The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

August 21, 2013

The case against the annual checkup

Today, approximately 177,000 Americans will visit a doctor, even though they have absolutely no symptoms. There is no standardized procedure for the annual health exam. Some doctors limit themselves to a brief interview and a once-over with the stethoscope. Others add-on some useful, or at least arguably useful, preventive health procedures like mammograms, cholesterol checks and prostate-specific antigen tests. Many order a series of laboratory tests that are unnecessary and often counterproductive in healthy adults, like a complete blood count or urinalysis.

The annual health exam is a venerable tradition, stretching back to the late 19th century — those heady days of medicine when doctors overestimated their own ability to cure disease, and badly underestimated their tendency to cause it. We're now in the evidence-based era of medicine, and there's little evidence that annual exams provide any benefit. So here's a free bit of advice: If you're not sick, don't go to the doctor.

There are two kinds of arguments against the adult annual health checkup. The first has to do with the health care system overall, and the second has to do with you personally.

Annual checkups account for more than 8 percent of doctor visits and cost the health care system $8 billion annually — more than the total health care spending of several states. Each visit takes around 23 minutes, which means doctors in the United States spend approximately 17 million hours each year running their stethoscopes over 45 million completely healthy people.

It's important to separate preventive care from annual checkups. Only one-half of annual checkups actually include a preventive health procedure such as a mammogram, cholesterol testing, or a check for prostate cancer. (Annual gynecological visits are excluded from these numbers, although the evidence supporting those is not particularly overwhelming either.) More importantly, only 20 percent of the preventive health services provided in the United States are delivered at annual checkups.

Text Only
Food & Health
  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 31, 2014

  • Fist bump photo Study: Fist bumps less germy than handshakes

    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Watermelon Think beyond the slice with refreshing watermelon

    Watermelon is one of those foods you really don’t need to overthink.
    Slice it. Eat it. Spit out the occasional seed. Done.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Health insurers owe Iowans nearly $1.8M in refunds

    The federal government says insurers owe Iowans nearly $1.8 million in refunds because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act.

    July 24, 2014

  • Agents get subsidized 'Obamacare' using fake IDs WASHINGTON (AP) — Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional investigators said Wednesday.The weak link seemed to be call cente

    July 24, 2014

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Illinois patients to docs: 'What about marijuana?'

    Illinois doctors, nursing homes, hospitals and hospice organizations are ramping up for their role as gatekeepers in the state's new medical marijuana program.

    July 23, 2014

  • Amanda Stecker Herbs make a better way to flavor meals Summer is a season full of fresh herbs. This is the best time of year to take advantage of the fresh herbs in the grocery store. Herbs add a boost of flavor without added sodium and are rich in antioxidants. Herbs are easy to incorporate into everyda

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Genome Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scientists have linked more than 100 spots in our DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia, casting light on the mystery of what makes the disease tick.Such work could eventually point to new treatments, although they are many y

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.