How Do I Become a Health Advocate

If you are passionate about want to play a hands-on role in improving the health of everyone in your community, you might be wondering how to become a health advocate. In the current healthcare system, some patients have difficulty accessing medical care or understanding complex diagnoses and prognoses. A health advocate is a type of educator who makes sure patients don’t get confused, intimidated or ignored by the complicated healthcare industry.

The terms “patient advocate,” “patient representative” and “health care advocate” are sometimes used to refer to health advocates. As community health workers, these professionals strive to educate patients on their options in obtaining healthcare. For example, a health advocate may work exclusively with community members who are uninsured or may not have regular access to medical care, such as the elderly or families in poverty. Often, health advocates help these community members find channels through which they can get the healthcare they need, such as enrolling in insurance programs or seeking treatment from clinics and community health systems.

Other health advocates actually accompany patients to doctor’s appointments, helping them ask questions, organize and process the information they are given, and keep track of tests and medications. These health advocates are often hired to work with individual clients who have been diagnosed with a serious, sometimes complicated illness. Health advocates may be former healthcare providers themselves, so they may be able to offer valuable insight to doctors during office visits. A major tenet of health advocacy is the right of patients to make informed decisions. As educators, health advocates are the ones who provide patients with the information they need to know to make important health decisions. They can also train patients on how to cope with chronic diseases and continue to live as full and active lives as possible.

Aspiring health advocates can pursue a number of paths into the field. Those who have a background as healthcare providers themselves began by pursuing formal education in medical school or a nursing program. Other health advocates approach the field with a background in social services. Still others gain experience working in a healthcare facility and complete a college-level certification course. Health advocates may work for medical facilities, insurance companies or non-profit organizations, or they may start their own businesses.

Community health workers as a whole earn a median salary of $34,620 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Health educators of all types enjoy a positive job outlook, with the BLS anticipating 37 job growth over a ten-year period in this field, as compared to only 14 percent job growth for all occupations during the same timeframe. Additionally, health advocates have the personal satisfaction of knowing that they have made an important difference in the health of people in their communities. If you are passionate about health education and access to healthcare, knowing how to become a health advocate could be the start of a fulfilling new career.

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