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Nancy Fitton is the coordinator of CUE – Consumers United for Evidence-based Healthcare, which is hosted by the United States Cochrane Center.  Her interest in health issues was initially sparked by her Peace Corps service as a village health promoter in Honduras.  She can be reached at

The 2012 Colloquium in Auckland was excellent in many ways.  Of course the colloquium was very well organised, Auckland was a very hospitable place and New Zealand is a magnificent country.  I benefited from three significant areas throughout the meetings: relationships, non-consumer topics and consumer topics.

Upon my arrival in Auckland the day before the opening sessions, recipients of consumer stipends gathered for dinner.  This was a wonderful, informal event where I was able to renew relationships with consumers I had met in the past and meet consumer advocates who I had not previously known.  15 people were present, representing 7 countries.  Although we were all suffering from jet lag, it was great to hear about what each person does in their advocacy work.  This opportunity set the scene for the rest of the meeting, allowing us to seek out each other during the week ahead.  As a result of this networking, a consumer from Canada will now be attending a guidelines meeting in the United States!

The ability to attend presentations and workshops on topics not aimed at consumers was an excellent way to increase my understanding of Cochrane and its many facets, as well as be a consumer presence during the discussion period.  Starting with a pre-conference workshop on the implementation of guidelines (after all, what good is an evidence-based guideline if no one pays heed?), I was exposed to new material and considerations that had not occurred to me when encouraging consumer involvement in guideline development.  The plenaries were all excellent and riveting.

I assisted Kay Dickersin, along with consumers Mingming Zhang, Sandy Walsh and CCNet Coordinator Catherine McIlwain, in facilitating the workshop 'How to Ask an Answerable Question for Health Care and Health Research'  for consumers.  Nineteen people attended the workshop (14 participants and 5 facilitators), representing 10 countries.  In preparation for the workshop, many participants had taken the free, online course 'Understanding Evidence-based Healthcare:  A Foundation for Action', and had submitted potential research questions for use during the practice session. 

Kay Dickersin explained to the group that in many countries, those performing systematic reviews ask consumers to contribute to priority setting or to review and comment on topics as they are refined. Because consumers and clinical researchers often do not "speak the same language”, consumer questions may be ignored or given a lower priority rank.  The objective of this workshop was for the participants to gain hands-on experience developing answerable research questions.  Guided by the use of the PICO framework (Population,Intervention,Comparison, and Outcome), small groups of participants, aided by a facilitator, evaluated, reframed and presented questions that were provided to each group.  The lively discussion that ensued revealed a new understanding of the importance of putting forth the consumer viewpoint through a properly stated question.

Sally Crowe, Gill Gyte and Dell Horey led 'Making Sense of the Evidence – a Workshop for Consumers'.  We were given the opportunity to critically appraise a fictitious news article about a research study and practice using a consumer checklist to evaluate a Cochrane Review.  As in the 'Ask an Answerable Question' workshop, this workshop not only taught skills to the participants (in this case, to be able to comment on a Cochrane Review and to evaluate the evidence), but also served to build consumer confidence in order to meaningfully participate in activities surrounding the use of evidence.  I was very happy to leave this workshop with an excellent tool (checklist) consumers can use when commenting on a Cochrane Review.

All of the networking, meetings (it was a privilege to attend the CCNet meeting), workshops and presentations were beneficial on their own, but the “spice” added to the Colloquium were the social events, several of which included Maori dance presentations.  The welcome reception at the War Museum, the evening at the Orbit restaurant overlooking Auckland and the farewell dinner held in the fabulous Viaduct Events Center were all excellent and gave everyone the chance to socialise, enjoy Auckland and relax, rounding out a wonderful Colloquium.


Better Knowledge for Better Health | Un meilleur savoir pour une meilleure santé

Join us in beautiful Québec City, Canada, from 19-23 September 2013, as we celebrate The Cochrane Collaboration's 20th Anniversary

Québec City is over 400 years old and is the only walled city in North America. Fill your social and scientific calendars with all this picturesque place and our superb Colloquium have to offer. Watch our Colloquium video for a taste of what you will experience in this majestic city. 

Keep your eye on our Key dates!   -     Stipends applications open 4 April 2013           
Visit the website often for more updates.