Harlem Word: Dr. Richard Younge on annual checkups

Dr. Richard Younge talks about getting annual checkups.

Dr. Richard Younge is a family physician at the Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr., Community Health Center in Washington Heights where he treats patients of all ages and backgrounds. (

Q: What is your opinion about the importance of annual medical checkups?

A: Views about annual checkup are changing. Healthcare data shows that the average things a doctor does when you go for a checkup, are not really all that helpful. For instance, listening to somebody's heart, feeling their abdomen or having them open their mouths and say "ahhh" are perhaps not the most important things I could do when I see people each year. Rather, it may be more important to talk to them about whether they are experiencing problems with domestic violence, whether they have guns in the home, or to find out what kind of work they do and what kinds of risks they're exposed to. I now believe the annual checkup needs to be a lot more talking and counseling and not necessarily palpitating and listening.

Q: What are some of the reasons people don't get regular checkups?

A: Some don't have insurance to cover it. Sometimes it's hard to make a convincing argument to come in for health services that could cost several hundred dollars for the visit and the lab tests. That's why a lot of people wait for symptoms to come and see a doctor.

People also have other priorities even if they have health insurance--there's work, life, family. It's sometimes hard to remember to get a checkup every year or touch bases with your healthcare professional. Sometimes people forget. For instance, I just got a notice from my dentist saying I haven't been in for longer than I should've been. Sometimes doctors and other health care providers need to be more proactive and reach out to people about their needs for periodic health promotion services.

Q: Are there other options for getting care if a person is uninsured?

A: They may be able to attend a health fair or public screening for blood pressure, or cholesterol. But I believe that we need to move this country toward everyone getting some form of medical care.

Read more from Dr. Younge by clicking the links below:

Harlem Word is a series of interviews with Northern Manhattan health experts, written by HHPC and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board.
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