Empowerment is a concept that has recently emerged in the health scene.
It embraces the idea that everyone has the right to make their own choices about their health care. A recent example would be the newly-formed health insurance marketplaces which have had mixed reactions from the general public. The empowerment model is based on the assumption that to be truly healthy, people must bring about changes not only in their personal behavior but also in their social situations and in the environment that influences their lives. This empowerment model has evolved out of the realization that patients cannot be forced to follow a lifestyle dictated by others.
Highlights of Patient Empowerment:
- Health, as Attitude, can be defined as being successful in coping with pain, sickness, and death as a Normal Vicissitude of Life. And, successful coping requires always being in control of your life.
- Health belongs to the individual. And, the individual has the prime responsibility for their own health.
- The individual's capacity for growth and self-determination is paramount.
- Health care professionals cannot empower people; only people can only empower themselves.
- You Hold the Power, If You But Grasp It!
During the 1600's in America, Pocahontas, a native American princess, is reported to have told her English Husband, John Rolfe, that "Life is a Fatal Disease." From that perspective, everyone can be viewed as a patient suffering from the fatal disease called life.
|"The more we realize that our sense of self-worth
comes from within, that the ability to feel fulfilled is already inside
us, the more autonomous we become, and the more fully empowered
-- Dean Ornish
Self-efficacy is the conviction that one can successfully change one's behavior to reach one's goals. A strong sense of self-efficacy can reduce disease symptoms and help bring about self-directed behavior change. The growing body of self-efficacy research gives us some important insights into how people heal. Healing requires a sense of control over your illness. The process of empowerment lies at the heart of healing. Patients are empowered when they have the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and self-awareness necessary to influence their own behavior.
Health, as Attitude, can be defined as being successful in coping with pain, sickness, and death as a Normal Vicissitude of Life. And, successful coping requires always being in control of your life.
Optimal health demands empowerment. All patients gain power and freedom from empowerment. If you think of empowerment as a process towards patient autonomy, then you have the right idea. Everyone still breathing has the right to self-determination. An increased sense of personal empowerment comes from developing six essential skills: communication, assertiveness, information-seeking, decision-making; coping; and social support seeking skills.
Empowerment through information means seek information first. Then act on the information you find most pertinent to you. This Web site, and the internet itself, provides everyone with a tool to pursue information relevant to their individual health issues and potential treatment plans. The informed person is better equipped to ask questions of their physician and to contribute to the development of their own health management strategy. Your health and your life is always at issue with the fatal disease called life. You, personally, should always feel a greater incentive than your physician to find the answers to your own health concerns. Anyone willing to take responsibility for the results, can explore alternative treatment modalities that their doctor won't. Remember, that it's your life and body on the line. To your physician, you will always be just another patient.
In conclusion: the empowerment philosophy assumes that because patients are the ones who experience the consequences of both having and treating their illnesses, they have the right to be the primary decision makers regarding their medical conditions. Although their physician should be involved in the decision-making process, the final determination of what is best for the patient is both the right and responsibility of the individual patient. A key part of empowerment is that everyone must take responsibility for managing their illnesses. A key part of empowerment is that the patient, personally, must actively search out sufficient information to fully understand their health conditions and their treatment plans.
- Moynihan R, Smith R. Too much medicine? BMJ. 2002 Apr 13;324(7342):859-60. PMID: 11950716 [BMJ Online]