Tips to Help Stay Healthy at Home During and After the Holidays

The holiday season is at hand, and many Wisconsinites may be modifying plans for travel and celebrations due to COVID-19. With many people staying at home for the holidays, getting or staying healthy is likely top of mind.  

In fact, 53% of Americans plan to make health-related New Year’s resolutions this year, while an equal number have vowed to improve their financial well-being, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. With COVID-19 still spreading in Wisconsin and elsewhere, 10% of survey respondents making health-related resolutions said reducing the risk of catching the virus was their most important health-related resolution, with the most common strategies including improving immune function, wearing a mask when leaving home and frequent handwashing. 

To help people make health a priority while spending more time at home for the holidays, here are four tips to consider:  

Connect with a Primary Care Physician. The number of Americans with a primary care physician has declined recently, with an estimated 25% of people lacking this type of ongoing relationship.  Reversing that trend may be important given people who have a relationship with a primary care physician may be more likely to receive high-value care services, such as preventive cancer screenings, and report better care access and experiences compared to people without a relationship with this type of doctor.  For people who already have a relationship with a primary care physician, some health plans and care providers are offering telehealth appointments, enabling people to remotely visit with a doctor for various types of medical needs, including wellness, routine and chronic condition management. People who do not have a relationship with a primary care doctor are encouraged to check with their health plan to see what options may be available to create a relationship.

Access Other Types of Virtual Care. While virtual care has been historically used to help treat urgent medical issues, including rash, pinkeye and the flu, recent advances are focusing on helping to prevent and detect disease before it starts, while encouraging well-being from head to toe. Some specialists, including cardiologists and dermatologists, are using technology to remotely connect with patients. Other virtual care resources include remote patient monitoring programs that use smartwatches, connected asthma inhalers or continuous glucose monitors to help people better understand how daily habits may influence measures of health, such as the connection between nutrition, activity patterns and blood glucose levels. Plus, the availability of tele-dentistry, tele-eye screenings and tele-hearing programs may make it more convenient to access care and support whole-person health.   

Earn Incentives for Socially Distanced Activities. More than two-thirds of employers plan to expand their well-being programs, with the average annual incentive exceeding $780. Some programs reward people for activities that can be done outside or at home amid COVID-19, such as walking, cycling or using an at-home elliptical. With some gyms closed or people avoiding public venues for exercise, subscribing to a digital fitness app or enrolling in an online weight-loss program may provide additional support and structure. In fact, exercising more (25%) and losing weight (20%) ranked as the top two health-related resolutions, according to the UnitedHealthcare survey.    

Prepare to Use Your 2021 Benefits. This year’s open-enrollment season recently wrapped up for most Americans, which means some people might have a new plan starting New Year’s Day. Before the year is out, take time to review your health plan and check with your employer’s HR department to determine what well-being incentives or other resources might be available when 2021 starts. Many people have spending accounts with funds earmarked for eligible health care services, such as health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Take time to understand what accounts may be available to you and how you plan to fund – and use – those accounts to help maintain or improve your health. 

The new year often brings optimism; however, for some people resolutions may go unfulfilled. Following these tips may help you achieve your resolutions and help you maintain your health for years to come. 

By, Alex Paniagua