Compassionate Communities: Another Perspective

In the lead up to this week’s #PallANZ Tweet Chat with @PCACEO
and @Palliverse, we are once again very fortunate to feature the
contribution of an international guest – with Dr. Emilio Herrera (@emiliohm)
President of NewHealth Foundation, sharing with us insights from his experience
in developing compassionate communities across Spain and Latin America.

emilio

Dr Emilio Herrera

Dr. Herrera is President of NewHealth Foundation (NHF), a non-profit Spanish institution which seeks to promote new models of health and social care integration; in particular, in the areas of advanced chronic illness and palliative care. He is an expert in palliative care, with long-standing experience in planning and implementing palliative care and integrated health and social care programmes in Spain and Latin America. In recognition of this work, he has received various national and international awards, including the 2015 international “Palliative Care Policy Development Award” from the European Journal of Palliative Care.
* Full Bio follows below

 

Currently in Australia to present a Keynote Address at the 2016 Palliative Care Victoria Conference (if you haven’t already – you should register now!), Dr Herrera very kindly gave his time to speak with us about our #PallANZ discussion this week on Compassionate Communities.


What is a compassionate community – and how is it relevant to hospice and palliative care?

It is a group of people who are able to mobilize to help others in their community who are facing a life-limiting illness, in order to promote well-being and alleviate their suffering.

This requires a cultural evolution and a return to moral principles and values:

It requires the understanding that the care of the people around us is everyone’s responsibility – beyond mere provision of public or private services. It requires continuing work in social awareness to promote general knowledge of how to act in these situations, and preferably, public and corporate policies that could facilitate all of this.

Initially the Hospice movement was closely linked to the community:

The Hospice itself represented a place where people received the necessary care in their last days of life, but also a place of participation for the patient´s families, friends and/or neighbours. Over the years, palliative care has often been medicalised and has lost much of its social character. However, as advocated by Dr. Libby Snallow, the interaction between Hospice and volunteer communities has been as long as its history.

In the years to come, the prevalence of chronic disease and disabilities will increase.  Almost 70% of the world population die after a period of chronic illness. Likewise, the number of family caregivers is declining. With these solid facts, neither the end of life or death can be understood as a failure of medicine—nor can high quality palliative care be offered without the active participation of the community.

What challenges must we overcome to promote compassionate communities?

  1. We have to be more humble. Our two principal barriers are inside ourselves: fear and ego. We must recognize that, as health care professionals, our training does not prepare us to help a community find its own solutions and shape its own future.

  2. We have to change our approach as a health system. In general, it is not easy to focus on the needs of individual people.  As Dr. Julian Abel stated in his “Circles of care”, the person at the centre should be supported by their more intimate community, and around both the patient and his/her inner community, the health and social care services should work like an integrated care system to offer the best of care.

  3. Society must return to recover the dignity of care:  the privilege of caring as opposed to the burden of caring.

  4. We have to design and implement methodologies to interact with the community that will require us to devote considerable time and resources. Implementation of the Compassionate Cities Charter developed by Professor Allan Kellehear and Dr. Julian Abel are a good starting point.

  5. The first challenge is to understand the paradigm of integrating health care, social care and direct participation of the community.

  6. We need to invest in order to achieve efficiency.   We need specific budgets to generate the necessary resources to stimulate the community. An important part of those budgets should come from the community itself and the private sector, not only the government.

  7. We need motivation from our best professionals. They are often tired after so much effort and many years of hard work without getting the expected results.

  8. We need first class social marketing.

  9. We need to align the active participation of different social stakeholders.

  10. We need to understand that empowering a community goes way beyond promoting volunteer organisations.  It involves a change of attitude in the society. This also needs to involve working from and with schools. 

In what ways can we build meaningful and effective partnerships between palliative care professionals and the broader community?

In general, we need to create a common social mission. This is much more than a recipe.

This involves working hard to create a different and involved society; to imagine a sustainable social model and restore the value of caring; to implement an enduring story, to create together a legacy that can grow, and to believe in our shared meaning as human beings.

Some tools and specific actions that can help to achieve these aims include:

  • Identifying and promoting good leadership among our experts and the public.
  • Making local maps of aligned initiatives and identifying stakeholders.
  • Networking.
  • Establishing commitments from and with organizations and institutions involved.
  • Recruiting collaborating centres.
  • Raising local financing.
  • Establishing agreements.
  • Designing local projects.
  • Raising awareness campaigns and offering training activities.
  • Designing and using agreed tools.
  • Evaluating the Project by sharing results and outcomes.

As part of Emilio’s work, the City of Seville is set to be recognised as one of the first ‘Compassionate Cities’ in the world, by Public Health Palliative Care International. You can read more about this achievement here. You might also be interested in reading ‘Compassion is the Key’ – where Emilio highlights ‘Compassion’ as the value that should be promoted to transform the healthcare model.

@Palliverse and @PCACEO are extremely grateful for the generosity of Dr Emilio Herrera in sharing his valuable insights with us. You can see Emilio present the Keynote Address at the Palliative Care Victoria Conference on Friday 29th July; Bayview Eden Hotel, Melbourne Australia. Register now!

* Dr Herrera’s background is in medicine, holding a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and he is also a specialist in Family and Community Medicine. He continued specialising in palliative care and completed an internship in palliative care at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre Houston (USA), and at Edmonton (Canada). He also holds Master’s degrees in both Health Services Organization and Management, and Senior Management.

At present, the NHF is heavily involved in the development of palliative care programmes in Colombia. In Spain, it has also set up the Observatory of Integrated Care Models (OMIS) in order to identify and make visible, current experiences of health and social care coordination and integration, and to translate knowledge and create synergies. Finally, the NHF is developing the social movement Compassionate Communities and Cities through the setting up of the project “Todos Contigo” in several cities of Spain and Latin America.

2 thoughts on “Compassionate Communities: Another Perspective

  1. No. 3 point for the second question – my mum cared for her Mum following a bowel cancer diagnosis, the time was a gift. She did though have training as a nurse

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