A key priority for PVN is to diversify our network to better reflect the population in BC. We’ve been working to recruit people with specific health experiences, youth and men, as well as populations of varying social and cultural backgrounds. In this post, our engagement leader Carol Stathers tells us more about PVN’s initiatives to engage youth:
As an engagement leader, some of my greatest challenges in building a diverse network are the areas of gender and age. As an example, our current membership across the province consists of approximately 78% women, and about 20% of our patient partners identify as being under age 50. Only 2% of them are under age 25.
My current area of interest involves improving the balance of younger patient partners within engagement opportunities, as we recently opened up our network to include patient partners under age 18. One of our youngest patient partners is Brooklyn Kostiuk, who is 17 and lives in the Interior region. She told us more about why she decided to become a patient partner:
“At first, it was a great way as a high school student to gain volunteer hours and to add to my personal profile on my university applications. But, as a daughter of someone who works in the medical field and who has past experience as a patient involved with surgery, it is now in my interest to be involved with helping the health system. Being involved with PVN as a teenager gives me the opportunity to share a youth’s opinion on how the health system can grow. I can improve the system for when I am an adult and accessing it for my family or even for my own patients after I have completed medical school. I encourage more teenagers like myself who have been involved with the health care system or would like to be a part of it more when they get older.”
How to reach out to younger patient partners
Some of our strategies to get in touch with potential younger patient partners include reaching out to universities and colleges and, in some special cases, we also send direct invitations when looking for patient partners with specific experience, such as maternity care. In the Interior region, for example, we have been very successful reaching out to health-related programs at post-secondary institutions.
To better communicate with younger patient partners, we use the same ways they use to communicate with their peers: email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, texting. Through our research, I was quite surprised to learn that there is not one “best” way, and that we need to consider utilizing all modes. So far, I’ve found that email, text and Facebook seem to be used the most.
Once we have younger patient partners involved in the network and know the best ways to communicate, we need to learn more about their areas of interest and how they would like to participate in our network. I did a short survey and found out that the top areas include health promotion/education, health research and mental health and substance use.
Barriers we must remove to engage youth
Two challenges for our younger patient partners are feeling that their experience is too limited to be helpful, and a lack of availability during normal business hours. That’s why I usually encourage our patient partners to express interest even if they don’t feel they are a perfect match for an engagement opportunity. Our health care partners realize the value that younger patient partners bring and often want to ensure they are included, even if they face those barriers.
“Hearing from our younger population is extremely important as they are, or will be, recipients of our changing health care system. As a health authority, we want to ensure that we capture representation from all demographics within our population, including age. This fall we heard from younger patient partners at a number of different occasions, which provided a valuable perspective and quite possibly brought us to different outcomes. I would encourage younger patient partners to get involved, don’t be hesitant to speak up, we need your voice!”
Karla Warkotsch, Transformation Lead, Primary and Community Care Transformation, Interior Health
Help us reach out to young patient partners!
We want to empower our younger patient partners and encourage them to get involved, so we need to consider ways that we can be flexible in our approach so that they can be involved. We will continue to encourage young people to get involved, as well as health care partners to open the doors to their involvement.
Do you have any suggestions to help us reach out to young patient partners and engage them? Comment on this post and let us know. We’d love to hear your ideas!