Through blogs and comments, patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

Name Calling in Health Care


Political language is give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. - Politics and the English Language, George Orwell' 

As our health care responsibilities have increased in scope, health policy experts and decision makers have found the simple words 'people' and 'patients' inadequate to describe us. In their place, they now call us 'consumers' of health care and when we do so knowledgeably, they tell us we are 'empowered.

Both of these new words are consonant with the optimistic American rhetoric used on political campaign trails.'  When they are used to describe our effort to find good care, which is now fraught with complicated, expensive challenges, these words direct attention away from actually reducing the real barriers we face in finding good care and making the most of it.

I provide a detailed account of how this happens in this essay and talk about Name Calling in Health Care with Taunya English in this interview on NPR station WHYY.


More Blog Posts by Jessie Gruman

author bio

Jessie C. Gruman, PhD, was founder and president of the Center for Advancing Health from 1992 until her death in July 2014. Her experiences as a patient — having been diagnosed with five life-threatening illnesses — informed her perspective as an author, advocate and lead contributor to the Prepared Patient Blog. Her book, AfterShock, helps patients and caregivers navigate their way through the health care system following a serious or life-threatening diagnosis. The free app, AfterShock: Facing a Serious Diagnosis, offers a pocket guide based on the book. | More about Jessie Gruman

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dirk says
August 22, 2011 at 1:08 PM

excellent interview, clear and to the point. One of the tensions in our democracy is that given the complex nature of our most pressing problems we are very dependent on experts to help us sort thru what may be happening in our lives and what if anything we can do about it. This shift in circumstances calls for a new vocabulary (and new understandings/relationships) that does not fall back into the triumphal individualism of the postWWII American economic bubble.
We need to come to terms with limitations,complexity, uncertainty, and even mortality if we are to get better at forging mutual relationships that reflect the existential and material realities of our unfolding lives together.