Health advocate | Medical Council of Canada
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Health advocate


Through advocacy, physicians play an important role in disease prevention and in protecting and promoting the health of patients, communities, and populations. Advocacy aims to support and collaborate with the patient, community, or population affected. Advocacy may be conducted by a physician or a group of physicians and can influence patient care, public health, and health policy.

Ethical principles should be foundational in physician advocacy, balancing the needs of patients and communities with the equitable distribution of finite health care resources.

To achieve this goal, physicians need to understand underlying determinants of health and the principles upon which the health care system is built, including their economic and legislative foundations.

Contextual considerations

(list not exhaustive)

  1. Determinants of health, including
    1. Social and economic factors
      1. Income
      2. Social status
      3. Education and literacy
      4. Social support networks
      5. Oppression and discrimination (e.g., racism, sexism)
    2. Environmental and physical factors
      1. Employment and working conditions
      2. Food security
      3. Housing
      4. Access to health care
    3. Personal factors
      1. Health practices and coping skills
      2. Childhood experiences
      3. Gender identity
      4. Biological and genetic endowment
  2. Government policies

Key Objectives

Given a patient, community, or population with health inequities, the candidate will

  1. Identify the social and structural factors that are affecting health;
  2. Describe the impact of these factors;
  3. Suggest interventions to address these issues through advocacy.

Enabling Objectives

Given a patient, community, or population with health inequities, the candidate will

  1. Support and collaborate with the patient, community, or population affected;
  2. Identify and describe how factors in working, living, and community environments impact health, including
    1. personal, physical, and socioeconomic risk factors for health;
    2. potential conflicts between advocacy for equitable access to resources and ethical, medicolegal, and professional issues (e.g., stewardship of limited resources, economic constraints, commercialization of health care and scientific advances);
    3. examples of government legislation, public and corporate policies, and trends that inequitably affect health locally, nationally, and/or globally;
    4. common barriers to health for equity-deserving populations, including health care access (e.g., people with disabilities, people who are marginalized, people who are underserved);
    5. barriers to pharmaceutical access (e.g., special authorization requirements, manufacturing shortages, limited availability);
  3. Describe ways to advocate for patients, communities, and populations, within the context of available resources, to overcome barriers for optimal health care (e.g., working with a partner, other health care workers, or community organizations).