Empowering Health Care Consumers

Grantee Name

Public Broadcasting Council of Central New York, Inc. (WCNY)

Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers

Publication Date

October 2017

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

January 2017 – June 2017

The health care system is incredibly complex to understand and navigate, and consumer-friendly information about prices, quality, and other aspects of care is lacking.

Arming consumers with information helps them make savvier decisions about their own health and health care and gives them a greater sense of control over those decisions. The Public Broadcasting Council of Central New York (WCNY) serves as Central New York’s public media organization and works to engage, educate, entertain, and connect the communities it serves to a rich array of high-quality resources and experiences. To reach millions of New Yorkers and help them become more informed health care consumers, NYHealth awarded WCNY a grant in 2017 to provide easy-to-understand health care information, tools, resources, and exemplary stories of real people actively engaged in their health care.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Developed and broadcast content designed to motivate consumers to become more informed about their own health care using a variety of platforms, including radio, television, print, podcasts, websites, advertisements, and social media.
  • Explored a range of consumer empowerment issues such as:
    • How to save on prescription drug costs.
    • How to research and choose a health care provider.
    • Navigating and understanding health insurance plans.
    • What changes to the Affordable Care Act could mean for New Yorkers.
    • How patients can ensure their voices are heard in the doctor’s office.
  • Produced and aired 25 “Health Navigator NY” radio segments—all focused on health care consumer empowerment—on its statewide radio program, Capitol Pressroom, over 25 weeks.
  • Produced 90-second television spots involving consumers and experts from different regions of the State, which were broadcasted on six WCNY channels and eight other PBS stations.
  • Produced seven video vignettes with experts on consumer issues from across New York State.
  • Created a Web page featuring annotated recommended resources to direct consumers to educational tools.
  • Increased public engagement in consumer empowerment issues through online surveys and opportunities to share personal health care stories.

The public engagement piece of the project was more challenging than anticipated. Some of the personal stories that WCNY audience members submitted were unrelated to consumer empowerment issues and focused more on specific illnesses or treatments that were outside the scope of the project. Many of those who did submit their stories were reticent to identify themselves, which made it challenging for WCNY to share those stories.

Another challenge was ensuring that featured experts could communicate clearly and effectively to a lay audience. A key goal of the project was to demystify our complex, complicated health care system and empower New Yorkers to be savvier health care consumers, so it was important Health Navigator NY guests not use too much jargon or assume the audience had a high level of knowledge about a particular topic. Some experts had an easier time than others translating technical or complex information to a general audience.

This project represented a unique and innovative opportunity to reach New Yorkers directly with information and resources that empower them to become more informed health care consumers. It was also the first time NYHealth engaged in a close media partnership of this kind and supported coverage of a specific health care topic. One important element of the project’s success was a clear understanding from the outset that, while NYHealth could suggest topics or experts to be featured, WCNY would retain journalistic independence and integrity, with sole editorial control. The credibility and integrity of WCNY’s reporting were what made the project so appealing to the Foundation.

WCNY will rebroadcast the television spots and maintain the affiliated Web pages for a minimum of one year, extending the content’s shelf life beyond its initial airing. Based on positive feedback on all aspects of the Health Navigator NY series and ongoing interest in health care consumer issues, WCNY anticipates continuing the series with stories at least once per month on Capitol Pressroom. These segments, along with podcasts, online resources, and story collection, will continue at least through the end of 2017.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: WCNY contributed approximately $10,000 of its own through in-kind support of radio and television airtime and promotion.