Citizen participation can take many forms, like voting and sitting on a jury. Participation can also happen in informal ways, including becoming knowledgeable on a topic area of interest, sharing experiences, and through discussion and debate. Advocacy is another tool. It means showing public support for an idea, plan, or way of doing something. Advocacy can lead to better government representation and policies.
Citizen advocacy can feel daunting at first, but there are many great platforms and resources to help people become more engaged in a cause. One approach to citizen advocacy is to participate in committees or special interest groups. Depending on the time available, as well as personal interests and expertise, different options are available to explore. These can include monthly surveys, group memberships, story sharing platforms, as well as online meetings.
Below are some opportunities to engage in rural health:
- Alberta Health Services Health Advisory Council
- Alberta Health Services Together 4 Health
- Alberta Health Services Community Conversations
- Alberta Health Services Patient & Family Advisory Group
- Health Coalition of Alberta Membership
- Patient Voice group at the Canadian Medical Association
- Canadian Health Coalition On-line Story Booth
Another approach to citizen advocacy is to reach out to elected officials to share personal experiences, concerns, and ideas. Ways to connect with officials, are through social media, email, letters, or arranging a meeting at their office. Response from a social media post or an email may be quick but lack detail. A personal meeting may be more effective and leave a lasting impression. However, government officials are busy and a meeting may be challenging to arrange. The choice of contacting a government official also depends on the timeliness or urgency of the issue or request and whether or not to include others in the communication.