Sowing the Seeds of a Global Conversation: The Salzburg Questions Series

In response to Human Rights Day yesterday, 10th December, Katie Witcombe, Outreach Administrator for the Cicely Saunders Institute and one of the facilitators of the Salzburg Questions series, explains the importance of using digital campaigns to shine a spotlight on neglected issues and open up discussions to people all over the world.

Katie Witcombe

When the seed of an idea for a multidimensional series of questions was planted at the Salzburg Global Seminar in 2016, its capacity for growth was unknown. At a meeting to consider global opportunities and challenges in palliative care, which was attended by international experts in the field and facilitated by Professor Irene Higginson of the Cicely Saunders Institute, it was decided that an interactive, digital debate would be the most inclusive way to initiate conversations about the major issues currently facing palliative care provision and how best these can be tackled.

A global conversation, including monthly Twitter ‘launches’ to coincide with international awareness days, corresponding blog posts, podcasts, videos and reports, was planned for the following 12 months with academic and clinical leads spearheading the campaign from around the world. Since its conception, the Salzburg Questions series has achieved a reach which has surpassed expectations; there has been an average of nearly 500 views for each blog post, the #allmylifeQs hashtag has received more than 10.4 million impressions on Twitter and been used in more than 3,500 tweets, and the online reach has extended to 182 countries. Monthly topics have included the inequality of palliative care provision in low- and middle-income countries, the emotional and financial impact of caring for a loved one at the end of life and the future research needed to improve care for vulnerable groups such as refugees, people with complex physical symptoms, and those living in poverty. The series has given project teams and researchers from world-leading institutions the opportunity to showcase their most recent research into global healthcare trends, place of death, how to support an ageing population and treatment for non-cancer conditions. These issues affect millions of people worldwide, and the application of this work into actual clinical practice has the potential to markedly improve the quality of life for patients and families approaching the end of life.

Ultimately, the Salzburg Questions series has highlighted the appetite that exists for discussions about the issues affecting palliative care, and the role that online platforms such as Twitter have to play in these global conversations. In this digital age, closed-room discussions are becoming a thing of the past and impact can be measured in re-tweets and shares. Twitter discourse is a democratisation of the decision-making processes which have governed research for so long; people from all demographics and backgrounds can now help to shape the direction of future work by signposting the areas which they feel need the most investment. In the aftermath of Human Rights Day this weekend, an increased awareness of vulnerable or neglected groups should be celebrated, as should the involvement of patients, carers and families in these discussions. The blog posts published monthly by the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) may have been produced by experts in fields as diverse as global health inequity, patient and carer psycho-social needs, advance care planning and epidemiology, but it is the responses from researchers, clinicians and members of the public which have enabled this series to gain momentum and relevance over time.

From tiny seeds, tall oaks can grow, and we hope that the roots that were laid over the course of the campaign will continue to flourish. The enthusiasm and engagement with which this series of questions has been met is a clear signifier of the conversations which people from all over the world are ready to have about the lasting need for high quality, effective and accessible palliative care. 

Links and Resources

This entry was posted in ADVOCACY & POLICY, Salzburg Global Seminar Series, SOCIAL MEDIA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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