Tracey Lloyd is an Australian member of the Consumer Network and a consumer reviewer with the Cochrane Anaesthesia Review Group. She is a member of Health Consumers Queensland, the President of S.C.O.P.E. Inc. and a freelance writer and management consultant for community groups and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or @miceconsultants on Twitter.
Wow! It’s a very lowbrow expression but it’s the only way to sum up my experiences at the Auckland Colloquium. I came away inspired, informed, encouraged and motivated. As well as my first colloquium, it was also my first trip to Australia’s neighbours across the ditch. Both the country of New Zealand and the contents of the Colloquium had me spellbound during my stay. For this blog post, it’s been beyond difficult to pick out any session, workshop or speaker that was extra special. At every session I attended I was given information that I will be able to put into practice in both my work as a consumer with The Cochrane Collaboration and in working with community groups in Queensland.
I enjoy using Twitter and social media, so from the first workshop I attended, Navigating The Cochrane Library, I started trying to share the excitement and the knowledge with those who were unable to be with us in Auckland. Thanks to #cochraneauckland I also found a lot of new people to follow on Twitter. The ‘Navigating The Cochrane Library’ session was an excellent opportunity to improve research skills. In Australia, we have free access to The Cochrane Library, and I was surprised to find out that many other consumers and healthcare practitioners from wealthy nations are unable to access this outstanding service free of charge.
Personally, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work with so many different people from different backgrounds, life experiences and vastly different healthcare systems, but yet all committed to one vision -that healthcare decision-making throughout the world will be informed by high-quality, timely research evidence. During the workshops and meetings I attended there was a true spirit of international connectedness.
The consumer focused workshops 'How to ask an answerable question for health care and health research'; 'Making sense of scientific evidence and commenting on a Cochrane Review from a consumer perspective', and 'MECIR standards for Plain Language Summaries: the PLEACS project', were all very well presented and great fun to participate in. The short symposium 'The relevance of Cochrane for people with impairments and how to engage with them' was both thought provoking and inspiring. Dr Martin Sullivan’s presentation challenged the audience to consider how social and political contexts create disability in society as opposed to the health condition or injury that has resulted in impairment. Minnie Baragwanath, from the social enterprise The Be. Institute, showcased 'Be Accessible'(http://www.beaccessible.org.nz/the-movement), a social initiative promoting a society that is accessible to everybody. The key learning for me out of Minnie’s presentation was summed up in one slide which discussed the three ways to include people: physical, social and personal. Rachel Noble from the Disabled Persons Assembly also presented at this symposium, and her presentation using the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as an engagement tool and framework was, for me, an opportunity to consider the Convention as a service improvement tool rather than a policy document which, at times, is only paid lip service.
Another strong theme that came out of the Colloquium for me was the need for all of us involved in The Cochrane Collaboration to play our part in ensuring that people around the world understand that Cochrane Reviews and the consumer focused Cochrane Summaries website (summaries.cochrane.org/) can assist them to make decisions about their healthcare choices. I have commented on many protocols and reviews and have contributed a draft plain language summary for a review. However, in the past that has been where my involvement has ended. Sure, I’ve told people about The Cochrane Collaboration and encouraged them to use The Cochrane Library and I’ve endlessly used The Cochrane Library for my own healthcare questions, but getting involved in promoting the review – that’s someone else’s role, isn’t it? After the Colloquium I have realized that, no, in order to reach The Cochrane Collaboration’s vision we all need to be out there sharing and promoting. As consumers we can promote reviews by sharing links on Facebook, tweeting about a review when it’s released and sending an email (or letter) to any local patient groups we know of that might be interested in the review.
The only negative thing I can report about the colloquium is that it had to end. I could happily spend my life in the magical environment of shared learning and shared hope that is a Cochrane Colloquium. My thanks to the Consumer Stipend Committee for providing me with the opportunity to attend the Auckland Colloquium and to the New Zealand Organising Committee for the wonderful program, social events and general fantastic organisation of the Auckland Colloquium.