A word with… Lynda Johnston
Lynda, how did you first come to be involved in the consumer engagement movement?
It was around the same time I was working in communities in a community development role in the western suburbs of Sydney. We had a large scale environmental issue and the community mobilised through this public health and safety issue. It became highly politicised and I found it really interesting how the role of advocacy for the community by the community was happening right in front of me. This was a real eye opener. Since 1999 I have worked specifically in health, mainly with health consumers in the community and in the “system” and how it can be improved. I’m still here. And I love it!
You played a part in the inception of HCNSW as the peak body for health consumers in NSW. What makes you so passionate about working with health consumers?
I was lucky to have known Betty Johnson, who approached me about assisting in developing the interim committee before HCNSW was formed. Being passionate is not hard when you are motivated by working so closely with consumers. I can’t work where I don’t enjoy, and I really enjoy my job. We have been working on Consumer and Community Participation (CCP) in the structure now for just over 10 years and we keep learning and changing and growing together!
You’ve been the Manager of the Consumer and Community Participation Unit at SWSLHD for 10 years. What does your work entail?
My work mainly involves working closely with health consumers, carers and community members in identifying areas and issues where they would like to work with the LHD – most in a formal way, but also informally. I assist in promoting the importance of participation across the entire LHD and how it can be of great benefit in improving the quality and safety of the services we all deliver. I provide resourcing and guidance to staff that are interested but unsure in how to engage with patients/ carers/ family and I work closely with consumers to help them develop their capacity and ultimately improving their health literacy in how and where they can be involved across a very complex health system. Especially where they can exert some influence and have an impact.
If you had one word of advice to improve consumer engagement, what would it be?
I do have advice for the services that work with consumers like I do in the Local Health Districts. Here it is – “respect” – for the individual consumer / their lived experience / their time / their contribution / their energy.
If you could suggest just one read about health consumer representation to our readers, what would it be?
Nothing comes to mind – I would rather get my inspiration from the consumers I work with every day – they are truly fantastic and that’s all the inspiration I need.