Navigating the Health Care System

Advice Columns from Dr. Carolyn Clancy

Former AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D., prepared brief, easy-to-understand advice columns for consumers to help navigate the health care system. They address important issues such as how to recognize high-quality health care, how to be an informed health care consumer, and how to choose a hospital, doctor, and health plan.

Spring brings out the sports fan in many of us. Here in Washington, D.C., spring brought us the opening of a brand-new baseball stadium and the return of people of all shapes and sizes running, walking, and playing baseball around the National Mall.

Whatever your favorite form of exercise is, taking care of yourself makes a big difference.

Beyond running faster or boosting your batting average, there's another, more important reason why you need to take better care of yourself: Your family and loved ones depend on you and want you with them for as long as possible. Taking care of yourself will increase your chances of teaching your son to ride a bike or walking your daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.

That's the theme behind two new information campaigns that my Agency, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, recently started with the Ad Council to get men more involved in their health care. In April, we began a campaign called "Real Men Wear Gowns." It includes TV, radio, print, and Web ads that urge men to learn which preventive medical tests they need and when they need to get them. And just this week, ESPN launched similar ads with sports anchors from ESPN's SportsCenter and other shows.

Facts show that men don't visit the doctor as often as women, even though men are more prone to serious illnesses. Data from my Agency show that men are 25 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor in the past year. And men are 1.5 times more likely than women to die from heart disease, cancer, and lung diseases.

Taking care of your health is something that's best left to you, not your spouse or girlfriend. The women in your life are busy making health decisions for themselves, children, parents, and other relatives. By taking steps to stay healthy, you also can be a role model for your kids.

As our new ads say, "real men" will take the extra steps to go to the doctor, get the right medical tests for their age and health status, and even put on a flimsy exam gown if that's what they need to do.

Men can lead longer, healthier lives if they take steps to prevent disease. To know which steps to follow, visit www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/index.html. This site:

  • Gives the recommended ages for medical tests.
  • Offers a quiz about preventive health care.
  • Provides tips for talking with your doctor.
  • Defines health terms and gives links to sources for more information.

The "Real Men Wear Gowns" ads are part of my Agency's ongoing efforts to help patients become more involved in decisions about their health care. AHRQ also created ads to help prevent medical mistakes. Called "Questions are the Answer," those ads urge patients to create a list of questions about their medical needs and to ask those questions during medical appointments.

Spring is a great time of year to take part in activities with your family and loved ones. By becoming more involved in your health, you'll boost your chances of enjoying many more seasons with them.

I'm Dr. Carolyn Clancy, and that's my opinion on how to navigate the health care system.

More Information

AHRQ Podcast
How to Get Men to Take Better Care of Their Health  (Transcript)

Real Men Wear Gowns
http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/index.html

Questions are the Answer
Get More Involved With Your Health Care
http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/index.html

Page last reviewed May 2008
Internet Citation: Real Men Wear Gowns - And Help Their Health. May 2008. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/columns/navigating-the-health-care-system/050608.html