If you want to engage and involve people start with their interests not your own

Involvement and Engagement

Complaints choirs started in Finland and have since spread
all over the world.Perhaps health organisations could use
the concept to brighten up a standard consultation event?

Better services in a democracy
British governments in recent years have wanted to involve people more in developing local services. This has been both about commissioning them and improving them on a day to day operational basis. It has also been about making the UK a more democratic society and ensuring that a dangerous division doesn't develop between government and the governed.

Within the health field both local government and the National Health Service have an interest in involvement and engagement. 

Local government appoints outside agencies to get an independent view on health and adult social care services and what improvements are needed strategically or operationally. This is known as the LINk (Local Involvement Network) and the work is often done by the voluntary sector. In 2013 LINks will be replaced by HealthWatch.

Local government departments themselves are often also involved in engagement. Within the health service, departments exist to get the view of both patients and the general public. 

Engagement starts with the public not the service
Involvement and engagement has 4 aspects to it
1) Giving information
2) Getting information i.e. research
3) Involving patients or the public in debating priorities
4) Enabling the direct participation of patients or the public in commissioning or the running of services

Some patients and the public may be very keen to get involved. However, an understanding of what interests patients and the public, other than health, may mean more people get involved. It may also help engage officials who receive the findings. 

Giving information
This website gives a range of examples on the topic of giving information. The sections on magazines and computer games may be especially appropriate. Computer games are particularly interesting as they can allow the public to explore different options as to how public money could be spent. For more information on this click here for more information and go to the fifth page. 

Getting information
In terms of getting information, using people's own interests might be one way to get them to an event that they might ignore as being too dull or worthy. Instead it may be useful PR to get them further involved, particularly if the potental project being researched is something like a community health promotion initiative. 

Popular culture may also be a way of collecting people's views e.g. using popular magazines to make a collage on how the local NHS is viewed. This has actually been done in the past. Click here for more information and see page 43. 

Comic artists could also be used to get young people views e.g. by asking them to complete a story about arriving at a sexual health clinic. Click here for more information and see page 81. 

Another possible approach is to help people produce their own YouTube stories. These could be about their experiences of local health services, medical conditions or the unhealthy environment they live in. They can be quite simple to produce e.g. stills photographs with text or a voice over. People may need initial help however to distill what they say down to a few minutes.

Involving people in debate
On occasion it may be useful to use a stimulous piece to get people going. This could be a piece of music or comedy or a written story. It is important however that patients and the public are involved in putting it together so that the focus isn't just on issues that interest professionals.This can also prevent bias in other ways.  

The above three approaches could be done systematically by using mass lay membership bodies, such as those required by NHS Foundation Trusts. Commissioning organisations could also create something similar. For more information click here.

Enabling the direct participation of patients or the public in commissioning or the running of services.
Although there is no direct link with popular culture here, it may be useful in updating or training people who have agreed to participate. 

Generally, I also think that there are opportunities for involvement staff and health education teams to work together for joint benefit e.g. around events or publications. 

To download my whole 180 page report on using popular culture to tackle health  inequalities click here

To download the PDF software to be able to download this file click here