Tuesday, November 09, 2010

3 steps to building your health advocacy skills

“Inspiration and ideas come from a wide variety of sources,” says Suzanne Ross of the Aerie Company.  I appreciate Suzanne’s ability to integrate new thoughts and make the strategy + communications + leadership link to elevate performance.

Recently, Suzanne’s newsletter featured an article on Health Literacy, and I asked her if I could share it with friends of Stinson Brand Innovation.


As health care reform brings millions more people into the system over the next several years, there has never been such an urgent and dramatic need to advocate for yourself, your family and the people you love at the doctor’s office and in the hospital.

The successful champions will be those with a solid health literacy foundation – often described as an individual’s ability to read, understand and use healthcare information to make decisions and follow instructions for treatment. While it seems pretty straightforward, the complexities of chronic conditions, varied therapeutic approaches and an enormous array of drug options, let alone insurance and financial issues, require today’s patients and consumers to be prepared for even more responsibility and accountability for their health.

Health Literacy awareness draws increased attention on the importance of access to accurate, understandable health information and promoting good health. It has been well documented that limited health literacy has a direct link to worse health outcomes and higher costs, something we can ill afford today.

Among many resources available to promote greater consumer understanding of health, particularly navigating the system, is “The Empowered Patient” by CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. The book is an outgrowth a career reporting on healthcare, her Empowered Patient column for CNN.com and personal and family experience as patients. Cohen takes a be-prepared-like-a-Boy Scout approach offering advice, patient stories, resources and check lists on getting the right diagnosis and plan for the best medical care, dealing with your insurance company, how to maximize prescriptions, ultimately informing patients of their vital role in creating a smarter, safer health care system.

The basic principles for becoming a personal advocate ring true for the business environment as well, whether responding to a crisis or promoting a new point of view on issues critical to your company or industry. To help pave the way to define and resolve problems, focus on advocacy skills that enable you to:
  1. Be prepared – do your research to support your position, keep organized records that outline all details and have a plan for success
  2. Be clear – articulate a clear, specific definition of the problem that distinguishes major issues from incidental details and always be listening to ensure you understand any response you receive
  3. Be engaged – adopt a lifelong learning mindset so you are receptive and can question new information and options while remaining polite and persistent
With better understanding comes better decision-making. When it comes to a healthy and productive workforce, health literacy cannot be the sole obligation of a single stakeholder. Employers, care management programs, insurance companies and individuals alike need to be the advocates for better health and outcomes.

You can contact Suzanne Ross at www.aeriecompany.com.

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