Lessons from the Super Bowl

Superbowl StartIn what may be a health literacy first, Say Ah! finds inspiration from the Super Bowl to teach you how to champion your own health care. 

Watching the Super Bowl last Sunday, I was struck by how many parallels there are between being a player in one of the world’s most complex games and being a patient in one of the world’s most complex health care systems. The memorable contest, which saw the underdog Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers, provided some important insight into how to get better care. Here are some patient tips taken from the game:

There is no “i” in “Team:” Sure, it’s a cliche but it is a good one. And it applies to your health — and the health of those you care about. Your “teammates,” which include your health care providers, friends, family members, are there to help you and vice versa. Ask for help when you need it, and do what you can to support them. Never, ever go it alone in dealing with your health or the health care system.

Prepare: Whether you are a player studying the film of an opposing squad, or a fan who is trying to recreate that “winning” chili recipe you served during the conference championship, the days leading up to the Super Bowl are often spent in intense preparation. If only we put that much effort into getting ready to go to the doctor.

To get the most from your visit, with your health care provider, prepare by doing research, writing down your symptoms, creating a list of questions to ask your doctor, and bringing a bag with all of your medications and a copy of your health history. This will help you make the most out of your limited time, and lower the chances of a medical or diagnostic error.

Quarterback Your Own Care: One of the main jobs of the quarterback is to make sure all the players know the play. This is a role you absolutely have to fill if you want to be successful in managing your care. Make sure that all the members of your health care team know each other, know your about your current health status,  know what medication you are taking, and know your health history. Always inform all of them if there is a change to your health.

Technology is not Perfect: Despite the great play of both teams, perhaps the most memorable event of the Super Bowl was when the power went out for 34 minutes. The first-ever Super Bowl Blackout was a good reminder that technology is not perfect. While we have an incredible array of diagnostic tools and other technologies available to us, they are only as perfect as the humans using them. Do not put blind trust in technology, and when it comes to interpreting that technology (i.e. reading x-rays, etc.) always get a second opinion!

Believe in Your Self: Even those who hold powerful positions in our society can feel powerless — or even stupid — once they step into a doctor’s office. Don’t! You must partner with your care provider to get the best possible care. In fact, your doctor needs you to ask questions; and you should always talk freely and honestly about your health issues; speak up when you don’t understand something, correct any wrong information in your records, and tell your doctor what you want and need.

If your self esteem checks out when you  check-in at the front desk, here’s a pep talk on how to get it back: Pretend you are Joe Flacco, the  Ravens quarterback and Super Bowl MVP. In the spring, he left critics laughing when he proclaimed himself to be the best quarterback in the NFL. By the end of the season, he was.

Now go out and be the champion of your care!

Say Ah!’s Emergency Preparedness Tips

by Say Ah! Staff

When it comes to your health, you can never be too prepared. That lesson was driven home this fall at Say Ah! headquarters, which were closed for a week due to both flooding and power outages from Hurricane Sandy.

In addition to having no power, water, heat, cell service, internet, or transportation, we experienced a region-wide failure of our health care system. Hospitals and care facilities were evacuated, doctors’ offices were closed, and in some cases destroyed, pharmacies were subject to the blackout, and the suspension of the postal service meant no mail-order medications.

Despite being closed, we still received numerous personal calls, texts and emails asking us how best to navigate the new health care landscape – and prepare for the next emergency or disaster. We’ve put some of these tips down for you, as well some others that have come up in the aftermath of the storm. Please send us yours at info@say-ah.org.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst: 
Do as much preparation work in advance since you never know what sort of damage a storm may do.  In fact, don’t even wait for a bad weather forecast (or any emergency) to get organized about your health care. Do it now. It is one of the best things you can do for your health!

  • Keep Important Documents Safe and Easy to Find: Important documents include: a Medication List, a Personal Health History, a List of all Your Care Providers, and Your Insurance Card. Keep copies of these in a waterproof container in an easy to reach spot and email them to yourself so you can keep them online.  In addition, email and mail copies to those on your emergency contact list, which should always include one person outside the region
  • Keep Your Medications and Medical Devices Safe and in Good Supply: Put your medications in a waterproof container or plastic bag and make sure you have at least 10 days worth of everything you take, including all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, herbs, supplements, vitamins, and minerals. Make sure any medical devices you use, like an inhaler or glucose monitor, is safe and also in a waterproof container. If you need a back-up, now is the time to get one
  • Call your Doctor/Care Providers Ahead of Time to Make Emergency Plans: While your phone still works and it is easy to get through, make important calls before the storm so you know what to do in the event services or electricity are knocked out. This is especially important for any in-home care you receive, such as from a visiting nurse or hospice. Also, call your pharmacist or poison control if you need to know how to handle your medications in the emergency, especially medications, such as insulin, that have to be refrigerated
  • Find a Safe Place Away From the Storm: If you need to get to health care or it needs to come to you, go some place safe even if you are not being told to evacuate. If your health depends on continuous or non-stop care, go to a place where it won’t be disrupted
  • Get Medical Help if You Need It: Always seek medical help if you have a change your health (such as breathing difficulty, a cut that has been exposed to flood water)