The need for so many of us, of all ages and backgrounds, to test ourselves routinely for COVID-19, has led to a much greater awareness of diagnostic testing and, arguably, of our own health as well.
Previously, most self-testing was only routinely done by women who wanted to know whether or not they were pregnant, and some self-monitoring by people with diabetes to keep their condition under control.
This increased awareness has grown a curiosity to understand more about how we can live healthier and more sustainable lives. This is a positive change which should be encouraged as it supports the Government’s drive towards prevention of disease and early diagnosis. Which, in turn, will help relieve some of the pressure on our NHS – we need to live longer healthier lives, not just exist longer while coping with more and more health problems.
So why are the media and healthcare professionals so keen to dismiss people who want to understand more about their health status using diagnostic tests to provide information1, as the ‘worried well’? After all diagnostic tests provide valuable information on health and information is power! Admittedly this can lead to an increase in primary care appointments and perhaps additional confirmatory tests provided by the NHS but surely this is offset by empowering people to take responsibility for their health.
The term ‘worried well’ is patronising and dismissive – I’d love to see this phrase replaced with a description like ‘health aware’ and enable people to look after themselves as they do with anything else they value in their lives.
Reference: estimated 70-80% of healthcare decisions are based on information from pathology.
Lord Carter of Coles, Report of the Review of NHS Pathology Services in England, 2006, pp. 5 1