Harnessing the power of connections at 4th International Public Health and Palliative Care conference

Categories: Education.

Dr Julian Abel, medical director of Weston Hospicecare, welcomed the delegates, bucking convention by encouraging them not to turn their phones off, but rather to switch them on and engage on social media using the conference hashtag #PHPC15

He noted that the conference is very much about connections and learning together and encouraged the delegates to share their collected wisdom, knowledge and experiences.

Accelerated learning in the morning sessions

Kerrie Noonan of the Australian NGO, The Groundswell Project, guided new ‘Tweeps’ through the process of setting up a Twitter account and engaging with the online community.

Uncertainty and trepidation turned to celebration as first tweets were sent out and delegates ‘followed’ each other as well as the conference hastag.

As Kerrie brought up all the tweets containing the hashtag #PHPC15, the group was able to see all their contributions on one page, building a picture of the workshop for those in the room and out in the world.   

In the two days prior to the conference, delegates had been invited to visit ‘Compassionate Communities Hosting Sites’ at Severn Hospice, Murray Hill Community Trust, Weston Hospice Care, The End of Life Care Partnership, Cheshire, and St Joseph’s Hospice, London.

Representatives of the hosting sites gave an overview of the visits. Common themes had emerged, such as:

  • finding new ways of meeting communities’ needs and the cultural change it requires within hospices
  • that death is a social issue and medicine only has a small part to play in it
  • the importance of having an ear to community needs and how to mobilise to meet them
  • the limitations of care packages and the need to enable wider circles of support
  • identifying what the hospice can facilitate for patients ‘when the professionals go home’; and
  • acknowledging that ‘isolation leads to crisis’ for both patients and carers.

The Civic Welcome and stories of participation

After the morning sessions, Bristol Mayor George Fergusson took time out of his busy schedule to give the Civic Welcome address.

He noted that Bristol’s status as the European Green capital also denoted the responsibility to make it a healthy city and a good city for citizens to grown up in, from the beginning to the end of their lives.

He spoke about the recent death of his mother, telling those listening how it was important to his mother and the family that she did not die in hospital receiving unnecessary tests and procedures, but rather was able to go home to die in peace.

He said: “To me it is vitally important to have a city that cares,” and closed by reminding the audience that palliative care is a human right, saying: “Let’s make sure that this is something that everyone feels responsibility for.”

Following the Mayor’s address, Bill Crooks used a series of his own drawings to illustrate his talk on the benefits of and challenges of participation. “Participation is about listening to people,” he said. “It’s about relationships and it’s about giving people dignity.”

Palliative care as a public health issue

Dr Denise Marshall, palliative care provincial lead at Cancer Care Ontario, gave the first afternoon plenary session, entitled: ‘Embracing palliative care as a public health issue in Canada – where we are and where we are going.’ She reiterated a message already familiar within the conference discourse, reminding those listening that “palliative care is everyone’s business.”

The afternoon parallel sessions dealt with the themes of: Public Health and Policy, Participatory Approaches and Reframing Death, Dying and Loss.

Joachim Cohen and Libby Sallnow led a very interesting session on researching the public health approach to palliative care, saying that while public health research methods are not new, they are new to palliative care.

The other speakers explored gender issues in Advance Care Planning, as well as service delivery in the community.

The launch of Public Health and Palliative Care International

Professor Alan Kellehear gave the closing plenary for the first day of the conference, announcing the launch of Public Health and Palliative Care International.

This new association aims to: “promote practice, learning and new knowledge around a public health approach to palliative care.”

Delegates were encouraged to join the association and to vote for members of the new governing council. You can find out more about the association on the Public Health and Palliative Care website.

Read ehospice for coverage of the conference, and follow the Twitter hashtag #phpc15 to keep up with the action.