Deciding to see a doctor can be easy when you have an obvious injury or illness. But when to comes to preventing health problems, making a decision may be more difficult. While some people simply aren’t aware of the need for prevention, for others it’s the cost that can hold them back.

In fact, one in 17 Australians delay or don’t see a GP due to cost. Unfortunately, only 7% of services provided by GPs are for prevention, which is small considering that 20% of all health problems seen in general practices are preventable.A GP in consultation with a couple

What to do?

The old saying is true: An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. It can prevent illness, find and treat a disease early, and promote and maintain your existing good health.

However, to take advantage of prevention, you need to take responsibility for your own health. This includes not letting cost put you off seeing your GP who can help with physical and mental preventive health measures ranging from immunisation (for all ages – babies, children and adults) through to preventing suicide.

Two particularly important prevention measures are health checks, which are recommended even if you’re feeling well or have a stable, chronic health problem, 4 and maintaining or achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Health checks

Age # To prevent additional illness or disease To prevent new illness or disease
(years) for people with these existing conditions
18 + Overweight, obesity, high blood pressure Cervical cancer (every 2 years)
(every 2 years)
40 + Diabetes (every 3 years)
45 + Cholesterol and triglyceride levels (blood test
every 5 years),
Heart disease and stroke risk (every 2
Osteoporosis risk (every year)
50 + Breast cancer, bowel cancer (every two
65 + Risk of falling over, vision and hearing
problems (every year)

# Ages may be younger for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle can help prevent chronic diseases suc as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers (as well as reducing symptoms). The main lifestyle areas that your GP can help you with include:

  • Not smoking/Smoking cessation
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Healthy diet education
  • Regular physical activity advice
  • Not drinking excessive alcohol

For example, to help you quit smoking your GP can give you useful information, advise you who to speak to for assistance (such as Quitline) and prescribe effective medications.

In Australia Health Direct can also provide more information on prevention at or ring 1800 022 222.

Group of friends relaxing on the grass in the summeritme having a good time together

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