The ability to make educated decisions is a vital part of navigating daily life obstacles as well as taking responsibility and control of an individual’s life. This could not be direr in the case of health care, particularly closing the elephant size gap in health equity. In the last decade there has been growing social awareness surrounding the level of care available across the varied consumer landscape. I find the conundrum of delivery, access and healthy outcomes falls under the umbrella of patient education.
During my time as a Health Leaders Fellow, I spoke in great depth about personal responsibility in health care. Placing responsibility on the patient, regarding their overall health is how I commonly frame the health care debate. My colleagues understood my need to drive the patient-consumer to take charge and direct the course of care. While the patients’ role in health outcomes broadens, medical professionals too will need to enter a steep learning curve to begin to establish health equity, cultural competency and to ultimately, reduce health disparities. This is the new framework of education that is necessary by patients and providers.
As a patient I understand that I have rights, more importantly, I have the right to stop and ask questions of any one that is providing care. This is a life education process that every patient needs to grasp and relish. To gain the most out of the provider it is important to enter a healthy dialogue around choices and lifestyle. This will in no way eliminate the issue of health equity; it does however equip the provider with pertinent information and impart the patient with a sense of ownership regarding the health outcome.
The New Haven Public Health Department along with the Hartford and Groton Health Departments has initiated the Health Equity Alliance. In the scope of this alliance the landscape of the doctor’s office is being remodeled to better suit the patient and provider.
“…stop thinking of health as something we get at the doctors’ offices but instead as something that starts in our families, in our schools and workplaces, in our playgrounds and parks, and in the air we breathe and the water we drink. The more you see the problem of health this way, the more opportunities you have to improve it.”
Looking solely at health outcomes it is important to become a self educator in the
social components of health. Understanding that good health starts with healthy habits and community will provide a foundation for equity across socioeconomic categories.
Patients should begin to view the doctor’s office as a mere conduit to the overall goal,
a healthier life. For the provider patient relationship to work well, providers need to be educated in the area of cultural competency, tailoring care and treatments to the individual and the life circumstances that will be faced.