I care about healthcare reform. It directly affects people I know, and myself. I need local access to specialists to manage my autoimmune conditions. My elderly neighbor requires affordable coverage that aligns with her fixed income. My boyfriend wants to feel heard and respected by doctors while managing a long-term issue. I know I'm not alone in realizing that healthcare issues could use more attention, so I decided to learn how I could get involved.
What Is Healthcare Reform?
From my viewpoint, healthcare reform refers to acknowledging the evolving needs of our healthcare system and making the appropriate changes for the greater good. Essentially, we need to reform, or improve upon, current systems and processes put in place by our insurance providers, clinics, and government-backed health programs.
I like how the American Heart Association recognizes the importance of healthcare reform in its 2020 Statement of Principles for Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Health Care. It explains that reform should "be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives." To achieve this mission, its approach to reform includes:
- Recognizing patient needs and perspectives
- Backing medical research
- Celebrating healthcare providers
- Expanding affordable healthcare access
- Enhancing evidence-based preventative services
- Eliminating healthcare availability disparities
- Growing a diverse, culturally competent healthcare workforce
Above all, our healthcare systems should:
- Align with the best interests of patients while being accessible to all communities and demographics
- Be adequate in quality and scope
- Offer affordable insurance premiums, co-pays, and services
How to Get Involved in Healthcare Reform
How do we nurture our healthcare system and ensure it meets our needs? We educate. We speak up. We take a stance. In your opinion, what is healthcare reform still lacking? Pick an aspect that's important to you, such as accessibility or affordability, and start a conversation among your peers and decision-makers.
Here are four ways to make your voice heard.
Attend Virtual Healthcare Forums
These gatherings may be at the federal, state, or community level, depending on the size of your city. Listen to the concerns and proposed resolutions, then give a personal perspective during the Q&A. Or, email the presenters. Let government officials (such as city council members or hospital board members) and healthcare CEOs learn from a grassroots patient perspective. Engage in educated conversations focused on the betterment of a specific healthcare topic, such as accessibility for rural patients or affordable medications for chronic illness management, such as diabetes.
Elevate Health-Focused Resources
For example, if you've discovered a helpful ride-sharing service that gets seniors to doctor appointments or a discount prescription medication program, chat about it online publicly to spread the word. Or, send messages to local nursing homes so that they can inform their residents. Be a conduit between information and the people who need it.
Ask for What You Need
When you're in an appointment with a healthcare provider, don't leave until they've answered all your questions adequately. If they are short on time, ask for a nurse hotline or online resource offering more information. By speaking up at the patient level, you're making healthcare workers understand your needs. This can fuel how they provide feedback to their superiors and influence healthcare reform decision-makers and processes. For example, if you ask for a symptom-tracking app, your doctor may suggest it to the person who can make it happen, helping you and many other patients in the future.
Volunteer Your Time
Help healthcare reform activist groups (search the Universal Healthcare Action Network) get petitions signed, be a presence at open meetings, or distribute information. Consider getting a neighbor or even your teenage child involved, too, so they can learn the importance of having accessible healthcare.
You can make a difference when it comes to healthcare reform. Your advocacy creates a voice in your community among friends, family, and leaders. Speak up! Your visibility initiates change for yourself, and others.
You might also enjoy the @tomsofmaine Natural Inspiration board on Pinterest to learn about more volunteering opportunities.
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It's Good
Advocating for change in our healthcare system creates a ripple effect of improved medical quality, access, and affordability for everyone. Whether you volunteer at a local community outreach event or command more attentiveness during a medical appointment, get involved in healthcare reform. Simply by making your concerns known, decision-makers become aware of patient needs, and you radiate a voice for marginal or overlooked populations.