07 November 2011
Last week, in The People’s Clinic, we discussed the many ways health is defined, for individuals, families and communities. Knowledge about your health and your community’s health is essential, but what is the next step in turning this knowledge into action? Making health changes, whether in our personal or family life, or in our communities, requires us to know how to advocate on all these levels.
How do I create change for myself
and my family?
At home, help your family become more knowledgeable about their personal health and the family’s health overall. Talk about your family history and possible risk factors for disease. Work towards a healthy lifestyle for you and your family. If you find barriers to living a healthy lifestyle, look to see how those barriers can be addressed on a personal and a community level.
An essential step to being able to advocate for yourself or your family’s health is to become more knowledgeable. For example, if you have been diagnosed with a particular illness, you should try to gather information on that illness from many different sources, like another health care provider, print information and websites.
What about with my health care provider?
It is important to remember that not all information we may find on the internet or other sources is not always 100% correct, so it is also essential to have a health care provider that you trust with whom you can share the information. Having reliable information can allow you to have a more meaningful conversation with your health care provider in which you are better able to discuss your care.
You should state clearly with your healthcare provider (or the health care provider of your loved one) exactly what your needs and desires are as they relate to your [or your loved one’s] care. It is also important to know that, as a patient, you (or a loved one) are in charge of your care, and you have the right to have your questions answered, seek a second opinion, and change health care providers. Speak up when you have a concern or issue that you want to discuss! And, Speak up when we are doing a good job, so that we know we are hearing you and responding accordingly.
How can create change in my community?
The best way to create change in your community is to serve as a role model. Making healthier food choices, exercising, and participating in community events are all things you can do and encourage others in your community to follow your example. You can also advocate to policymakers to improve or change things in your community in the following ways:
• Calling, meeting with, or writing a letter to your policymakers
• Serving as a resource to policymakers – you can do this by assuring policymakers have the correct and most up to date information related to your cause
• Writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper – most newspapers have their instructions for letters to the editor in their paper and on their website
• Participating in a community forum or town meeting
• Developing coalitions of persons who share and support similar interests
A policymaker is anyone who has a role in developing policy for a certain group of persons. This means that you may advocate to elected officials, but you may also advocate to business leaders, directors of health care organizations (hospitals, clinics, etc.), even groups of people like researchers, doctors, or the community at large. Remember, influencing change on the community or group level rarely happens overnight; this means you may need to advocate to many different people/groups of people via many different means over a period of time.
Health change, on any level, takes a lot of work and dedication to be successful. We here at The People’s Clinic hope we have and continue to assist you to gain more knowledge and skills to make health change in your life. We hope to continue to partner with you and your community to improve the health of each and every individual, and make our communities healthy places that grow and thrive.
Do you need further information or have questions or comments about this article? Please call toll-free 1-877-530-1824. Or, for more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, please visit our website: http://www.wakehealth.edu/MACHE. •
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