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Making decisions about your health

During our lives we can be faced with various health issues. We may need to seek information to better understand a health condition or to help us make decisions about our health. This may relate to understanding:

  • what treatment options are available
  • how to manage symptoms
  • how we can minimise our risk of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis

This fact sheet may assist you in this process.

What to ask yourself

To assist you in making decisions about your health, ask yourself the following questions:

  • what could happen if I did nothing at all?
  • what treatment choices are available to me?
  • what are the possible risks and benefits of the different choices?
  • how do the benefits and risks weigh up for me?
  • how would this decision affect my family or partner?
  • have I gathered enough information to make my decision?

What can you do?

There are many things you can do to better understand a health issue or help you make decisions about your health, including:

  • talk with a trusted health practitioner
  • gather reliable, up to date and evidence-based information about different health issues
  • think about all the options and weigh up the positives and negatives of each
  • talk to other people you trust about their experiences
  • think about what has worked for you in the past
  • trust your own knowledge and personal experience

Choosing a health practitioner

When choosing a health practitioner some things to consider are:

  • their expertise
  • how accessible they are (e.g. location, appointment times, cost)
  • their ability to listen, understand and communicate skilfully
  • their willingness to involve you in decision-making about your healthcare
  • their qualifications and/or accreditation

Developing a good partnership with your health practitioner relies on things such as mutual respect, clear communication and shared responsibility. While it may take time and effort to establish this partnership, it will be a worthwhile process if it helps you to feel comfortable and supported in managing your health.

What is evidence based practice and why does evidence matter?

Evidence based practice is a term used to describe management or treatment of a health condition that has been proven by research to work or be effective. This should form the basis of most healthcare today. When making an informed decision about your health, while it is important to consider the choices available to you that are based on evidence from research, you will also need to consider what you have access to, what you can afford as well as your own personal values (i.e. does a particular treatment fit with your lifestyle and how you choose to take care of yourself?).

Information and advice about your health can come from family, friends, the media and with today's technology, the internet. However, these sources do not necessarily provide information that is correct and based on evidence.

It is difficult for an untrained individual to understand, sift through and interpret the latest research and evidence on particular health issues and treatment options. For this reason, we need to rely on trusted sources to obtain our health information, such as health practitioners who know our medical history and have training and qualifications in managing health conditions and prescribing treatments.

Further resources

Related articles

Understanding medical research

Do you know your healthcare rights?
National Magazine, Winter 2010

Content updated April 2012

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“Living in a remote rural area, I have limited access to women’s health facilities and resources. Thanks to Jean Hailes I can access reliable health information online.”
Lauren, Tamworth, NSW

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