Health Policy Series: Critical Reflections on Public Engagement

We’re bringing conference vibes to the podcast and presenting a short series of critical work on public engagement from members of the Public Engagement in Health Policy team.  We noted themes of: community exclusion from formal engagement processes; misalignment of goals; questions of legitimacy; and challenges of conducting community-engaged research in institutional settings. 

We already published the keynote from Dr. Jamila Michener on Transformative Engagement – and in true conference fashion, we’re also sharing our roundtable breakout discussion with researchers Katie Boothe and Alana Cattapan! 

Featuring excerpts from presentations recorded at this conference, Reimagining public engagement in a changing world:

  • ‘If we don’t do it, who will’? An exploration of Black community agency in health policy and advocacy in Ontario – Dr. Alpha Abebe and Rhonda C. George, McMaster University
  • Engaging deliberately: Exploring deliberation in two Canadian health systems – Joanna Massie, McMaster University
  • The Epistemic Injustices of Public Engagement: When nothing is done to meet the demands of Nothing about Us without Us! – Dr. Genevieve Fuji Johnson, Simon Fraser University

Followed by (the more interesting parts of!) our actual conversation with Katherine (Katie) Boothe (Associate Professor at McMaster in the Political Science department and a team member in the Public Engagement in Health Policy Project) and Alana Cattapan (Canada Research Chair in the Politics of Reproduction and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo). We debrief on conference themes, share critical reflections and occasionally complain about the state of funding and support for community-engaged research. 

If you’re interested in critical work on public engagement, this episode (along with the Dr. Michener’s keynote) is an excellent summary of a stellar conference!

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This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Health Policy Series: Transformative Public Engagement: Pitfalls, Possibilities and Promise – keynote by Dr. Jamila Michener

On September 22, 2022, the Public Engagement in Health Policy project team at McMaster University hosted a one-day conference, Reimagining public engagement in a changing world. Community members, engagement practitioners, researchers, and policymakers gathered virtually and in person to discuss the opportunities and pitfalls of public engagement and to envision a way forward. Attendees explored questions such as, what does it mean to engage with communities ethically? How can researchers use new approaches to engagement to tackle contemporary health policy issues with communities? And what are the roots of mistrust between communities and researchers/policymakers? 

The day opened with Dr. Jamila Michener, Associate Professor of Government and Public Policy at Cornell University. In her keynote presentation, she shared enriching insights on public engagement at the intersections of power, poverty, public policy and racism. Transformative and impactful public engagement continues to be hindered by a range of problems from insufficient resources to structural disincentives. Research must not only seek to avoid tokenism, to meaningfully create space for people to participate; it must also be reflexive. Researchers have a critical role in radically transforming engagement by understanding how their positionality affects their work. They should begin their work by asking: who am I, what are my values, what is my position and role? This reflexivity is essential as it shapes the very research questions we ask and our rationale for engaging with communities. It is from this intersectional lens that Dr. Michener proposed the values of equity, dignity, and democracy as anchors for ethical public engagement. 

– Excerpt from a blog post written by Joanna Massie, Roma Dhamanaskar, and Rana Saleh 

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This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Health Policy Series: Understanding Legitimacy in Public and Patient Engagement, with Katherine Boothe

What makes an engagement process legitimate?  How do technical experts feel about engagement, and how have their ideas of legitimacy changed over time?  These are just some of the questions we explore with our guest, Katherine (Katie) Boothe, Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at McMaster University.

A recent paper of Katie’s,  “Redefining Legitimacy in Canadian Drug Assessment Policy? Comparing Ideas Over Time” seeks to understand how and when people’s ideas of legitimacy change when lay members are added to otherwise ‘expert only’ committees. In this case, the context is Canadian drug assessment advisory committees, where a group of technical experts and lay members help to determine what pharmaceutical drugs should be covered by public drug insurance policies. 

Join us for this fascinating conversation exploring how public and patient engagement challenges pre-existing standards of what constitutes “good” scientific evidence, and how (unarticulated) differing rationales and goals for engagement can lead to frustration and disappointment. 

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This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Health Policy Series: Deliberation, Democracy and Public Engagement, A Conversation with Kim McGrail

Kim McGrail is the Scientific Director of Health Data Research Network, a CIHR funded initiative whose work in the health data space has implications for, well, everyone living in Canada. And they’re keen to involve the public not just in getting input, but in providing guidance into key decisions.  HDRN’s work is both technical and somewhat conceptual: their aim is to support researchers to better access health data for research from multiple sources and regions, while respecting local, regional and Indigenous rights, cultural practices and laws.

