Stories of Equity in Public Engagement:

Tailoring Engagement for Diverse Audiences

January 31, 2022
Community Session - YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs (Halifax)

The Centre for Dialogue is collecting and highlighting stories of public engagement initiatives from around the world that are working intentionally to include diverse voices in decision-making processes by increasing accessibility and equity. Have a story to share? Contact us!

In 2018, Canada’s federal government tasked the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer with modernizing Canada’s national cancer control plan, in order to respond to new challenges such as increasing cancer cases in an ageing population, rising costs of treatment, system sustainability, embracing innovation and new models of care, and widening inequities across populations.  

The Partnership felt that any new cancer control plan should reflect the lived experiences and challenges that Canadians face, as well as their values and priorities about where to invest health resources. Through a broad engagement process, including an online survey, in-person dialogues, written submissions and “pop-up” engagement sessions across Canada, the Partnership heard from 7,500 people, including cancer patients, survivors and their families, health-care experts and providers, researchers, charities, and government leaders.

Fourteen of the dialogues focused on engaging populations that had been “underserviced” by the current cancer system, such as recent immigrants, seniors, persons living on low incomes, the 2SLBGTQ+ community, racialized peoples, minority language communities, inner-city residents and those living in rural, remote or northern communities. These populations are more likely to develop cancer, face barriers in accessing quality treatment and care, and have poorer health outcomes as a result.

Dialogues with underserviced communities were designed in collaboration with community-based agencies that serve the particular communities. Partnering agencies led participant recruitment, leveraging their deep, trusted relationships within the communities they serve, and their expertise in reaching, informing and mobilizing them. They also advised on best practices for developing safer or more culturally-appropriate spaces for dialogue, and accessible communications material with information about the cancer system. Simultaneous translation services were provided at the dialogues for newcomers to Canada.

We heard directly from voices not usually at the table for important health care discussions. They told us about challenges people faced related to poverty, distance, gender identity, mental health, new immigrant status and cultural sensitivity, preventing people from accessing and getting quality cancer care.  

Cindy Morton, CEO of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

First Nations, Métis and Inuit governments, organizations, and communities were engaged through a parallel process to deepen understanding of the priorities and challenges specific to Indigenous communities. To ensure engagement was conducted in a respectful way, a set of engagement principles were developed in collaboration with Elders, advisors and partners such as that engagement must “value and embed culture," "ground partnership in the spirit of reconciliation" and "use a variety of engagement methods including oral systems.” Each engagement session was facilitated by a member of the Partnership’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis team or advisors trained in applying culturally-competent approaches.

The resulting 10-year Strategy proposes eight priorities, including “eliminating barriers to people getting the care they need.” Three of these priority areas outline action items specific to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, offering an Indigenous-specific, distinctions-based approach in the refreshed Strategy for Cancer Control.

This engagement process will have an important and lasting impact on improving equity in Canada’s cancer system.

To learn more about collaborating respectfully with Indigenous communities, and tailoring engagements to diverse communities, see Principles 3 and 6 in our Guide to Equity in Public Engagement (p. 27 and 46).

If you are interested in working with us to convene transformative conversations or increase your organizational capacity to engage, our consulting services team would be happy to explore your needs today – we can design an engagement process that is right for you.

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