Building a framework for success

Right from the beginning, Your Community Health had local people at its heart, according to Service Development Officer Catherine Fraser.

“The community health service in the north was established as a result of advocacy for health services by local people in what was a fairly disadvantaged part of Melbourne,” she said.

“In some ways that makes the consumer participation elements of my role easier because it’s not an alien concept for us to be working with community, and vise versa.

“I work for a service provider that provides a whole range of health services like medical, dental, allied health, social and community support across Northern Melbourne.”

Connecting with the community

Among Catherine’s key tasks has been working with the community to develop a Consumer, Carer and Community Participation Framework (3CP) – while simultaneously establishing a consumer advisory committee.

“We were setting the committee up from scratch using online resources from Health Issues Centre to try to resource myself in terms of what that structure needed to consider and what some of the issues might be that we would need to deal with,” she said.

“And then once that committee was established, we worked with the committee and got their input on developing the framework.”

She said she had also approached Dr Tere Dawson at Health Issues Centre at this point to seek coaching support to develop the framework further.

“I was really searching around for what’s out there and Health Issues Centre’s name kept popping up and I thought, ‘these are the people I need to connect with who will be able to resource this’, Catherine said.

“There was a real sense of if I didn’t consult, I could be doing this in isolation at my own service and that’s too narrow a perspective.

“Health Issues Centre offered a more global perspective. I approached Tere to review the draft and asked if she could make suggestions.”

Sharing the learnings

The collaboration has proven mutually beneficial, as Catherine now presents a case study on the experience of setting up the consumer engagement framework as part of Health Issues Centre’s Graduate Certificate in Consumer and Community Engagement. This allows her to share first-hand learnings with others attempting similar projects in their own workplaces. Catherine said she “values the environment the HIC course provides for people from across the sector to come together to learn, share ideas, and develop together”.

“I think placing Consumer, Carer, Community Participation really squarely on the agenda of our organisation’s work has built up a profile at that governance and management level,” she said.

“Community and clients are a part of communication strategies within the organisation. It’s now a matter of course that consumers and community are considered, and people speak with each other.

But she stressed Your Community Health wasn’t resting on its laurels.

“It’s all about making it real and live at all parts of the organisation – it’s a job never done.”

Catherine received coaching support from Dr Tere Dawson at Health Issues Centre to assist in developing a Consumer, Carer, Community Participation Framework at Yourcommunityhealth. Catherine is also a guest speaker for the Health Issues Centre’s Graduate Certificate in Consumer and Community Engagement (1064NAT)