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The Vital Role of Self-Advocacy in Healthcare

Get off the sidelines when it comes to protecting your greatest asset: your health.

When faced with a health issue, we turn to our doctor and other healthcare specialists for information, support and a positive resolution. But when you head to an appointment, do you go armed with research gleaned from reputable sources? Are you prepared to ask questions and voice your concerns if something doesn’t seem right?

It’s time to take charge of your relationship with your healthcare provider in a way that places you squarely on the same team rather than on the sidelines. No healthcare provider, no matter how knowledgeable, has the understanding you have about your own body. Your ability to express your symptoms and your medical concerns will get you the care you deserve and the treatment you need.

Take control, stat

Your doctor is an expert, but why not take some time to do your own research about a medical issue you’re experiencing before heading to an appointment?

Your access to reputable websites, like those maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Mayo Clinic, can provide you with helpful information so you know what to ask your doctor. Just be sure to avoid misinformation; rely instead on websites run by reputable, major hospitals, healthcare organizations and government agencies.

Afterward, research any recommended procedures and prescriptions as well as costs through your state’s department of insurance and your insurance company’s website.

Loud and clear

Remember that you’re the boss. You have the right to respectful and considerate treatment, just as you have the right to ask questions and receive meaningful responses. You have the right to a healthcare professional who will listen to you and take time to understand what’s going on. And you also have the right to ask for a second medical opinion and, if necessary, to change physicians to ensure you’re receiving the care you need.

Keep your records straight

If you’ve ever switched doctors or seen a specialist, you know that transferring your records can be a hassle. But, with electronic health records becoming the norm, it’s easier than ever to both obtain and then digitally maintain your own copies. By creating a personal healthcare file that tracks your medical history, you can advocate for yourself without worry of forgetting anything – an important consideration if you’re nervous and distracted during an appointment, or are not able to tell your medical provider yourself.

Learning how to advocate your own health is vital when forming a partnership with your healthcare providers to better participate in your own care, rather than simply receiving care passively. You are the only one who knows what it’s like to live in your body, so now is the time to begin to feel empowered, to voice your opinion, to ask questions and to truly take control of your health.

Next steps

Take full advantage of preventive care. Ask your healthcare provider about:

  • Screenings for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other problems
  • Immunizations for illnesses
  • Counseling for mental health concerns
  • Your diet and activity levels
  • Weight and stress management
  • Smoking or substance abuse
  • Steps you can take to prevent chronic disease


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