The conference took place in the ‘Life’ centre in Newcastle, a spectacular new build hospital, science museum and event venue. The theme was Child Health Research Across Organisational Boundaries.
There was a wealth of early career researchers, young researchers, and old hands at the conference all engaging in discussions about child health outcomes.
Several themes repeatedly emerged and are worth reflecting on:
- Working across organisational boundaries (boundary spanning) is never going to be easy and takes focus, effort and time. That said, it is very possible, as illustrated by Carol Ewing outlining the Greater Manchester model. All the effort is worthwhile for more streamlined services to children and more effective use of resources. Nina Modi also gave insights of how to get out of our organisational silos to support children better with internationally connected research.
- People live in very difficult life circumstances created by inequitable structures. These need to be addressed. Just one example of this was brought to life by Professor Greta Defeyter’s research on holiday hunger and its impact on health outcomes. I think we need to do all we can (publish, petition, protest) about these structures in order to get them to change as individuals and as a collective.
- Whilst we work on the structural issues we also need to support people in the moment, in those dire life circumstances. Front line practice is needed – more of what we know works, and more innovation. These services / interventions need to be owned by the people and developed with the people that will use them (co-ownership and co-production).
- We need to develop the evidence that these work through proportionate evaluation – that is, using the right tool, with the right community and intervention, and collecting the right amount of data for the balance of stakeholder needs as Stuart Logan eloquently pointed out. This should also be owned by the people it affected and conducted by them – as illustrated by the work of the Young People’s Action Group North East – YPAGne.
- Spend time with amazing people, doing amazing things, debate and discuss, re-energise and re-focus – we all have the power to change the world, and we all need support to do so.
It was fantastic to also share my work on strengths-based / asset-based practice. I covered the need for a fully integrated approach that goes beyond ideology and tokenistic use of the terms to a fully holistic approach at all levels of intervention and indeed organisational life. I also presented the case for an asset-balanced approach as it would be as inappropriate to completely ignore need as it is to completely ignore strengths. I really enjoyed some great conversations with colleagues following this and am looking forward to working with Niina Kolehmainen on this area.
Thanks GNCRC for an inspiring day – looking forward to working with you more.