PruProtect's Phil Jeynes says insurers and intermediaries should focus on helping customers understand more about their health.
According to the latest statistics released by Cancer Research, more than half of those diagnosed with cancer can now expect to live for a further 10 years or more.
This represents a doubling of life expectancy among cancer sufferers over the last 40 years which is fantastic news.
The reasons for this improvement are myriad but crucial developments include better understanding and treatments of the disease in its many forms by the medical world, greater awareness of the potential causes of cancer among the general public (smoking, diet, weight etc) and earlier diagnosis of the illness.
The latter two points: awareness and diagnosis, are where there is still much work to be done, with a YouGov survey of 2000 Brits showing that 44% believed there is no link between obesity and cancer, whereas a third felt family history was the biggest contributing factor (in fact, only 5-10% of cancers are thought to be inherited genetically).
This points to a wider malaise in respect of understanding our health and taking responsibility for our physical state.
We exist in a culture in which many of us only ever speak to a medical professional when we encounter a problem and, even then, perhaps only when that problem hasn't shifted of its own accord.
Outside of corporate high flyers, it is extremely unlikely that we would countenance shelling out for a health check up or medical - a position at odds with our habits when it comes to assets such as our cars for which we, albeit grudgingly at times, probably all pay for an annual service as well as the compulsory MOT.
After all, what would we do if a minor problem with our vehicle was left unattended, leading to a costly and inconvenient malfunction. I'm sure I don't need to torture that analogy any further for you to get my drift.
As an insurance industry - both as providers and intermediaries - we should be focussed more on helping our customers understand their health as well as ensuring they are well protected should the worst happen.
An illustration of this point would be a client of ours who took up our offer (open to all policyholders) to go for a half price medical check.
His motive was to earn points in our Vitality programme as he was racing his adviser to see who get climb the statuses most quickly and he was, as far as he knew, in perfect health.
At the check up however, the doctor picked up the signs of prostate cancer, leading to a swift course of treatment and a full recovery. An outcome which would not have been so rosy had the disease been allowed to spread, undetected.
Until 7th November anyone taking term assurance with PruProtect will get a free basic health review (usually only £15 anyway).
We feel strongly that our duty to our customers is not simply to provide a rainy day document but to help them understand how they can, potentially, avoid the rain altogether.
Phil Jeynes is head of account development & public relations at PruProtect
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