Patient Self-Advocacy: Be Empowered, Ask Questions, Get Better Care

Paola Bassanese
6 min readMay 4, 2021

What Is Self-Advocacy?

Self-advocacy is defined as the act of representing yourself; in other words, speaking up for yourself and your interests to ensure your needs are met. Being able to speak up and push back is particularly important when receiving medical care: doctors, nurses and other staff are over-stretched, resources and support are scarce and patients may receive sub-par care under these circumstances. Patients must know what they need and how to get what they need in a way that is non-confrontational but conducive to a good ongoing relationship with care providers.

The history of self-advocacy is linked to civil rights movements and the assistance of disabled people.

Health Is Political

Underfunding of public health services is a political issue and patients (who are taxpayers and get to decide who gets elected) shouldn’t have to suffer because their governments have cut spending. I am not the only one who thinks this: see, for example, this article from Think Global Health entitled ‘Public Health Is Always Political’, this article from the British Medical Association quoting a £850m funding cut in public health medicine between 2015/16 and 2019/20 in the UK, and this 2014 World Health Organization report on Ireland’s health system crisis quoting a 9% fall in public health expenditure between 2008 and 2012, a trend that is still ongoing.

Please read this quote from the 2014 WHO report:

Rates of poverty and deprivation have increased in Ireland since the beginning

of the crisis. Given the causal relationship between poverty and ill health, it is

inevitable that increases in poverty will impact on population health, although

they are not yet evident in most health statistics.

In fact, over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, I, too, avoided using public health services in a bid to avoid being a “burden” on the system and “save resources” that should only be utilised in fighting the devastating Coronavirus. Many other people have done the same, sometimes neglecting their health and not booking doctor appointments.




Paola Bassanese

Author and freelance writer. I work with clients to create engaging communications. Keen forager and on a mission to have a low carbon footprint