Take Charge of Your Health
Six ways to become your own advocate—in the doctor’s office and out.
How to advocate for the care that’s right for you
f you’ve been living with diabetes for a while, chances are you have a lot of practice participating in your own health care. Sometimes tracking, checking, and managing it all can feel like a full-time job. But here’s the good news: all that participation gets you closer to becoming an “engaged patient”—someone who equips themselves with information, asks questions, and partners with supportive doctors to make better health decisions. And studies show that engaged patients have better health outcomes, save on costs, and feel less frustrated and more satisfied with the care they receive, explainsplains Danny Sands, M.D., co-founder of the Society for Participatory Medicine.
Dave deBronkart—a patient advocate and another co-founder of the Society for Participatory Medicine—is a prime example. After he was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer in 2007 with an expected survival of less than six months, deBronkart saw a leading oncologist, read everything he could about new treatments, and got active on patient forums. He had surgery and got into a clinical trial for immunotherapy—and 10 years later, he’s still in remission. “Part of how I helped save my own life, according to my oncologist, was that I became an engaged, informed patient,” he says. Seven years after his cancer diagnosis, deBronkart also beat prediabetes. He joined his local YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, started tracking his activity and food intake using MyFitnessPal, and began going to the Y’s gym.
Navigating the health care system can feel overwhelming at times—especially when you are managing a chronic condition—but even small steps toward becoming more engaged can help you get the most from your care.
Here are some key strategies to move you in that direction.