VOKA Health Congres Blog Post

Posted by Blythe Robertson on 12-10-2016
VOKA Health Congres Blog Post

It was a considerable privilege to be invited to speak at the recent VOKA Health Congres in Gent. This was a part of the world I've visited only briefly so was delighted to have a little time around the event - due to slightly awkward flight times - to bask in the glory of this splendid Flemish city.

VOKA has recently produced a white paper on their approach to self management which they call CASMA - Community Assisted Self Management. Their terms are very similar to ours in that they talk about enabling people to be in the "bike saddle" of their care - where we often say the "driving seat" - with the role of the community identified as providing the leg-up or boost to support people.

Among their 10 priority areas for action is health literacy, hence the invitation to share our experiences of implementing Making it Easy

With an audience of 250 people across a wider range of health and care interests in the smart surroundings of Gent's Artcube, the event started with a spectacular lunch delivered by local caterers Sir Catering.

The main session was opened by the Minister-President of Flanders‎, Geert Bourgeois. I was at a slight disadvantage language wise but the audience seemed warmly appreciative of his presence and his words.

We then had some interesting chaps from the Energy Lab who had taken on the Daily Mile from St Ninian’s Primary in Stirling and spread it to a number of schools across the Flanders region. That was very heartening to hear. 

Then it was my turn to talk a little about our context in Scotland, how we've responded to health literacy challenges, give some insight into the emerging findings from the Demonstrator programme in Tayside, then reflect on the future as we move towards a "health literacy by design" approach for supported and shared decision making.

The audience seemed to get the substance of things and responded well to the work previously highlighted as part of our NHS event workshop with the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability. 

VOKA are drawing in a very broad range of partners given their context of private healthcare ‎and much more direct dealings with big pharmaceutical companies. We have inroads to make on medicines labelling so this was an interesting introduction to that community for me. There was considerable enthusiasm for collaboration.

So it was a real pleasure to visit the VOKA Health community and the beautiful city of Gent. There's clearly common ground so I hope this is the start of a productive exchange to inform our ‎mutual aims.

Written by Blythe Robertson

Former Policy Lead for Self Management, Person Centred Care and Health Literacy

Scottish Government