What does it take for all Americans to find good health care and make the most of it?


Jessie GrumanA letter from CFAH's late president and founder written in 2010:

Dear Colleagues,

Since it was founded in 1992, the Center for Advancing Health has aimed to increase people's engagement in their health and health care. While advances in medical knowledge have been responsible for steady increases in the length and quality of life of Americans, the potential of health care to improve individual and population health in the future rests increasingly in the hands of individuals. Whether we are sick or well, we will not benefit from the expertise of health professionals and the technologies they deploy unless we participate actively and knowledgably in our own care.

The stakes for each of us — and the nation — are high: There is evidence that the more engaged we are in our care, the better we do. And conversely, our lack of participation contributes to preventable illness, complications and death, wastes precious health care resources, and disproportionately erodes the health of those of us who are unable to participate effectively in our care. What can be done to ensure that all Americans are able to act effectively to find and benefit from their health care? And how will we ensure that those who lack the skills or resources or who are already ill do not suffer because of their inability to participate in their care? Our current activities are directed toward addressing these questions.

The CFAH Engagement Behavior Framework serves as the basis for all our work. It is a comprehensive list of the actions each person must take to benefit from their care. No one has to do all these things now. But each of us — or our loved ones — must do all of them at some point in order to fully benefit from the health care available to us. The Framework serves as a specific and demanding roadmap for our activities. Our aim is to ensure that every adult in the U.S. has the knowledge, skills and opportunity to perform each of these behaviors.

Take a look at the CFAH Snapshot report which estimates the extent to which people currently perform these actions. This rough epidemiology of engagement in health care is based on surveys sponsored by the federal government and foundations and provides a rough estimate of the size and scope of the challenge.

Browse through the Prepared Patient Blog posts. Each post addresses some aspect of what it takes to find good care and make the most of it: In other words, what challenges and opportunities people face in benefiting from their care.

While you are in the Be a Prepared Patient section of this site, take a look at the resources behind each of the categories of actions in the Engagement Behavior Framework. You will find all of the CFAH original health news stories and features and other patient resources to help people take effective steps.

As we continue to expand the reach of our work, we will continue to advocate for public and private policies that support the active, effective participation by individuals in their care and to produce and disseminate to the news media new stories on the latest research relevant to individuals’ engagement in their care.

We welcome your interest in our work and hope we can persuade you to join us in our efforts to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to act in ways that help them live for as well and as long as they can.


Jessie C. Gruman, Ph.D.
Center for Advancing Health