Empowering Patients Through Health Education

One of the key things that I’ve learned during my term of service is that health education is all about empowering people to help themselves. This is especially true with teenagers, with whom I spend half of my time at the Advocate Children’s Hospital Adolescent Clinic. The doctor that I serve with there loves to say that you can’t tell a teenager to do anything, which I’ve found to be very true. Whether I’m teaching about eating healthy foods, reminding someone to use their spacer for asthma treatments, or promoting safe sex, I’ve found that if I tell kids what to do, they will shut down and stop talking to me. And honestly, if someone told me what to do, I would totally do the same thing.

I learned both through National Health Corps trainings and by and trial and error how to talk about the way making healthy choices will empower patients to lead better lives. Instead of telling kids to eat healthier, I ask them to tell me about healthy foods that they like, and encourage them to go grocery shopping with their parents so they have some control over what they eat at home. I’ve learned to ask kids to tell me how they use their spacer, and then correcting them if they make a mistake. I’ve learned to teach that birth control is a way to empower girls to be in charge of their own health, and teach about all options to see what type will best fit with a patient’s lifestyle.

People don’t like it when you tell them what to do, especially when it comes to changing their lifestyles. Effective health education revolves around teaching that making healthy decisions will empower people to live healthier and happier lives. And I’ve learned that the first step to empowering patients is to listen to what they want and what they already know. I hope to keep improving on this skill, and use it as I continue with health education.

This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Avanthi Chatrathi.

Avanthi is a Community Health Educator at Advocate Children's Hospital.