April 18, 2001
Yourself to a Day of Health
costly, a comprehensive medical assessment can ward off burgeoning
medicine, despite all its terrific scientific advances and treatments,
often leaves a nostalgic yearning for more -- perhaps not
among young people, but certainly among those of us old enough to
remember when a trip to the doctor seemed more like visiting an
old friend, with genuine queries about thoughts and dreams as well
as a head-to-toe exam.
By Debra Wood, R.N.
Laura Bennett of Orlando, Florida, found a balance of old-fashioned
caring and the latest technologies during a "day of health" spent
at a women's health-assessment program. When the businesswoman turned
47, she signed up for the complete medical evaluation as a birthday
gift to herself.
"I hardly ever indulge myself, but I'm proud that I put the focus
on my health instead of buying a new suit or something," Bennett
says. "I would highly recommend it."
Women receive more than routine blood work, screening tests, and
a physical during a day of health. At Bennett's assessment, a dietitian
reviewed a three-day food diary. Exercise physiologists measured
body strength and flexibility. Mental health professionals delve
into emotional, social, and stress issues. Although Bennett does
not take any prescription medications, a pharmacist discussed vitamins
and methods to keep cholesterol levels down.
"This type of information is never on my radar screen," says Bennett.
"Having someone explain it intelligently was a delight."
"All the testing is geared toward preventing [disease]
and a lot of the issues we deal with as we get older.
If you can avoid those pitfalls, you can live a lot longer,"
says Deborah Harding, M.D.
At the end of the day, with tests completed, women receive a written
report and consult with a female physician who recommends lifestyle
changes. Many diseases that plague women later in life are escapable
with early intervention.
"All the testing is geared toward preventing [disease] and a lot
of the issues we deal with as we get older. If you can avoid those
pitfalls, you can live a lot longer," says Deborah Harding, M.D.,
director of Executive Women's Health at Rippe Health Assessment,
in Orlando. "We change people's lives here. We change what's going
If Dr. Harding detects a condition that requires medical intervention,
patients may follow up with their own physician or see an on-site
specialist. Patients receive a written report they can pass along
to their doctor.
Many respected medical centers provide this type of "executive-health"
evaluation, often offered as a perk to employees, and some, such
as the Cleveland Clinic, offer a women's tract. But the programs
appeal to more than corporate honchos.
"Most women wear so many hats, they have a hard time getting the
health issues taken care of for themselves," Dr. Harding says. "What
they can do in this program is get everything done in a whole day."
And there's no waiting. It sounds almost too good to be true. What's
With the focus on prevention, evaluations are rarely covered by
health insurance, and costs start at about $1,400. Typically diagnostics
become "medically necessary" after symptoms appear. During a day
of health, women may receive noninvasive tests they don't "truly"
need, which therefore aren't covered by insurance. The irony is
obvious, and somewhat maddening; these tests could give an early
warning about osteoporosis or coronary artery disease.
Bennett knows the results of her blood, heart, and bone-density
tests and feels a sense of ownership. They'll serve as benchmarks
in the future. She considers it money and time well spent and plans
to make a health assessment an annual birthday present.
Clearly, this isn't possible for everyone. But even if it's affordable
only every few years, the benefits will last much longer.
Send feedback on this article.
Wood is a registered nurse and health writer living in Orlando, Florida.
Debra calls on more than two decades of nursing experience to effectively
communicate medical topics to lay and professional audiences.