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Prioritizing Health is More Important Than Ever

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By Lexi Brandon, Senior Marketing Communications Specialist, UnityPoint Health – Des Moines

As a Marketing Communications professional with UnityPoint Health – Des Moines, I have the great privilege of helping tell the stories of health care heroes on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic: providers, nurses, clinic teams, environmental service workers, public safety members, and others.

Often, this privilege comes with its own set of challenges; How can we tell their stories in a way that both honors their sacrifices and encourages the public to follow imperative health care guidelines? How can we effectively stress the importance of preventive care?

These tasks can be somewhat daunting, especially when NRC Health data* shows the following:

  • Of a group of Iowans polled in May 2021, 28.7 percent replied yes to the question, “Have you or anyone in your household delayed any health care treatment in the past six months?”
  • 40.8 percent of the above cited concern over COVID-19 “very much” influenced their decision to delay care.
  • Of those, 48.6% reported delaying a visit to their doctor. 52.1% delayed a visit to the dentist and 29.7% delayed a medical screening such as an MRI, CT scan, mammogram, etc.

All the while, 30.4% of Iowans polled stated their mental health has “somewhat worsened” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is concerning for the medical community in that we know two things to be true: 1) Preventive care and life-saving screenings are vital for overall mental and physical wellbeing, and 2) Collectively, our mental health is not so great – a technical term – right now.

Since the highly transmissible Delta variant has begun to spread across the nation, we’ve seen headlines of hospitals being overwhelmed. Nurse vacancies for acute hospitals are also peaking across the country; it is both a local and national issue. By 2030, the predictions show a shortfall of 510,000 registered nurses (RNs) in the United States, while the numbers of RN jobs is projected to grow by 200,000 per year through 2026. In a recent study, 21% of nurses indicated they will transition to a non-patient care nursing role after the pandemic. Like physicians, 94% of nurses are reporting some level of burnout since the pandemic began.

So, people both inside and outside hospital walls are stressed trying to cope with today’s health care crisis.

Wondering how to help? There are a few things you can do:

  1. Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and consider getting yours if you haven’t already.
  2. Check-in with yourself and your loved ones. (I recommend our Healthy Lifestyle Checklists.)
  3. If you’re a leader of employees, check in with them too.

I’m not the leader in the typical sense, but I am an employee! And as such, I can attest to the importance of leadership taking the time to talk to their employee base. Please continue to have open, honest conversations with your employees about the trying times we’re in and remember we want the facts. If nothing else, give us the opportunity to speak to our needs.

Furthermore, remind your employees to use the support resources at their disposal. At UnityPoint Health, we have an Employee Assistance Program offering therapy services for both team members and family members, chaplains and other religious services, and more.

Returning to offices, schools and events doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Do your part to help today. I promise to keep trying to do mine.