Ahead of his plenary talk at the 14th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care later this week, Professor Luc Deliens, Professor of Palliative Care Research, End-of-Life Care Research Group, Ghent University & Vrije University Brussels, talks to Professor Sheila Payne, President of the European Association for Palliative Care, about his career in palliative care.
Prof Sheila Payne: What made you devote so much of your life to palliative care?
Prof Luc Deliens: My parents inspired me in my childhood by their attitudes, values and societal engagement. They were both very active in the local community doing volunteer work in palliative care. My father initiated a volunteer project for the chronically ill which was recognised both at regional and national levels.
SP: How did you come to work in palliative care in Belgium and the Netherlands?
LD: I did my PhD in cancer prevention in the ‘90s, but I didn’t get a lot of clinical or societal recognition for this work. But since I started moving my research into end-of-life care research, there has been a response from clinicians and the broader society to the study results. We are often invited to present these results and it is very interesting to get the opportunity to discuss present and future research plans with stakeholders in palliative care. It’s very motivating and rewarding for a researcher.
SP: Can you tell me about the plenary talk you will deliver at the EAPC World Congress in Copenhagen?
LD: My talk is about ‘Building Bridges: to Where and to What?’ I believe that both the resources for palliative care, access to palliative care and quality of the delivered care can be improved substantially by building a number of bridges towards expertise, capacity and experience available elsewhere in the healthcare system, in academia or in society. A missed opportunity until now is the application of knowledge, skills and expertise from the public health experience.
SP: Why is a public health approach important for palliative care?
LD: In the past 50 years, public health has succeeded in transforming different societies and healthcare systems across the globe from the exclusive focus on illness and medicalisation towards health promotion and prevention. These days we cannot imagine a healthcare system without prevention or health promotion, and quite substantial budgets are allocated to these activities. The World Health Organization has inspired many governments to make this transition in their own healthcare systems. Palliative care needs to adapt these public health approaches in order to address the many challenges in our societies, and to establish palliative care as an integral part of our healthcare systems. It must be fully integrated into regular care provision and specialised palliative care services initiated in order to optimise quality of life for people with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
SP: What has been your biggest achievement in palliative care?
LD: When I began end-of-life research, I noticed that many studies were small-scale – just in one team, ward, hospital or one region. Most of these studies were interesting, but I was frustrated because it was not clear how representative these results were for the given country, or for all the hospitals or all the palliative units in a country. What was missing in palliative care research was a population-wide perspective. Hence, at the end of the ‘90s we developed for Belgium the methodology for the first nationwide retrospective post-mortem survey within a representative sample of deaths. Since then, our team has developed more methods to investigate end-of-life care and palliative care from a population-based perspective.
SP: What gives you hope for the future?
LD: People – I’m a very optimistic person and believe in human progress. Patients and caregivers of today are different from the caregivers and patients of yesterday and that has had a tremendous impact on our healthcare systems. This will not change in the future and we will find solutions for many of the societal challenges ahead of us. Given the historical progress of humanity, I am optimistic that end-of-life care and palliative care will improve in the future and that more people will get access to palliative care services regardless of their disease, gender, age and social class.
If you’re coming to Copenhagen…
Professor Luc Deliens will give the opening plenary talk, ‘Building Bridges: To Where and to What?’ on Friday 8 May at 09.45. There’s also a chance to meet him on Sunday 10 May when Prof Deliens and Prof Stein Kaasa lead a Meet the Expert session at 08.00-08.20 on ‘The Science of Planning and Conducting Clinical Research in Palliative Care’.
Follow all the Congress events on Twitter @EAPCOnlus – the official Congress hashtag is #eapc2015
Si vous venez à Copenhague…
Pr. Luc Deliens parle en séance plénière: ‘Building Bridges: To Where and to What?’ vendredi le 8 mai à 09.45.
Nous aurons le plaisir de vous accueillir au 14ième Congrès Mondial de l’Association Européenne de Soins Palliatifs à Copenhague au Danemark, du 8 au 10 mai 2015. Vous pouvez décharger le programme final, ainsi que le livre des résumés.
Suivez-nous sur Twitter @EAPCOnlus avec le hashtag officiel #eapc2015