Make the Most of Health Experts in Your Community

by Roba Whiteley, Executive Director, Together Rx Access

In every community, in addition to your physician, there are a number of health experts that you can turn to for information about your healthcare.
It’s important for you to know who these people are and how they can help you take better care of your health and the health of your family.

Here are a few good reasons why you should feel comfortable reaching out to health experts in your neighborhood:

  • Nurses ranked number one as the most trusted profession in a recent 2011 Gallup poll. In Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics survey, nurses continued to outrank other professions with 81 percent of Americans reporting that nurses have “very high” or “high” honesty and ethical standards. As healthcare providers, nurses play an important role in delivering community-based care as well as educating people about health issues, chronic conditions and medications. In addition, they frequently connect uninsured patients to resources such as medication assistance programs that can provide more affordable access to needed care and treatments.

  • Public confidence in America’s pharmacists is very high. According to the same 2011 Gallup poll, pharmacists were recognized as the second most-trusted profession in America. Community pharmacists are medication experts, known for their patient-friendly ways and approachability. Pharmacists can help patients understand and anticipate side effects that might prevent them from taking their medication, can answer questions that patients forgot to ask their doctors, and can work with patients to find ways to help them gain access to their medication.

  • School nurses serve as the health professional for the school community. School nurses play an important role in delivering health services designed to improve the health and academic success of children. School nurses can be excellent sources of information about chronic diseases, childhood immunizations, mental health issues, and behavioral issues common among children. Students and families who need healthcare resources also frequently seek assistance from the school nurse.

  • Local legislators have a responsibility to advocate for the health of your community. As such, their job is to understand and be knowledgeable about today’s ongoing public health concerns such as ensuring access to care or eliminating health disparities. In many instances, your local legislator may have expertise in a certain area such as healthcare reform or disease prevention. Legislators who serve on a health committee are often very active in working to address a number of public health issues.

  • Local health department officials work to promote health and equity, combat disease, and improve the quality of lives in your community. Your local health department may offer information and expertise on topics such as chronic disease prevention, tobacco control, health and disability, infectious disease prevention and control, immunization, injury prevention, maternal and child health, and adolescent health.
  • Local chapters of disease-state organizations are often active in many communities nationwide providing healthcare, education and research. If you are interested in learning more about a specific chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, check with the local chapter to find out how to get more information or become involved with the group. Some might even have community support group meetings right in your neighborhood.