Teaching Patient Self-Advocacy

With a six-part webinar series, the Eugene Springfield NAACP is helping marginalized communities gain confidence in the doctor’s office

The U.S. health care system can be complicated and frustrating to wade through. Insurance and expensive medical bills aside, finding a physician who understands and considers your perspective and trauma history can be difficult — especially for members of marginalized communities. 

This is the perspective of T.C. Duamas, a new member of the Eugene-Springfield NAACP Health Committee and its training subcommittee, who has experience feeling unheard by medical providers. Duamas says she felt like she was seen as a problem to be fixed rather than a self-aware human being. 

The negative experiences Duamas, a Black woman, has faced in health care made her passionate about the Eugene Springfield NAACP’s Patient Self-Advocacy webinar series. In this six-part series, each webinar includes a presenter, a panel of patients describing their experiences, and a small-group discussion, according to a press release from the Eugene Springfield NAACP.

A new webinar is being presented every third Saturday from 10 to 11:30 am this summer. Each webinar has an independent, but interconnected, topic related to patient self advocacy, such as finding the best provider for you and communicating with providers. 

“This webinar series is for community members to learn how to navigate the complicated health care system,” says Alexandra Reveles, a psychologist who also serves on the health committee and training subcommittee, “and to do it in a way that they’re able to get their needs met.”

The idea for the series came from several of the health committee members who are medical providers as well as consumers of health care who have experienced challenges in the health care system, Reveles says. The committee hopes to share their expertise and experiences to aid people facing similar issues.

While anyone struggling to find proper health care is welcome, the webinar series has a focus on communities of color, as well as the LGBTQ community — those who have been left behind by the health care system, Reveles says. 

One of the ways these communities are left out is when accessing preventative health care in a primary care setting, Reveles says. This refers to annual visits to the physician’s office, where minor issues can be discussed before becoming chronic health conditions. But Reveles says that as a result of negative experiences with medical providers, people may feel uncomfortable seeing their primary care physician or may not want to bring up minor issues. 

Duamas says medical providers can come into an exam room with a set of racial prejudices and stereotypes. Until providers build a doctor-patient relationship that sees an individual beyond stereotypes, some patients worry about not being understood or heard. 

Reveles has also heard stories of patients being talked about negatively in treatment notes, being turned away due to being unhoused or simply being forced to wait months to see a doctor that matches their marginalized identity. All of these experiences can discourage patients from returning to the doctor’s office. 

The aim of the webinar series is to help shrink these barriers to care, so everyone has access to good health care. This goal is something each committee member is passionate about.

“It’s really important that people are able to be in a safe enough environment where they can have their needs met,” Duamas says, later adding that it is everyone’s right. 

Reveles says she hopes community members feel confident in seeing a physician, no matter the severity of the issue. 

“We want to empower folks to feel like they can advocate for themselves at the doctor’s office,” Reveles says, “to feel like they can ask questions about treatments and potentially push back on things they’re uncomfortable with.”

Two webinars remain in the series, on Aug. 20 and Aug. 27. They are on managing mental health and discussing takeaways from the series as a whole, respectively. Free. Spanish interpretation available. More information can be found at NAACPLaneCounty.org/2022/05/23/upcoming-webinar-series.

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