GEIS 2018 – Day 2

Today I had a late start but managed to get to a Session on Rapid (Systematic) Reviews. I had not heard of these before. Systemic Reviews tend to take to take 6-12 months and encompass the full topic. A rapid review tends to take about 6-12 weeks and tends to focus on a particular aspect within a topic. The people presenting were from the Faculty of Public Health, University of Indonesia and there was a representative from the Ministry of Health.

What I liked most about the presentation was that they took us through the unit they taught on how to do Rapid Reviews. This helped me to make sense of the method and of course see why policy makers and funders might prefer this option especially given the time and cost benefits to funding such an approach. Mind you it does raise many questions about the bias and limitations associated with solely relying on this method as opposed to a systematic review.

After the talk Greet and I had the opportunity to talk further with Asri Adisasmita about the course they were teaching and how they were approaching the method for rapid reviews. It’s great to be able to hear about what other people in other countries are doing. In particular this presentation represent both the health ministry and academia and how they are working together.

The food at the conference was delicious and hit the spot. However, the rolls today were pink. Some of my friends know of my reaction to black rolls not long ago, so I had to show them that I was eating ‘pink’ rolls. To be honest I don’t understand why they have to mess with the colouring of rolls!

After lunch I attended a session where discussions revolved around the topic of evidence, how it works in the UK and how it is being developed for human service providers. One of the reasons why I wanted to hear about what was happening in the UK was that here in Australia we appear to be adopting or following some of the social policy shifts that happen in the UK. Tom McBride, from the Early Intervention Program, spoke of the importance of early intervention in the lives of children for whom many in the UK are disadvantaged. It was interesting to listen to how evidence was utilised within his organisation. It made me think about the way we prioritise the needs of children within our agency particularly around issues of safety.

This talk was followed by Tim Moore from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute who has completed the first stage of the Victorian Government’s Roadmap to Reform. In particular he highlight the need to ensure that the first step towards working with families was to develop a strong relationship where the clients felt that their needs were being met and that the goals were set mutually between the worker and the clients. It was great to finally hear (and speak to later) Tim speak. His organisation was involved in the evaluation of one of our programs and I have read some of his work including this report relating to the Roadmap to Reform.

The next session I attended was not one I had intended to go to because I usually avoid anything ‘military’ but the two guys I had met from the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at PSU, USA, Kyle Hawkey and Daniel Perkins were here to present a session called: ‘Aligning evidence with policy and practice: implementing a Zero Suicide approach in the US military’. Given my former role as a drought worker, it was actually interesting to hear a bit about the background to their program and the effort that goes into supporting the health and well-being of both people in the military and their families.

The last session I attended considered national and state initiatives that supported evidence informed policies and practices. It was a good opportunity to hear, in particular, from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). However I had the opportunity to hear from three agencies including a national organization from Canada.

One of the interesting aspects to many of these discussions is that agencies like the AIFS promote randomised control trials as the golden standard for enabling the evidence-based seal of approval of programs yet the discourse used in the delivery of the presentations I attended rarely implied a clinical or medical model approach for policy development. Rather terms like ‘what-if tools’, ‘knowledge transition’, ‘partnership’ and ‘capacity building’. While I did not hear it directly stated, it would seem that while RCTs are considered the golden standard there is a strong realisation that it is extremely challenging to rely solely on such a method in the delivery of programs within the human services and the development of social policy.

Evening drinks centered around the presentation of the posters. Yes proseco was on the agenda but so was supporting Flo and Kelvin as they presented their work. The MC for the night surprised everyone by announcing that all researchers with posters could have two minutes to present their work. That meant at least 40 minutes to get through everyone. But they did and everyone was respectful and kept to time!

Taking the opportunity to actually look at Florian Spensberger’s (Flo’s) work made me realise that here was someone who’s work I should follow. After all he was a social worker looking at the role of evidence played out in this sector. As someone who lived and worked in Germany, his work might also provide a different perspective that could be useful to consider.

It was only that night that I realised Kelvin Lee, from AWWA, had presented a poster too. From a personal perspective I was delighted to see his focus on the notion of ‘inclusion’ in education. This is an aspect of education that I am passionate about because it is more that integration; it means giving all people access to the educational curriculum regardless of standard abilities. Yes, this was a personal battle I faced for my son who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which culminated in a school principal informing me that she would not guarantee his education for his final year at primary school. Ultimately we changed schools and it was the best thing that happened for my son. I felt inspired and relieved to see and hear about Kelvin’s work knowing how invaluable it is that teachers and educators understand this concept.

On my way back to the hotel, I decided to go for a bit of a walk and I started looking around. It’s really lovely to see the way they have tried to introduce some green amongst the skyscrapers and maintained a small glimpse of past architecture.

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