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Tuesday, February 20, 2018
HomeHealthCeteraQuestion Authority

Question Authority

Liz Seegert is a freelance health writer and adjunct instructor in Media and Communications for Empire State College.


No, it’s not a bumper sticker from the 70s. It’s the message of a new public service ad campaign from the Agency For Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). I happened to catch one of the ads on TV tonight and it got my attention. The “Questions are the Answer” multimedia effort began last month – television, radio, print, outdoor and web ads –to encourage consumers to ask questions and learn about their health care treatment options.

From prescription medications to surgery, the goal is for people to actively engage in making more educated health care decisions and become more empowered patients.   The ads direct consumers to AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program web site for plain language guidance on evidence-based treatments for chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetesas well as other medical conditions. Patient stories offer “real world” reassurance that asking questions and partnering with their health care provider leads to getting the best care.

As the provisions of the Affordable Care Act roll in over the next several years, patient empowerment becomes an ever more important component of the health care equation.  However, many people still view the doctor’s word as “absolute” and are afraid to question the authority figure in the white lab coat. What I like about AHRQ’s campaign is that they tackle this misapprehension head on while balancing provider expertise and ability to guide patients towards optimal outcomes. Or as the web site says, “Because knowing your options is the best option.”

Kudos too, to the Ad Council, who created this attention getting campaign pro bono – the latest in a long list of health promotions developed by some of the best creative minds in the industry.


– Liz Seegert



Written by

Liz Seegert, MA, is the director of the Media Fellows Program at the GW Nursing Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement. She has spent more than 30 years reporting and writing about health and other topics for print, digital and broadcast media. Her primary beats currently encompass aging, Baby Boomers, health policy and social determinants of health. She edits the aging topic area for the Association of Health Care Journalists website, writing and gathering resources on the many health issues affecting older adults. She also co-produces the GW Nursing Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement “HealthCetera” podcast, diving into health issues underreported in traditional media. As a senior fellow, she will continue to report on vital public health issues, seeking out voices who offer unique perspectives on policy, health care and practice issues. As director of the Media Fellows Program at the center, she mentors early-career health journalists to build their understanding of these and other key issues within the health care delivery system.

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