Friday, June 12, 2015

Research minded: understanding, supporting, conducting research #researchminded

I'm liveblogging from the EAHIL + ICAHIS + ICLC 2015 Workshop in Edinburgh: I will be catching up with blogging the workshops at this conference over the next day or two, by the way. In the final plenary today, Dr Liz Grant (Assistant Principal, Director Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh) talked about Research minded: understanding, supporting, conducting research. She started by quoting T.S. Elliot (the lines "We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our rexploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time". This encapsulated some of her ideas about research and its outcomes.
Grant went on to talk about the goals of the Global Health Academy. It brought together staff, students and practitioners from different disciplines, and had 3 premises. The first was the equality of humanity (but we are born into unequal circumstances, so, you should try and make circumstances more equal for people). The 2nd premise was that many solutions are in the world already, but may be overlooked, perhaps are in unexpected places, or in different place to the one where it is needed. This obviously links to use of information. The 3rd premise was that "people in partnerships bring about change: investing in people to share knowledge across boundaries is essential": there needed to be collaborations across nations and disciplines to meet the many 21st challenges.
Grant went on to talk about the Millenium Development Goals and the extent to which, firstly they have not all been met, and secondly some statistics might be questioned. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are about to take over from MDGs: the 3rd of these SDGs is "Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages". This SDG3 includes, e.g., goals to do with non-communicable diseases, use of alcohol, infant mortality. However: how can these be achieved? For example "Universal Health Coverage" is seen as essential for "healthy lives for all" but is complex and difficult to achieve. Grant said that her own field was end of life care, and she had seen the cycle of poverty caused by healthcare systems that were not free.
Grant talked about three things that can help. Firstly, "Task shifting transformed to task sharing": this involved recognising the value of different types of skill or task, so there was equality in partnerships. This also involved using information differently, and crossing disciplinary/knowledge silos.
Secondly, there needed to be a "Continuity and continuum of care". She gave the example of newborn and child health, where you had to think of the continuum of support and care, not focusing on vulnerable points (e.g. birth) in a disconnected way. The third and final element was "Quality care that is compassionate": understanding that transmitting knowledge is not enough, and you needed understanding and engagement, so that there could be compassion in the approach to healthcare." You can demonstrate to researchers that using knowledge compassionately is transformative - information doesn't sit on a page"
So, coming back to the Elliot quote, Grant urged us to look in unusual palaces for solutions, to listen, to recognise resources that are there and to partner in equality. Through this, we can take what we have now, and make a change.
Photo by Sheila Webber: plaque for the Scottish writer and physician, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes), in the square by the conference venues.

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