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Advocating For Your Own Health

October 9, 2023

Our Health Literacy Month newsletter series is focused on helping individuals find and understand information regarding their health. The series will consist of four articles, which will be released once a week throughout the month of October. Each article will cover different aspects of health literacy, offering helpful tips and information to encourage readers to protect their health and better manage health problems when they arise.

Whether you have a medical concern, a simple question, or you are just going in for your annual check-up, speaking with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers can sometimes feel daunting. While it’s easy to shrug off a small symptom or agree to something that you know isn’t right just to avoid causing a fuss, this could cause you harm later down the road.

Unless you have a caregiver, you are your one and only health advocate, a job that your life literally depends on. While sometimes it can be nerve-racking to stand up, ask questions, and challenge things you don’t understand or feel aren’t right, your health depends on it.

If you aren’t sure what steps you need to take to feel empowered to prioritize your health, check out the tips below.

  • Be prepared for your visit- If you have questions or concerns, write them down before you go. Make it a priority to address them and make sure you understand the answers provided to you.

  • Communicate clearly- Know why you are there and what you need from that appointment. Make sure to communicate clearly and concisely with your provider so they can make sure you are taken care of, and everything is addressed during that one visit.

  • Ask questions- If you don’t understand something, don’t feel embarrassed. Make sure to ask the questions that you have so that you can leave that visit with a better understanding of what is going on or what needs to be done.

  • Write notes- Bring a pen and notepad to visits. If it’s complicated write it down. This way once you get back home you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.

  • Trust your instincts- You know your body better than anyone else. That’s right, even doctors. If something doesn’t feel right, make sure to push for that to be addressed because nobody else will do it for you.

  • Know your benefits- Become familiar with what your insurance offers including coverage for screenings and tests. Knowledge is power. Knowing what is available to you can help reduce some of the anxiety associated with getting checked out and make you more likely to push for diagnostic testing if needed.

  • Don’t Rush yourself- Don’t rush to make any decisions you don’t feel ready for. Again, practice communication with your healthcare team and let them know you need time to consider your decision.

  • Find your Resources- Identify those who can help and connect with them. Know your resources, especially if you’ve received a new diagnosis. These include patient advocacy groups and other organizations that can help answer your questions and connect you with the right people to help give you more support.

Your health is the most important thing you have, and your life depends on it. So don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for it.