The Main Association of Austrian social security organisations and the Austrian medical council have agreed to remodel the existing free preventive screening programme and adapt this to more recent medical findings.
Innovative and modern lifestyle medicine - an overview
Preventive screening programmes are being adapted to the concepts of modern lifestyle medicine more than ever. This means that programmes are now designed not merely to detect the early symptoms of the diseases that are endemic in modern societies; they are also used to:
- Diagnose problems with and promote health-enhancing changes to lifestyle in regard to the key topics of exercise, nutrition and smoking. The parameters body mass index, total cholesterol levels and levels of HDL cholesterol play an important role here.
- The counselling role of doctors is emphasized. An individual risk profile is generated from each examination. Doctors are thus better able to assess the situation of their patients and initiate other appropriate measures (quitting smoking, advice on nutrition and exercise).
- One aspect that has been recently introduced is an expansion of the bowel cancer screening programme for individuals over 50 years old. In addition to the haemoccult test (test for the presence of blood in the faeces), a colonoscopy procedure has been introduced into the programme.
- The hearing capacity and sight of persons over 65 years old are also being more closely monitored.
- In international comparisons, Austria performs poorly with regard to rates of periodontal disease. For this reason, screening procedures for periodontal gum problems have also been introduced into the programme to ensure that Austria’s population is also optimally provided for in this area.
- A new invitation and reminder system has also been introduced for screening examinations.
Screening examinations that conform to the latest in medical expertise
The screening programmes are designed on the basis of the most effective recognised prevention and early detection procedures and adapted to the needs of local utilisation. The proven examination procedures that have been employed to date have been appropriately updated to conform to the latest in medical expertise. The only examination and test procedures used are those that will provide Austria’s citizens with a genuine health benefit. Doubtful procedures associated with an unfavourable benefit/risk profile have been eliminated from the programme.
Focus on information and advice
The emphasis in the new preventive screening programme is on the provision of information and advice. All those who take advantage of the programme will be informed about their state of health and what they can do to improve it. A detailed consideration of the lifestyle and situation of each person will make it possible to generate individual risk profiles. On the basis of the health risk represented by the individual lifestyle profile, doctors will be able to make early recommendations with regard to nutritional habits, exercise and smoking.
New invitation system to encourage participation in the screening programme
Currently, some 12,4 % of the relevant population undergoes screening annually. As individuals attend a screening examination only every 3 years on average, this does mean that nearly 40 % of the population as a whole are taking advantage of the programme.
Although this level of attendance is relatively high, the aim is to ensure that even more of Austria’s population regularly make use of the opportunity to have a preventive medical check-up.
A new invitation system has been introduced to specifically target persons who have not yet taken advantage of the screening programme (but who could significantly benefit if they do so) and also potential risk groups.