At all stages of life -- from childhood to adolescence, adulthood to elderly -- individuals need to be personally empowered to take control of their health and create better health outcomes for themselves, according to Dr. Dexter L. Campinha-Bacote.
"If you empower patients with the right information and knowledge, they can have a more productive experience with the health care system; and make better-informed decisions about their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual
well-being," he said.
"Growing up in Harlem and South Bronx, New York, I was dissatisfied with the level of health care that was delivered in my neighborhood compared to other, more affluent neighborhoods," Campinha-Bacote said. "I wanted to make an impact on what I perceived to be health care disparities."
To help individuals reach their full health potential, Campinha-Bacote passionately supports and champions
initiatives that decrease health disparities. "In order to lessen the disparities in health care and disease among all populations, employers need to publicly acknowledge the existence of these disparities and make the commitment to resolve them among their employees," he said.
Campinha-Bacote also is dedicated to addressing health literacy, which is the capacity that individuals have to obtain, process and understand basic health information, and make appropriate health decisions. Low health literacy affects 90 million adults in the U.S., he said.
"If people are not aware of the conditions that ensure optimum health, they can be grossly disadvantaged," Campinha-Bacote said. "They need to ask their health care practitioners, 'Is there any reason why I have not
been checked for these conditions?'"
Optimization of an individual's health is a family matter, said Campinha-Bacote, because a person's family plays an important role in the health habits and behaviors that its members practice and develop over time. There are many things family members across all generations can do together to help keep each other healthy, he said.
"Making healthful food choices a part of one's lifestyle and not just a diet, as well as exercising daily, are two disciplines everyone should practice," Campinha-Bacote said. "Make lifestyle changes that are for the long term. Collaboratively define your family's health goals and see to it that they're met. And parents should remember that they set an example for the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being of their children."
Campinha-Bacote, who enjoys reading, traveling with his family and attending his daughter's soccer games and piano recitals, said it is his continuing goal to help influence, inspire and embolden people to make informed health decisions -- whether his message reaches one person or 1,000 people.