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8 Ways of Promoting Change through Health Advocacy

Health advocacy plays a crucial role in fostering the development of a robust primary care workforce, thereby contributing to improved health and well-being outcomes. As the backbone of healthcare systems, primary care professionals have a unique opportunity to serve as advocates for their patients, promoting preventive care, education, and early intervention. By integrating health advocacy into your practice, primary care providers can help address systemic barriers, influence policy changes, and create a more equitable and patient-centered healthcare environment. This article explores the significance of health advocacy as a strategy to enhance the primary care workforce and its positive impact on individual and community well-being.

What is Health Advocacy?

Health advocates promote and protect individuals’ rights and interests in matters concerning health, as well as those of the communities. This includes a wide range of activities, such as education for patients, policy development, community outreach and engagement with interested parties. In the context of primary care, health advocacy involves empowering healthcare professionals to serve as agents of change, amplifying their patients’ voices, and addressing social determinants of health that impact well-being.

Who can be a health advocate?

Anyone with a passion for healthcare can become an health advocate. The primary care workforce are strategically positioned to find a cause they can be passionate about. These professionals are often the first point of contact for patients, providing comprehensive, continuous, and coordinated care. By integrating health advocacy into your role as a primary care provider you can extend your impact beyond the traditional clinical setting.

You can explore how health outcomes are influenced by social determinants such as education, housing, employment, and access to healthy food by collaborating with community organisations, government agencies, and policymakers.

Primary care providers directly already advocate for their patients by ensuring that treatment plans align with patients’ values, preferences, and goals but you should also reach outside the clinic setting by ensuring patients receive coordinated and integrated services tailored to their unique needs. For the individual involved in health advocacy there is utility in pushing beyond your comfort zone and creating additional meaning and value, which in turn will improve your wellbeing.

Here are 8 non mainstream groups and causes that a primary care team can become an advocate for which in turn can bring fulfilment and boost their health and wellbeing.

1. LGBTQ+ Health and Well-being, Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) Advocate: Primary care practitioners can become advocates for the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. They can support and provide inclusive care to LGBTQ+ individuals, ensuring their unique healthcare needs are addressed, promoting mental health, and advocating for policies that protect their rights and reduce health disparities. The Intercom trust is a charity that you can interface with to improve health services for LGBTQ+ individuals. IRISi advocacy efforts is aimed at supporting and empowering DV survivors, raising awareness, and influencing policies related to gender-based violence. You can become on advocate educator in your practice.

2. Refugee and Immigrant Health: Primary Care workers can advocate for the health and well-being of refugees and immigrants. They can create culturally sensitive healthcare services, facilitate access to healthcare resources, address language barriers, and collaborate with community organisations to create welcoming environments for these populations. By providing migrants with the information required for making informed choices and protecting their rights in relation to access to health care, advocacy has the potential to empower them. Refugee Action supports refugees and people seeking asylum in UK to rebuild their lives in their new environment. Freedomfromtorture provides specialist psychological therapy to help asylum seekers and refugees who have survived torture recover and rebuild their lives in the UK. They also provide training for professionals working with torture survivors.

3. Mental Health Awareness and Support: GPhealthandwellbeing is dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and offers support to individuals and organisations to develop a robust staff wellbeing strategy. As a member of the primary care team, you can work in collaboration with mental health professionals to ensure comprehensive care for patients experiencing mental health challenges. Practical things you can do like being involved in campaigns and engaging with stakeholders on these issues are also uplifting for the advocate involved. As a non-medic there various ways to be an advocate, service organisations and charities like Mind and Mentalhealth.co.uk can support you to learn more about being an advocate.

autism awareness banner
autism awareness banner

4. The Deep End Projects: Connecting with and giving voice to general practitioners serving hard-pressed communities is a worthwhile campaign. Actionable steps include advocating for extension of time and further staff and contacts necessary for the implementation of strategies that address issues related to horizontal (geographical, socioeconomic, ethnic /racial disparities) and vertical inequalities ( gender, educational and disability disparities) within the healthcare system.

5. Disability Rights and Accessible Healthcare: Primary care practitioners can advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities and work towards creating accessible healthcare environments. This can include promoting physical accessibility in healthcare facilities, providing accommodations for patients with non physical disabilities like autism, and advocating for policies that enhance the inclusion and well-being of people with diverse disabilities. Mencap has useful resources you can access if you are looking for inspiration on where to start.

6. Environmental Health: Every practitioner can become an advocate for environmental health and sustainability. You can educate patients about the impact of environmental factors on health like climate change, excess fumes, promote environmentally friendly practices to curtal waste and advocate for policies that protect the environment, preserve natural amenities and promote a healthier future. Ukhealthalliance has resources to support individuals and organisations.

7. Racial and Ethnic Minority Health: There are various opportunities to advocate for the health and well-being of racial and ethnic minority populations. As a team, primary care can address health disparities, promote cultural competency in healthcare delivery, and work towards reducing systemic barriers that impact these communities’ access to quality care. RaceEqualityFoundation is charity that focuses on tackling racial inequality in public services to improve the lives of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. An interesting project they have completed developed a community-based blood pressure programme to raise awareness of high blood pressure and undertake pilot blood pressure testing in community settings.

8. Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights: Primary care practitioners can be advocates for women’s health and reproductive rights. You can promote access to reproductive healthcare services, provide comprehensive family planning support, and advocate for policies that protect and advance women’s health and rights. Doctorsforchoiceuk is a charity providing education to secondary and undergraduate students on the subject of abortion, and contraception services.

Have you found any subject that piqued your interest? By becoming advocates for any of these groups and causes, you can experience a sense of fulfilment, purpose, and a boost in their own health and well-being. Engaging in advocacy work allows you to make a positive impact beyond the clinic walls and contribute to the broader social and health issues that affect your patients’ lives and your community.

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