A culture shift from sickness care to wellness

In today's fast-paced world, we often overlook the importance of self-care, assuming it to be an indulgence rather than a necessity.

Insight Advisory

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Wellness is the new currency in healthcare.

In today’s fast-paced world, we often overlook the importance of self-care, assuming it to be an indulgence rather than a necessity. Self-care is actually about individuals taking charge of their own health and well-being – a shift in focus from sickness to wellness.

Self-care encompasses various activities, from regular exercise and a healthy diet to meditation and mindfulness practices. Anthea Towert, a certified financial planner and principal consultant at Insight Advisory Solutions, says that those who prioritise self-care improve their overall health status and well-being and reduce the risk of developing lifestyle-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.

“By engaging in regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet, most individuals can maintain a healthy weight, lower their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of developing obesity-related conditions,” she says, adding that self-care helps people manage stress levels and reduce burnout that, if left unchecked, can lead to a range of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Problems occur when we neglect self-care for too long in terms of poor diet, lack of exercise and a lack of attention to mental health. “The cumulative effects are increased risks of chronic disease. By the time these diseases are diagnosed, they are much more difficult to manage and can be life-altering,” she points out.

Medical aid schemes, the primary funders of private healthcare, are under growing pressure to find ways to manage increased cost of healthcare while improving affordability and value for members. One way they are doing this is to shift the focus from exclusively funding sickness to including wellness to help prevent or manage chronic health conditions before they become more serious and costly to treat.

“Members are increasingly seeking healthcare products and solutions that promote health and well-being alongside the treatment of illness,” says Towert. “Medical aid schemes are responding to these changing needs by offering more comprehensive preventative care and self-care benefits paid from risk cover and not from members’ medical savings. These include annual health checks, vaccinations and immunisations, cancer screening and early detection of disease tests, well-baby and well-child check-ups and preventative dental care, to name a few.”

To help prioritise and promote a shift to this wellness culture, both schemes and health insurers are supplementing preventative care and screening benefits with ancillary wellness-focused lifestyle and rewards programmes to further incentivise members who take steps to improve their health through self-care, she adds.

These programmes aim to promote healthy habits and behaviours, advancing a culture of wellness over sickness and increasing member engagement and satisfaction. Members who actively engage benefit from tangible and significant rewards, including discounts on health and wellness products, travel, and entertainment, as well as shopping vouchers.

“With or without a supporting wellness programme, we can all improve our health and well-being and positively impact our longer-term healthcare costs by incorporating self-care into our daily lives,” says Towert.

Published in The Sunday Times Lifestyle – Medical Cover Options on 11 June 2023.

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