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11 Dec 2019
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Consumer and community engagement is everyone’s business

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

Plain language and a collaborative approach won the day at the VCCC Consumer Engagement Forum this month. Trust, mutual respect and finding the right person for the job were highlighted as attributes of good consumer engagement.

The forum brought together 120 people who are consumers or desire to work with consumers from across the Victorian cancer sector. The group comprised consumers 33%, administrators/executives 25%, researchers/academics 18%, health professionals 11% and ‘others’ 13% ensuring a good mix of perspectives.

A new VCCC consumer engagement toolkit was introduced at the meeting. The toolkit – which provides practical guides, case studies and templates to assist consumer engagement – is an initiative of the VCCC Cancer Community Advisory Committee and has the Cancer Australia National Framework for Consumer Involvement in Cancer Control as a foundation.

Consumer engagement manager Joanne Britto said, “We were delighted with the forum and the enthusiasm of those who came. What made it special was the range of people from broad disciplines in the room with varying experience with consumer engagement. It was a good to work together and bring volume to the consumer voice and ensure a richness of perspectives."

"We are not new in this space, but I think the difference we can make is to provide practical examples of the work we are doing," says Joanne.

"We have invited consumers and consumer groups broadly, not only within the VCCC alliance, to take a look at the toolkit and explore the contents."

Committee member Paul Baden said, Consumers can bridge the gap between the person that the research is aimed towards and what the researcher is basing it on.”

Where then do the issues lie? Having consumers involved should be as straightforward as contracting a paid employee. Afterall, consumers have expert knowledge of their own disease. Surely a simple recruitment model… recruit, reward and retain would do the trick?

What quickly became evident in the meeting is that just a small proportion of issues are visible on the surface. Like an iceberg, layers float beneath the surface. From the first analysis of why consumers should be involved – and to what extent, the roles they can be expected to fill and whether they should be paid, there is much to learn…and great benefits to be gained.

Coming soon

Coming up on the VCCC calendar of events will be a joint consumer and health professionals event for World Cancer Day on 4 February 2020. 

Registrations are also now open for researchers who wish to improve their skills in working with consumers. The interactive workshops aim to build researchers' skills and confidence in implementing consumer and community involvement in research. 

Register here for 17 February to be held at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute or for the same workshop on 19 February to be held at the University of Melbourne Register here