The Labor Day holiday and Labor Rights Week (the week leading up to Labor Day) were created as both a celebration of the everyday American worker, as well as a time to advocate for workers’ rights. It’s the perfect reminder of another critical issue: The importance of being proactive about our own wellness, advocating for our own healthcare and health rights, and doing our own research about our health needs.
In an age of rampant health censorship, big corporate lobbyists, and big pharma — and the blurring of lines between actual wellness facts and what corporations want us to believe and do out of their own financial interests and agendas — it’s more important than ever to learn how to do our own health research. In the spirit of Labor Day, this article will introduce you to not only how to do your own research, but also how to confident in being your own health advocate, and why trusting your own instincts when it comes to your personal health and wellness is so important.
How to Do Your Own Health Research and Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
In one medical study, those who didn’t know how to do their own health research — or who found the world of healthcare, science, and wellness confusing — were significantly less likely to ask their doctor questions. Meanwhile, pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu says that she finds that many patients are afraid to ask questions for fear of being labeled “difficult.”
“Even though many – if not most – patients want to share in the decision-making process, patients do not always speak up,” Dr. Shu warns. “As a result, the physician-patient relationship may become lopsided, with the doctor calling all the shots.”
This can often result in poor treatment, bad advice, or even a health diagnosis that’s inaccurate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when talking to a medical expert instead of taking everything they say at face value. If you find the process intimidating, or don’t know where to start, you can try:
- Writing down your questions in advance so you don’t get flustered, confused, or distracted when you’re talking to the doctor or medical care provider
- Rehearsing your questions so you’re comfortable saying specific medical terms or ideas out loud
- Getting a second opinion from trusted online or print sources, and bringing this information as backup evidence if you’re nervous that your doctor or medical care provider will disagree with why you’re asking these questions
- Bring along a trusted friend or family member to help listen, interpret and advocate for you
2. Seek Data Reasons to Be Skeptical
Your health and wellness is as individual and unique as you. No two people are exactly alike, and there are many factors that may contribute to your own personal disease risks, health concerns, or reaction to specific supplements or medications. Instead of taking health advice as 100% trustworthy, seek trusted sources of information that propose alternative viewpoints or ideas.
Take ADHD as an example medical condition. While many studies show that artificial flavoring and artificial dyes are not a factor, some studies suggest these ingredients are a trigger for some children. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to health! If you’re a parent of a child with ADHD, being armed with this data can help you make more informed decisions and embrace a healthy level of skepticism when mainstream medicine issues blanket statements about your child’s ADHD symptoms and triggers.
3. Ask For More, More and More
Often, a medical expert or doctor may tell you, “This is the most important thing” or “This is the best treatment.” And while that may be true in their opinion, advocate for alternatives. Don’t be afraid to push back and request more information so you can make more informed, proactive choices about your personal wellness:
- What are all the treatment options available?
- What are the benefits, risks, and costs of each specific treatment option?
- How might each option affect your daily life, health and well-being, hobbies, activities, and overall lifestyle?
- How will you know if the treatment being proposed is actually working?
- What would happen if you chose not to take the action being proposed by your doctor or medical expert?
When it comes to your health rights, knowing the pros and cons of everything available gives you the knowledge to make your own decisions about the most important thing in your life: Your wellness.
4. Look For Bias
Bias in research and medical advice is a very well-documented problem in the health and wellness world.
“Bias in clinical trials may be described as systematic errors that encourage one outcome over others,” warns a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology. “The potential effect of bias is that investigators will come to the wrong conclusions about the beneficial and harmful effects of interventions.”
Common sources of bias and how to avoid them when you’re evaluating health advice and opinions include:
- Is the specific industry supported by government lobbyists?
- Is the health advice being given to you promoting a specific brand, or trying to sell you something?
- Is the doctor or medical expert directly paid by big pharma, pharmaceutical companies, and others with a monetary agenda? (You can search for your specific doctor or medical provider’s name in this database to see if they’ve been directly paid by big pharma)
By being your own health advocate and protecting your own health rights, you can do something that no medical expert can: Make the right choices for your own health and wellness.