April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

Fill in the blank: “Advance care planning is important because…”

At our annual palliative care conference in 2015, the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California asked 300+ clinicians and advance care planning advocates to jot down why they think advance care planning is important.

Why advance care planning is important to Ira Byock.Then we took pictures of each person with their answers written on dry erase boards. And uploaded the photos to Facebook.

Just days earlier, the California State Senate passed a resolution declaring April 16 as Healthcare Decisions Day in California. This date coincides with the nationwide effort to promote National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) on the same day.

Within minutes of posting the photos to Facebook, conference attendees began sharing photos from our page to their own pages. Over the course of two days, thousands of “friends” were learning why advance care planning was important straight from people they trust.

National Healthcare Decisions Day exists to inspire, educate and empower the public and healthcare providers about the importance of advance care planning. If every adult had a conversation about their health care preferences and expressed those wishes in a written document, fewer families would have to struggle with making difficult healthcare decisions in the absence of guidance from their loved one.

Why is advance care planning important to you?According to a study conducted by the California HealthCare Foundation in 2012,

while a large majority of Californians (82%) say it is important to have end-of-life wishes in writing, less than one quarter actually have done so.

The same study found that more than half of Californians say they have not talked with a loved one about the care they want at the end of life.

If all adults had an advance directive, healthcare providers and facilities will be better equipped to address advance healthcare planning issues before a crisis and be better able to honor patient wishes when the time comes to do so.

We can’t tell you how many people actually drafted an advance healthcare directive due to this photo campaign, but we can tell you many learned why advance care planning is important. And that is the start.

Find information and resources to begin the conversation about advance care planning on the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California website, including conversation guides, FAQs, and advance healthcare directive forms in a variety of languages.

STEAL THIS IDEA: Click here to download a PDF of our National Healthcare Decisions Day sign.


National Healthcare Decisions DayLiz Salmi is director of communications for the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California. She thinks advance care planning is important because her family does not read minds.

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