Companies urged to encourage health checks

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New research by the patient organisation, Pink Hope reveals that one in five Australians admit to delaying a cancer screening (21%) in the 15 months since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with two in three (69%) of these people admitting they are still yet to book.

Commissioned in partnership with YouGov, Pink Hope’s research reveals that only 35% of the eligible population of Australian females over the age of 50 had undergone a breast screening in the last 12 months prior to the research taking place.

Additionally, only around a quarter (28%) of Australians had a skin check in the two years prior to the research.

Worryingly, the research highlights a broader lack of awareness amongst Australians about the free cancer screening services available to them, with seven in 10 (70%) women not aware that screening for cervical cancer is offered free for anyone who wants it.

In addition, one in four (25%) women believe that screening is offered, but only if you organise and pay for it yourself.

‘Wellness Day’ initiative 

The research, which was released 3 March 2022, has inspired Novartis Australia & New Zealand to take charge, relaunching their ‘Wellness Day’ initiative, gifting staff an additional day of leave to undergo a health check.

‘Wellness Day’, launched by Novartis Australia & New Zealand in 2020, was inspired by the company’s desire to make up for health checks missed during Covid-19 lockdowns by gifting staff the time to do so, outside of their regular annual leave entitlements.

The initiative this year will see the business partner with more than 16 patient organisations in calling on all Australian companies to follow suit.

So far, the initiative is gaining rapid traction, with an array of leading Australian organisations, including Leading Edge Global, Astra Zeneca, Quarry Mining, GO Healthy Vitamins, Inventium, Corteva and Atlantis Health who are all united in the same message to #GetChecked.

“When the program ran in 2020, the Novartis team completely embraced ‘Wellness Day’ and underwent a variety of health checks,” says Cheryl Maley, General Manager Oncology ANZ – Novartis.

“As a result, in some cases, our employees discovered skin cancers that were surgically removed as well as other confirmed diagnoses.

“This is when it really hit home for us.

“How many treatable health issues are going undetected across Australia because employees aren’t able to prioritise their health to book in for these life-saving checks due to the busyness of work, and the limitations of lockdowns.

“As businesses, we have a pivotal role to play in supporting the health and wellbeing of our team, and we need to think beyond fruit baskets and yoga,” she says.

Ms Maley explains that ‘Wellness Day’ is about “providing employees with the chance to prioritise their health in a way that is meaningful, important and may well save their life”.

“The research released by Pink Hope demonstrates the significant drop in the general population health screening in areas such as breast, bowel, melanoma, and cervical cancers – diseases which, if left untreated, can have devastating impacts,” says Ms Maley.

Ms Maley urges other Australian businesses to get involved and provide their staff with the opportunity to do the same.

“If we consider the number of health issues that have been identified in our organisation and during community-based initiatives providing health checks directly to the public, we can ask ourselves how many more could we discover by running these programs across the country,” she says.

“We know early detection is crucial for positive patient outcomes and ‘Wellness Day’ is a simple way to interrupt the busyness of life and allow employees to put themselves and their health first.”

”Wellness Day’ is essential’

Sarah Powell, CEO of Pink Hope believes initiatives like ‘Wellness Day’ are essential to addressing the predicted rise in later-stage cancer diagnosis due to the delaying of screenings because of Covid-19 and its subsequent lockdowns.

“Wellness Day is an incredibly important initiative that puts the power back into the hands of individuals, allowing people to meet with their health care professionals and take back some of the control we’ve felt as though we’ve lost, courtesy of Covid-19,” says Ms Powell.

“We know that the health impacts of the pandemic are likely to be far greater than the virus itself. Worse still, it seems that many Australians lack the knowledge around available screening programs, evidenced in the research with findings such as 17% of Australian women unsure of the guidelines around breast cancer screening, despite it impacting one in seven women.”

Businesses and individuals can get involved in ‘Wellness Day’ in several ways, from gifting leave to their staff so they can arrange appointments, through to arranging in-office skin checks through to visiting a pharmacy or general practitioner for a health check.

For more information on how to get involved visit: wellnessday.com.au