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Health Advocacy

A Communication Approach


Marifran Mattson and Chervin Lam

There is growing emphasis in Health Communication on the study of communication processes that aim to change systems, policies, beliefs, attitudes, and/or behaviors for the betterment of the health of individuals and communities. Engagement on behalf of individual and community health is the basis of health advocacy - the attempted effort to change health policies so that better health outcomes may result.
This book explores the processes and strategies involved in creating a health advocacy campaign to guide current and aspiring health advocates to successfully advocate for policy change.
The Health Communication Advocacy Model is provided as a framework for exploring these issues. The model emphasizes the message design process, particularly in the tailoring of messages to address the needs of target audiences. However, consideration of important health advocacy concepts also is provided, including how to organize an advocacy team, approaches to formative research, research-based strategies for crafting effective health advocacy messages, and recommendations for what to do when an advocacy campaign is ending. This framework is designed for users to execute an advocacy effort for any health issue – from obesity, to cancer and smoking - in an efficient and effective manner.
Ultimately, readers will learn how to lead a successful advocacy campaign and accomplish their desired advocacy goals.
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Chapter 10. Patient Advocates and Health Advocacy

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Now that the Health Communication Advocacy Model has been thoroughly explicated, we shall apply the model in two unique situations. First, in this chapter, we will explore how one may advocate on the micro-level as a patient advocate. Second, we will explore how organizations advocate on the macro-level in the next chapter.

Traditionally, patients and their caregivers had a small role in diagnosis and treatment processes; physicians often regulated such responsibilities. Recently, however, scholars have advanced the concept of individuals stepping up to represent and help patients in the diagnosis and treatment processes. This concept is known as patient advocacy (see Kreps, 1996). In this chapter, we will define the concept of patient advocacy and discuss how health advocacy may be conducted at this micro-level. We will consider how one can begin by helping a patient and potentially progress to a full-scale advocacy campaign.

The concept of patient advocacy refers to the action of representing a patient in addressing an issue (O’Hair et al., 2003). This concept is found both in the ← 149 | 150 →discipline of Communication and in nursing (see e.g., Baldwin, 2003; Bu & Jezewski, 2007). Despite differences in the definition across the two disciplines, it generally is agreed that patient advocacy involves championing a cause on behalf of a patient (see e.g., Bu & Jezewski, 2007). For example, if a cancer patient is constantly experiencing fatigue due to chemotherapy (see Goedendorp et al., 2012), a patient advocate may help represent the cancer patient...

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