Public engagement in this context may seem straightforward, but it’s hardly so. In this episode, we talk through some of HDRN’s challenges and opportunities related to understanding public concerns related to collection, use and sharing of health data.  Although we touch on some of the operational and technical details of HDRN’s work, our primary focus is on the use of deliberation as an engagement approach.  And how it’s difficult to talk about engagement at a pan-Canadian level without also considering democratic ideals and how we might navigate living together as a diverse society.

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This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Health Policy Series: The Business and Politics of Engagement, with John Perenack of StrategyCorp

In previous episodes we’ve talked a lot about high-level rationales for engagement, like democratic principles and moral or ethical obligations. But we haven’t really got into some of the operational nuts and bolts, like the fact that there’s a whole fee-for-service industry out there – agencies hired by healthcare organizations to support engagement strategy and activities.

Join us for this behind-the-scenes look at what engagement-for-hire looks like. What is the work that’s involved? And how does a strategic consulting firm advise on or think about engagement?  Is any of this actually useful or meaningful, or does it only fulfill some kind of strategic or tactical purpose? 

We attempt to get to the bottom of these questions with John Perenack, of StrategyCorp.  John is a communications specialist who often supports clients in developing public and stakeholder engagement strategies and activities.  We’re excited to bring you this fascinating and illuminating conversation!

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This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Health Policy Series: Black Communities, Medical Mistrust and COVID Response, with Alpha Abebe and Rhonda C. George

In this episode, we continue our conversation with Alpha Abebe and Rhonda C. George!  (Haven’t heard the first conversation yet? Listen here!) This time, we talk about Black communities’ response to COVID, and public health response to Black communities.

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During a public health crisis is the exact wrong time to try and build relationships and trust with communities who have not historically been included in health policy decision making, and whose health and health care needs continued to be neglected. But this, of course, doesn’t mean that Black communities didn’t recognize both the real danger posed by COVID, or their own tenuous connection to mainstream health services. Alpha and Rhonda share how leaders of Black-led organizations rallied to address community needs during COVID, and discuss the importance of supporting Black communities to build capacity and resilience for the future. 

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Alpha Abebe is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at McMaster University, and Rhonda C. George is a PhD candidate in Sociology at York University. They’re both researchers with the Public Engagement in Health Policy Project.

This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Health Policy Series: “Flipping the script” on narratives about Black communities and engagement, with Alpha Abebe and Rhonda C. George

In this episode, we continue our Health Policy series with guests Alpha Abebe and Rhonda C. George.

Alpha and Rhonda’s research foregrounds Black community experiences and insights related to health policy engagement. We’re featuring their work over two back-to-back episodes. This episode focuses on the engagement work of Black communities. Our guests want to “flip the script,” shifting away from a deficit model of understanding Black community engagement.

The follow up episode features Alpha and Rhonda’s research on Black community engagement during COVID, and includes discussion on why they think it’s valuable for Black researchers to be doing this kind of work.

Alpha and Rhonda are members of the Public Engagement in Health Policy team based at McMaster University, which aims to strengthen health policymaking in Canada by providing a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship, education and leadership in public engagement. 

This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Health Policy Series Kick-off!: A retrospective look at public engagement, with Julia Abelson

We’re back! We’re excited to get rolling on this new series on Health Policy!  We have a range of questions we want to explore, including: who is involved in making policy, and how are public needs identified? How is public engagement defined? And who is included or excluded?

We’re kicking off the series with a conversation with Julia Abelson. Julia is a professor at McMaster University in the Department of Health Evidence and Impact and an associate member in the Department of Political Science.  She has a special research interest in public engagement in health system governance, and the analysis of the determinants of health policy decision making.

Julia’s been on the podcast before (Evaluating Patient Engagement) and this time around, she’s back to talk about the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, based at McMaster.

We reconnected with Julia to chat about some of the early insights learned in the project so far. One of the research themes in the project is Looking Back, reflecting on the evolution of engagement practices and health policy and seeing what can be learned from past experiences.

In this episode, Julia shares her insights related to trends in engagement in health policy, and also discusses one of the project’s first outputs – a case survey of government-initiated public engagement in health policy.

This series is supported by the Public Engagement in Health Policy project, which promotes research, critical reflection and dialogue about engagement issues that have a health and health policy focus. Learn more about this Future of Canada project at engagementinhealthpolicy.ca

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Season 3 Finale: Patient Partner Reflections, brought to you by OSSU

For this final episode of Season 3, we want to acknowledge the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit for supporting us to get this project off the ground and establish a solid foundation for critical dialogue about patient engagement and partnership. So we’re turning things over to members of OSSU’s Patient Partner Working Group: Annette McKinnon, Bilqis Williams, and honourary member, Stuart Nicholls. We invited them to share their thoughts on patient partnership today, and where they think it’s heading.

Stay tuned, more to come!!

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Guests:

Mentioned in this episode:

Additional music and production support provided by Angus Turney