I joined the CCNet in 1998 primarily to learn how Cochrane Systematic Reviews can be better used to support consumers in health care decision making, particularly in resource-constrained communities. Joining CCNet provided the tool I needed (in form of high quality health information) to further address consumer concerns in Africa and beyond. It has been a unique learning experience for me using the Synopses, now Plain Language Summaries to communicate Cochrane evidence to low literate communities using culturally appropriate strategies.
Prior to joining CCNet, I was a public health advocate and the Health Action International (HAI) Africa volunteer sub-regional co-ordinator for Western Anglophone/Nigeria. HAI is a network of consumer groups, health care professionals and health policy makers working for increased rational drug use, provision of quality health information and access to essential medicines.
The journey to consumer participation and involvement in the work of the Cochrane Collaboration has been rough, tough and thorny but progressive at the same time. Over the years, opponents of consumer engagement were not sure consumers had anything to offer the scientific community. However, members of the Consumer Network, despite internal leadership challenges, have been vehement on the important role of consumers in the overall Systematic Review production and consumption stages and processes.
I was the CCNet Representative on the Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group from 2004-2007 as well as a member of the Governing Council of CCNet for many years. Currently, I am a member of the Transition Consumer Executive, a co-reviewer with the Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) Group, and actively involved in disseminating Cochrane information to rural communities in Nigeria using Cochrane Plain Language Summaries.
Today, consumer input in the Collaboration has become well established than when I joined the at the early stage of its development. CCNet is fully represented on the Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group with a dynamic Transition Consumer Executive and a fulltime Consumer Coordinator. To enhance effective collaboration and ensure wider contribution and quality consumer participation and involvement, particularly in developing countries I look forward to a regional network model (for example, CCNet Africa).
Godwin N. Aja, DrPH, is a professor of health promotion/education and community health development and currently the Chair, Department of Public Health, Babcock University, Nigeria. His research interest is in the area of developing innovative learning strategies for communicating evidence-based women's health information in low income settings.
Posted as part of the Consumer Network’s focus on Wise Consumer Month.
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