Advocacy is defined as the act of arguing on behalf of a particular issue, idea or person. Individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments may all be participants in the advocacy arena. Today, more than ever before, emergency physicians need to be active and vocal advocates. We must advocate for our patients, for the health care system at large, and for improvements to the practice of emergency medicine.
Health advocacy encompasses direct service to the individual or family as well as activities that promote health and access to health care in communities and the larger public. Advocates support and promote the rights of the patient in the health care arena, help build capacity to improve community health and embrace health policy initiatives focused on available, safe, and quality care.
In the policy arenas, health advocates work for positive change in the health care system, improved access to quality care, protection and enhancement of patient’s rights from positions in government agencies, disease-specific voluntary associations, grassroots and national health policy organizations and the media.
It is important to remember, that although all health advocates are working toward improving the health care system, not all health advocates share a common vision of the changes that are needed to realize these improvements. The nature of advocacy is that there will always be competition for limited resources and that each of us must be an active participant in the process if we are to ensure our voices are heard.