News at Medicine - October 2013 - Grad student involved in central Newfoundland citizen engagement initiative

Grad student involved in central Newfoundland citizen engagement initiative
October 8, 2013
What values do the public find important in decision making? A public engagement project in central Newfoundland has explored that question through focus group sessions and on-line engagement sessions, and the results are currently being analyzed. 
Peter Wilton, a master’s student in the Applied Health Services Research program, is working with Central Health on evaluating the public engagement exercise. 

The initiative was started due to a perceived need to engage more with the public related to challenges of service delivery and how decisions should be made regarding resource allocation. It was put off by various partners in the community including Central Health, the College of the North Atlantic and the rural secretariat.
 “This was a wide-scale public engagement exercise with two main components,” explained Mr. Wilton. “Initially, there were 11 focus group sessions held throughout the central region from February-April 2013. Then, starting in May 2013, there was an on-line engagement component that was open to any resident in central Newfoundland. 
The focus group and on-line engagement sessions focused on the values that the public find important in decision making. “There were two scenarios, one involving education, the other health, that participants were asked to think about during the sessions,” said Mr. Wilton. “Information from the sessions was collected and will be used in the forthcoming publication of a report by Central Health and the other partners.”
Mr. Wilton’s project focused on a process evaluation and comparison of the two engagement method.  Every member of the public participating was asked to complete a survey and he also interviewed members of the planning committee. 
This engagement project was innovative because of a number of factors, said Mr. Wilton. “Over 60 per cent of residents in central Newfoundland live in rural areas – It’s a very dispersed population with an aging population. There were several different community partners involves and different methods of engagement used.“
While his research is not yet complete, Mr. Wilton noted that the response to the online engagement was not as good as the response to the focus group sessions. “The on-line engagement part of the initiative was innovative but it’s a new technology, especially for people living in rural areas.”
Mr. Wilton’s research is supported by an award from the Harris Centre Student Research Fund. His supervisory committee members are Drs. Roger Chafe, Doreen Neville and Dr. Rick Audas, all from the Faculty of Medicine.