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The best things you can do to look after your health in 2021

Due to the changing priorities of health care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, diseases such as cancer, heart disease, epilepsy and mental health problems may see a sharp rise in the next few years.

From suspended and reduced health care services to increased stress, the indirect impact on your health may be felt throughout 2021 and beyond. Here are some of the key things you can do to help protect your health and well-being this year.

1. Book and attend appointments

In 2020, there was a significant drop in the number of people booking health assessments and discussing their symptoms. 20% of people said they would not go to routine check-up or doctor's appointment during the pandemic — an understandable decision, but one that could mean a delayed diagnosis of certain diseases and conditions.

What you can do

  • Attend routine health check-ups
    • Try to attend any routine appointments you are invited to, including screenings or treatment reviews
    • If you are concerned about attending due to the pandemic, talk to your health care provider about options available to you
  • Book appointments as normal
    • If you have new symptoms that you need to discuss or an existing condition that’s changed, talk to your family doctor or specialist as soon as possible
  • Chase disrupted services
    • If you are on a waiting list for an appointment or treatment, call your health care provider to where you are on the waiting list
    • By being proactive, you can reduce the stress and anxiety you may be feeling about disrupted services
  • Use telemedicine
    • Telemedicine is ideal if you cannot access your local health care centre or would prefer not to
    • Although you may be unable to access certain treatments from home, with telemedicine you can still receive prescriptions and have check-ins with your doctor

With Aetna International’s vHealth, each doctor has been specially trained in remote consultations, enabling you to receive high-quality care from home. Our Care and Response Excellence (CARE) team also offers support by remotely coordinating your care programmes and any external agencies involved in your treatment, such as hospitals, pharmacies and even airlines.

2. Get the vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is an important measure for ending the pandemic. Your government will be rolling out clinically approved, safe and effective vaccines, prioritising those who are particularly vulnerable, such as older people or those with certain existing conditions. Getting the vaccine will not only protect you from COVID-19, but it will also help to protect your family and the wider community.

What you can do

  • Find out when you’re eligible for the vaccine
    • You can check your government’s websites — for example, the CDC if you’re in the U.S. or the NHS if you’re in the UK — for information on how, when and where to get vaccinated, as well as the benefits of getting vaccinated
    • Contact your local health care centre and ask to join a waiting list, if they have one available
  • Get the vaccine
    • When you become eligible, you should receive an invite to receive the vaccine
    • If you don’t hear anything from your local provider, chase them up to get your vaccine booked in as early as possible
  • Talk to your employer
    • Ask your employer about the health and safety policies in place to protect you if you do need to be present in an office/shared work environment

3. Invest in family health care

The pandemic has made clear the importance of investing in the health and well-being of the whole family. In our report Expat Family Health and Wellness 2020, we found that 60% of expats added already family members to their existing insurance plan or took out new cover so their family could be added.

What you can do

  • Expand your health care plan or take out new cover
  • Talk to your employer
    • If your health care is covered by your employer, have a discussion with them about the benefits available at your work for you and your family members.

4. Be mindful of your posture

While musculoskeletal disorders and conditions are one of the top five most expensive health conditions for employers, 19% of employees rate their employer’s support for musculoskeletal problems as ‘poor’.

What you can do

  • Take care of your body
    • Our musculoskeletal resource hub offers plenty of information on musculoskeletal conditions as well as tips for building core muscles and exercises to help with lower back pain.
  • Ask for help
    • If you have concerns about your musculoskeletal health, book an appointment with a medical professional to find the root of the problem.
    • Make your employer aware of your concerns so they can provide you with supportive equipment and refer you for additional occupational health support.

All Aetna International policyholders can also Aetna Well-being: Body via the Health Hub

5. Maintain a healthy weight

One of the top health concerns of employees working from home is weight gain. With an emphasis on working from home and reducing social activities, it’s more important than ever to consider your diet and exercise.

What you can do

  • Build movement into your daily routine
    • If you’re working from home, take a walk in the morning as if you were commuting to the office
    • If possible, do the same again at the end of your working day — in addition to improving your fitness, it can also help you to unwind.
  • Exercise with others
    • It’s easier to keep fit when you have other people around you to keep you motivated
    • If it isn’t safe or possible to see people in person, you could join an online class or organise a workout over video call with your colleagues or friend
    • If you have children, getting involved in active play can also help get your endorphins going.
  • Eat a balanced diet
    • If you’re currently bored of being stuck indoors, take a look at new, inspiring recipes
    • Cooking can be fun and rewarding and can help you become more conscious of your nutrition.

If you are an Aetna International member, you can access healthy behaviours support from the CARE team via the Health Hub

6. Don’t ignore your mental health and emotional well-being

Mental health is now more important to most people than it was a year ago. In fact, around a third of employees class depression and anxiety as a top health concern.

What you can do

  • Minimise your stressors
    • If you’re finding your job stressful, discuss this with your manager to help share or prioritise your workload
  • Practice mindfulness and breathing techniques
    • This can help reduce anxiety and improve mental health
  • Talk to someone
    • Whether that be a friend, family member, colleague or medical professional, talking can help you to clear your mind and release built-up emotions.
  • Learn more

Aetna International customers have access to Aetna Well-being: Mind via the Health Hub. Through this service, users can use apps such as Wysa to speak to chat about their anxieties, and mindfulness-based stress reduction to practice meditation, mindfulness and breathwork.

7. Maintain a healthy work/life balance

It has always been important for employees to experience a healthy work/life balance. However, with more people working from home than ever, the line between home life and working life has blurred.

What you can do

  • Set clear boundaries
    • If possible, have a dedicated workspace, separating your work from your home
    • If this is not possible, put away your laptop and phone at the end of the day, allowing you to properly switch off
    • Set yourself specific working hours and plan activities for the evening — even if it just making dinner or watching TV — to avoid working late
  • Avoid burnout
    • Have regular check-ins with your manager to discuss any concerns about your work, suggest improvements and ask about available support
  • Support your colleagues
    • Keep an eye out for signs that your colleague may be overworking — for example, if they often send emails late at night — and check in with them 
    • If appropriate, suggest they speak to their manager or a health professional about their well-being
  • Talk to someone
    • Free apps like Wysa allow people to speak about how they’re feeling anonymously, at any time of the day.

Aetna International’s Employee Assistance Program offers a range of services, such as Manager Assist and work-life support. Designed to help employers better help their staff, Manager Assist provides coaching for senior members of staff to spot behaviours and support their team.

8. Set healthy habits

At Aetna International, we understand the importance of whole-person health — balancing mental, physical and emotional well-being. Setting healthy habits is just one way to achieve this balance and help you to prevent or manage existing health problems.

What you can do

  1. Quit smoking
  2. Moderate your alcohol consumption
  3. Improve your sleep quality sleep.

Aetna International’s CARE team provide support to members for sustaining healthy behaviours. You can also talk to medical professionals via vHealth to best decide which healthy habits to introduce to your lifestyle. These are accessible via the Health Hub

For information on workplace support that you should expect or ask about, read our article on 6 things your employer should have learned from 2020.

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