You may already be aware that we have recently seen the launch of Bournemouth University’s Dementia Institute (BUDI), more details of which can be found on the Health and Social Care blog and BUDI’s website. This event brought together nearly 100 participants, two thirds of which had a professional interest in dementia, with a considerable proportion of the remainder attending for more personal reasons.
Encapsulating BU’s Fusion concept (with inclusion of research, teaching and practice), the launch event brought together what has been described as the three sides of the public engagement triangle. This includes transmitting (sharing results of previous research on dementia through presentations), receiving (learning from practitioners and service users about the key research issues) and collaborating (creating a dialogue to inform future research).
Part of BUDI’s key driving force is the need to promote high quality care and support for the population for dementia. Therefore, the process of public engagement is particularly important for BUDI, as it considers a key issue for Dorset – why does the county have the lowest level of dementia diagnosis, despite its elderly population? Currently available data does not provide an obvious answer to this, and it is likely that only by working with key stakeholders and the at risk population, that insights may be gained into this startling statistic.
BUDI Director, Prof Anthea Innes’ opening talk (What does dementia mean to you?) brought together some of her findings from her esteemed research career in a way that was accessible to the audience as a whole, but also sensitive to those for whom dementia is a highly emotive subject. Michele Board – a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care and a senior nurse in the memory clinic at Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – then gave a powerful account of insights into how the individual’s experience can be improved from her experience of working in the memory clinic. Again, this was informative for those of us with limited knowledge and for the more expert attendee. The final part of the event focused around a panel discussion, chaired by Prof Gail Thomas, Dean of the School of Health and Social Care. Alongside the speakers, the panel included Karen Cosgrove from Alzheimers.org.uk and Steve Collins from Age UK who with their extensive practice experience helped generate a lively discussion, where knowledge was exchanged and attendees were able to flag up areas of potential future research.
During the launch, I had a strong sense that the event was enabling a genuine process of public engagement to occur between our academic community, practitioners and other key stakeholders. I am therefore, delighted to learn that the results of the event evaluation demonstrate that this was very much the case for many of the participants. I know that BUDI are planning far more public engagement activities, which is I think will be both hugely positive for the progression of the research, for those involved in professional practice as well as for those affected by dementia, both patients and carers. As an academic institution, we perhaps uniquely positioned to be able to bring such a range of stakeholders together, share world-class research, learn from those that are directly impacted by research findings and develop a research agenda that we can be confident is relevant to our fast-changing world. If you would like to know more about why it worked so well or are interested in learning more about how you could develop public engagement activities around your research, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Rebecca Edwards on firstname.lastname@example.org, or for more information about BUDI contact Professor Anthea Innes on email@example.com