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Why do people avoid making healthy changes or visiting the doctor?

Week 2 explores barriers that prevent people from taking steps to make healthy changes or seeing their doctor and examines some ways to overcome these
GILL KILGOUR: Hello again, and welcome to week 2 of Talking About Cancer. Last week we learned some key facts and figures about cancer, identified some of the most important risk factors, and looked at some common views and perceptions people might have about cancer. We introduced you to Anita and Brian and we’ll catch up with them again this week at a later stage in their lives.
GWEN KAPLAN: This week we’ll focus on some of the barriers that might prevent people from taking action to change their lifestyle or visit the doctor. We introduced some more practical tips and examples to help you have meaningful conversations when talking about cancer. So what do we mean by a barrier?
GILL KILGOUR: A barrier is something that prevents someone from taking action. And we’re particularly interested in the barriers that stop people from changing their lifestyle or visiting the doctor when they’ve noticed an unusual or persistent change to their body. There are certain barriers such as needing an interpreter to engage with a doctor, which we won’t be focusing on. But here are some of the things that we have heard people say about what stops them from taking action.
GWEN KAPLAN: “I’m really worried about what the doctor might find. I’d rather not know.”
GILL KILGOUR: “I don’t like having to talk to the receptionist about my symptoms.”
GWEN KAPLAN: GWEN KAPLAN: “My relative has smoked all their life and they’re still here at 92.”
GILL KILGOUR: “It’s embarrassing. I don’t want to go and see a doctor.”
GWEN KAPLAN: “I know I’ve put on a lot of weight, but it’s hard to make changes.”
GILL KILGOUR: “My friend had a breast screening. She said it was really painful. I’m not going.”
GWEN KAPLAN: “I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time.”
GILL KILGOUR: “I can’t get there. It’s three buses away.”
GWEN KAPLAN: “I tried to give up smoking, but my local stop smoking service has shut down.” Some of these barriers might sound familiar. We hear them a lot. Just having a conversation with someone can really help them to change how they think about their concerns and the different approaches they could take. You don’t need to know all the answers. Just asking questions and offering support can be enough.

Welcome to Week 2

This week we’ll explore barriers that prevent people from taking steps to change their lifestyle or check their health. We’ll examine some ways you can overcome these barriers when talking about cancer. We’ll cover how you can encourage and support people to take practical actions.

We’ll catch up with Anita and Brian at a later stage in their lives and listen in on more of their conversations with friends and family to see examples of barriers. We’ll also see how others may be able to offer encouragement and helpful support.

This will help develop our understanding of what people think, say and do when they struggle to make improvements to make healthy changes or notice a change in their bodies. We’ll learn how to make a difference when talking about cancer.

In the video above, lead educators Gill and Gwen talk about some of the reasons people give for not making healthy changes or not visiting their doctor when they notice an unusual or persistent change to their body.

We refer to these thoughts and attitudes as barriers, because they prevent people from taking action.

And don’t forget to review the learner discussion themes from week 1, in the PDF guide below.

Activity and Discussion

  • Write down the views and barriers that you identified in the quotes Gill and Gwen reported. What were the common themes in the quotes?
  • Why do you think people give such reasons?
  • What other reasons have you heard people give for not taking action regarding their health?
  • Please share your views in the comments section.

What’s next?

In the next step, we’ll listen in on conversations that Brian and his wife have with friends. Think about the barriers we’ve identified and spot the issues that arise in their talks.

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Talking About Cancer: Reducing Risk, Early Detection and Myth-busting

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