As a commissioner of health services in a region of 600,000 people, Darling Downs and West Moreton Primary Health Network (PHN) uses direct community engagement as an invaluable part of the broader local research process.
Since 2020, the PHN has been running TALK ABOUT – an ongoing campaign that engages the community on their health experiences. Every three months, the topic is renewed to provide coverage across the health system. Topics covered throughout the campaign have included: Mental Health; Cancer Screening; Chronic Conditions; and Mums, Bubs and Kids.
The PHN has now heard from more than 2,100 community members and local health workers across a total of 14 topics. Each topic includes an online survey and a series of kitchen table discussions. The online surveys are short, anonymous and designed to gather insights around what is working well and what could be done better.
The kitchen table discussions are hosted across the Darling Downs and West Moreton region by local community members. Each kitchen table discussion provides a safe space for an in-depth discussion of health experiences. The participants represent many backgrounds, including rural and remote residents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, LGBTIQA+ community members and people living with disability. The participant discussions and stories are shared back to the PHN in a de-identified format to protect the privacy of those who attend.
This dual format facilitates the collection of meaningful qualitative data that is used in conjunction with existing health and population data to understand gaps and identify opportunities for solutions to improve health care in the region.
In 2022, the topic ‘Care Closer to Home’ engaged the community on experiences around access to health care, a particularly important topic for those living in rural areas. Participants shared their concerns around wait times, the financial cost of travel and the need for increased after-hours access. In the year since, this feedback has helped inform many projects including the After-Hours Support Program, which has been implemented within many general practices across the region to extend opening hours and reduce waiting times for their patients.
The success of TALK ABOUT highlights the importance of listening to the community as part of a comprehensive research process. Findings from the TALK ABOUT campaigns are available online and in the PHN’s Health Needs Assessment to assist any organisation working to improve health care in the region.
The current TALK ABOUT topic – Alcohol and Other Drugs – is now open. Insights from this campaign will be shared in late June 2023.