Different Types of Advocates
The term ‘Patient Advocate’ can be a bit controversial and misleading at times. There is no one definition to show exactly what an advocate actually is. Not every advocate has to stand up for everything or represent every community. Advocacy is not about who can do the most in the community, rather who can make a difference for those in need. Occasionally that person in need may even be yourself.
You can be an advocate by simply advocating for yourself
Google defines an advocate as ‘a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.’ This doesn’t mean you need to go to Capitol Hill to be considered an advocate. You don’t have to be in front of hundreds, or millions of people to stand up for what’s right. Advocacy can be found in your own hospital room. Between yourself and your healthcare providers. You can be an advocate by simply advocating for yourself and your own healthcare.
Advocacy appears in many different ways
I recently attended a conference where patient advocates of over 50 disease states got together to meet, collaborate, inspire and learn. It was an amazing conference and at the end, they even launched a podcast! The podcast talked about being an advocate, different diseases, misconceptions, you name it. One thing that stood out to me during that particular session was the statement, "advocacy appears in many different ways." This stood out to me because I always feel as though I'm not doing enough. As if I "only write." How am I truly making a difference by writing? It bothers me because I always want to feel as if I earned the label. As if I truly deserve to be called an advocate.
I thought on what was said for a while. "Advocacy appears in many ways.' This couldn't be truer! There are many of us who write. We have blogs. We talk on social media. There are also many of us who get involved in fundraisers. We raise money for large organizations that support our conditions or ones that have impacted our lives in one way or another.
Advocacy is a team effort
Some of us are even involved in the political side of things. They go to days on the hill. They speak with the legislature. They try to improve the lives of those living with certain chronic conditions by giving and standing up for patient's rights. These are all very important aspects of advocacy. We need people to represent our community by taking on the political side. We also need people reaching out to our community via blogs and social media to relate to and support the patient. We are all a team. Each one of us is an advocate in our own right. No one type, no one person, is more important than the next.
You have a voice
Whether you're advocating for change in the white house or advocating for yourself in the hospital room, you have a voice. It deserves to be heard. Don't be discouraged, or feel as if your efforts don't matter. Each one of us holds a hand on this wheel of change. We all need to push!
Will you help us understand the impact of Crohn's & colitis by taking the IBD In America Survey (US only)?