that can be prevented. When we don't take responsibility, our overall health is likely to suffer, our lives may be shortened, and we may contribute to the billions of dollars spent on health care that could be avoided.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has introduced this series of proactive health reports to examine various health conditions and highlight surveys in which people indicate what they're doing - and not doing - to take charge of their health.

We recognize that when people respond to health surveys, some may report taking better care of themselves than they really do. Similarly, physicians commonly report that some patients exaggerate how closely they follow their doctors' health advice. That's why the survey-based measures reported here may overstate how well people actually care for their health.

The goal of these reports is to help readers understand the important connection between personal actions and better health. We want to encourage productive discussions within families, strengthen patient and physician bonds and prompt initiatives for healthier workplaces, all of which can improve our community's overall health.