Don’t blink. I usually use that statement when I describe driving through my town in eastern Connecticut. But the same can be said about health and healthcare. Don’t blink or you will miss the healthcare revolution that is underway.

Connecticut is in full transformation mode recreating the way we deliver and pay for healthcare, centering our healthcare services around patients’ needs and preferences, while we shift toward enhancing the health of our communities and our state.

Everyone knows the importance of good health. We see it every day on television, read it online and in magazines, hear it from our friends, families, and providers. Getting engaged and being empowered to take charge of your health are the keys to being healthy, preventing illness, improving healthcare quality and making needed healthcare affordable and accessible to all. Sounds easy, albeit a bit overwhelming, right? We can all start simply by getting engaged in our health and getting a taste of what’s happening right here in Connecticut.

Many efforts are underway in Connecticut that bring health care consumers, providers, employers, health plans, and community organizations together to hammer out a better path to a healthier Connecticut. These efforts all share goals to improve the quality of care for our residents, to improve access to care, to reduce costs and to eliminate the alarming health inequities in healthcare access and outcomes experienced by minority populations in Connecticut.

But the key that will truly unlock the door to improving the health of all Connecticut residents is the engagement and empowerment of consumers. We are finally in an era of healthcare that recognizes a person’s health depends mostly on a person’s life outside of his or her providers’ offices. It depends, among other things, on one’s education, income, age, housing, ethnicity, culture, primary language, locale, and our collective will to work together. This is where consumer engagement and empowerment come in.

A recent study in the journal Health Affairs showed that patients who actively participate with their healthcare providers in making decisions about their health have better outcomes; and lower healthcare costs by 8 to 21 percent.

The Office of the Healthcare Advocate is a member of CT Partners for Health, an organization with members and associates of over 25 key stakeholders. Our vision is that everyone in Connecticut is actively engaged in their health and healthcare. Our mission is to engage consumers to become active, informed partners in managing their health and healthcare. Our member organizations represent healthcare providers and trade associations, consumer organizations, health plans and payers, community-based organizations, academic institutions, government and quasi-government agencies, voluntary health organizations, the regional extension center, and the business community.

CT Partners for Health designed our Better Health Conference on Friday, June 3, at Foxwoods to engage and empower consumers in their healthcare. We will be telling the stories of many our residents and healthcare experts — their experiences, their challenges to being healthy and their difficulties becoming engaged because of barriers in their way. CT Partners for Health believes the road to engaging consumers in their healthcare and empowering them is to tackle the very issues that prevent that engagement and empowerment. We will share best practices and innovations in patient engagement.

To get you on the road to engagement, our conference includes free screenings and testing for blood pressure, glucose, spirometry, and fall risk. We offer nutrition counseling, skin cancer analyzer and prevention resources, travel medicine consultations, and advance care planning tools. Our breakout sessions include panels on living and aging well, understanding your health, social issues in health care and improving community partnerships through population health.

We will be joined by Connecticut celebrities, including emcee Jocelyn Maminta, Gina Barecca, and Diane Smith, each with their own powerful stories about patient engagement and empowerment. Last year we had 500 attendees at the conference. We’d love to see you there too. For more information on the CT Partners for Health conference, please visit www.ctpartnersforhealth.org.

Getting engaged can start with something as simple as attending our conference, sharing in the stories of our speakers and panels. Join the healthcare revolution in Connecticut. We can’t wait to see you on June 3rd!

Vicki Veltri is the state’s Healthcare Advocate.

DISCLAIMER: This op-ed posting was member-supported. The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.