Medical Self-Advocacy

One of the most important roles you have is to advocate for your own health. Medical self-advocacy can take many forms, so there is more than one way to take an active role in your health.

It can help to think of your health providers as partners in your care. Your role in the partnership is to talk openly and honestly about your symptoms, how treatment is working for you, and ask follow-up questions when needed. It also includes taking care of your body daily, with choices that improve your overall health.

Open communication ensures you and your treatment team have as much information as possible when considering how to manage risk factors and treatment options. This means providing a detailed health history, and learning as much as you can about your diagnosis.

Preparing for Appointments

Other ways to advocate for yourself include being prepared for any appointment, whether it’s a mental health treatment visit or a routine annual physical. Make a personalized medication card and write down any questions you have about dosages or side-effects. This will help you better communicate your needs and how treatment is working for you.

Self Advocacy

Setting Goals

Another important way to take an active role in your own health is to care for your body with mindful choices that can improve your wellbeing.

Think about setting one or two reasonable goals that can help manage your symptoms and lead to better overall health. If your goals seem too broad, break them down into steps that are easier to achieve. For example:

I would like to...

  • Lose weight
  • Sleep better
  • Better understand my symptoms and how to cope with them
  • Better understand how to manage my medication
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat healthier foods
  • Exercise more, or get motivated to start exercising
  • Make social connections with others
  • Feel hopeful again

You can then set a goal that is more specific and less overwhelming, such as:

I would like to lose weight...
I would like to lose 5 pounds...
Today I will choose an apple instead of chips with my lunch, and I’ll take time to go outside for a walk.
— and —
I will write down how I feel afterwards and what I plan to do tomorrow to help reach my goal.

As you begin to create new habits, you will also see progress in how you feel. This can help motivate you to set and reach another goal, building on each successful step.

There are many ways to achieve medical self-advocacy. Taking an active role in your care helps you and your providers work together, with a clear focus on improving your mental and physical health.

Medical Self-Advocacy: Self-Check

No pressure — there are no right or wrong answers. This is just information to get you on the right track for your health goals.

  1. The last time I went for an annual physical was...
    Having an annual health exam that includes questions about your physical and mental health can help you assess how you have been eating, sleeping, and feeling.
  2. The last time I had a fasting blood sugar test was...
    A fasting blood test measures your blood sugar for that day. If you have a history of diabetes, it’s important to have your HgA1c tested at least twice a year. This test provides an average of your blood sugar levels and can help you better understand how well you’re managing them.
  3. The last time I had my cholesterol checked was...
    Checking your total cholesterol once a year can reveal if your levels are abnormal.
  4. The last time I reviewed my prescribed and over-the-counter medications with my health care provider was...
    It’s important that your health care providers know all of the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications. This allows them to screen for side effects or interactions, and ensures you are on the right medications.
  5. The last time I was asked how I’m managing my mental health was...
    With each health care visit, it’s important to talk about your mental and physical health. By offering this information at each visit, you can improve communication and make the most of each appointment.