My observations at ‘The Festival of Communities Event’

I believe ‘trust’ is the biggest factor in healthcare research and addressing this dynamically will resolve many of the problems of participant recruitment and engagement. Workshops are a great way to do just that.

Team Bone and Joint Health (JLA) set up a workshop at the Festival of Communities hosted by Queen Mary University Mile-End E1, on the 11th of June 2022, all thanks to the sheer dedication from Lauren, our Group Executive Assistant who went out of her way to be creative by making a prize hamper for guessing the number of orange and blue jellybeans in a jar. This received a lot of competition too with many jotting down their guesses.

Fortunately, with the workshop being held in the heart of a diverse community the ‘Stepney Green Park’, it proved to have an impressive turnout. The Bone and Joint Health team displayed an exemplary approach of friendliness and transparency in their work which broke many misconceptions of doctors.

The event was not only successful but a ‘massive hit’ with the locals, however, Mr Skelly (a full-sized human skeleton replica) takes all the credit for that. People were excited to be part of the operation process seeing it as it usually is but, in a friendly and safe environment. Giving an opportunity to children to dress up as doctors wearing surgeon scrub caps, stethoscopes and masks brought much joy to their parents who snapped away on their phones while their children conducted a very important bone surgery with grins on their faces. Dr Brett should be awarded for the patience he displayed while missing his lunch to finish off major operations with the children who queued up eagerly for their turn to drill into a chosen part of the body (Mr Skelly) to fix.

Having these workshops in person builds trust within the Healthcare Sector. Getting people/public involved and making them feel comfortable to take part in research is paramount through one-to-one engagement and education, even if that means only helping them name the parts of the body.

More so, I was able to break down the language barriers by speaking in my native language Sylheti, to those who could not speak English. They found comfort in speaking to someone from the same background which allowed me to successfully ask them to fill in the Major Trauma Survey, to which they happily accepted to take home and post after completion. I spoke in Urdu with the elderly Indian non-English speaking public building relational power to create mutual empowerment.

Points to address in these types of workshops are:

  • Communication barriers (Language)
  • Accessibility barriers (literature available in other languages)
  • Cultural barriers (Diversity of staff)
  • Inclusivity barriers

    Points to include in these types of workshops are:

    • Fun
    • Friendly
    • Activities
    • Uniqueness of the activity
    • Memorable moments for the public to share with family and friends who want to attend the next one, which will create a bigger turnout.
    • Always, ask for feedback

      All the above play a big part in constructive engagement with the public. Building trust is key. Creating relationships is powerful and beneficial on a mutual scale. Making it engageable is very important, rather than just handing out leaflets which people tend to throw away.

      Another major point to remember is to disseminate to the right area (geographically) at the right time (nearer to the event) using the right channels (social media) to get maximum effect. Having trustworthy community leaders promote the event is very impactful too. Although Twitter is a great place to advertise events, local newspapers, WhatsApp and Facebook are more suitable to grab the attention of diverse locals. Many turned up on the day after seeing my WhatsApp status where I gave a 360 view of the event luring them in with excitement, which they could, only because it was local.

      We had three tables with a range of activities:

      Table 1: Bone Joint Health merchandise (pens, stickers, pencils, mouse pads), leaflets, QR Code for the survey, and paper survey with envelopes.

      Table 2: Mr Skelly with all medical tools and apparatus. Also, masks, surgeon scrub caps, and a stethoscope.

      Table 3: Hamper with a big jar of jellybeans. This table also had small coloring pencils and coloring sheets for children, along with chocolates and more stickers and merchandise.

        By the end of the day, all the tables were nearly empty with a public member walking off home with Mr Skelly as a prize for attending and taking part. What a success!?  If I could, I would do this over and over again just to see the smiles on the people’s faces to be so close to doctors explaining how things are done but in a fun and engaging way. It really is a privilege for some.

        For me, I look forward to the next one, hoping Lauren will invite me to assist again.


        Blog written by Yesmin Begum
        PPI Rep NIHR Academy

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