My role as a Patient Advocate enrolling patients into prescription assistance programs at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Health Centers 4 and 9 is fairly straightforward. The role has been defined and fine tuned by the numerous Patient Advocates in the service years before mine, and for most of my service term I felt fairly comfortable in my role. I knew the assistance programs well and felt confident in my ability to advocate for my patients in order to get them their needed medications at an affordable cost. I felt good about where I was and the service that I was doing. Insert a pandemic.
Suddenly, advocacy looked a lot different for me. Pulled from on-site service in the health centers at the beginning of the crisis, much of my advocacy turned towards health education and creating materials meant to provide information surrounding COVID-19 and compiling resources that might be helpful for patients during this unprecedented time. Once I was able to return to my host site part-time, my onsite service looked different too.
While I got back into the swing of things with the prescription assistance programs, I noticed that advocacy at my health clinics was taking on a different form. Moving to virtual visits to limit non-essential trips to the clinic, rearranging the waiting areas to promote social distancing, and increasing outreach to vulnerable patients were all ways that my co-workers were advocating for the health and well-being of our patients.
Advocacy during a public health crisis can take many forms, from checking in on elderly neighbors, sewing face masks, or simply choosing to follow social distancing guidelines. It does not take much to help amplify the voices of the vulnerable during this pandemic and aid in protecting the health of everyone in our communities. I hope that one good thing that comes out of this crisis is the knowledge that you don’t have to be a public speaking powerhouse or have a ton of formal education to be an advocate for someone. You just need the desire to help and a listening ear.
[Preview Image Description: a headshot of NHC member and author of this blog, Allyssa Stevenson]
[Body Image Description: two masks with a floral brown and tan print that were sewn by an NHC member]