The following is a summary (or abstract) of a presentation made at the 6th International Cochrane Colloquium in Baltimore, Maryland on October 22-26, 1998.
Authors: Beverley Shea, Peter Tugwell, George Wells, Vivian Welch, Heather Broughton, Rebecca Coghlan, Jim Davies, Norma Davies, Alex Jadad, Jean Jones, Pat Kelly, Cheryl Koehn-Kostiuk, Rebecca McDermot, Denis Morrice
Objectives: Because of the benefits of consumer participation in health care decision making, the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group (CMSG) decided to build a consumer group.
Methods: We approached the consumer representative (JJ) of the Canadian Cochrane Centre for suggestions. We then contacted the Arthritis Society, which referred us to JD, who then helped recruit four more volunteers with diverse backgrounds. Two further volunteers were recruited at meetings where they spoke up about arthritis issues. Roles for consumers were defined through consultation and consensus.
Results: In the past two years, the consumers have actively participated in:
1. Providing advice on consumer needs, eg. drug to drug comparisons instead of placebo comparisons;
2. Summarizing 11 Cochrane reviews in lay terms;
3. Providing contributions to the newsletter;
4. Assistance developing partnerships with other like-minded organizations, such as the Arthritis Society;
5. Assistance seeking funds.
Conclusions: Consumer involvement in the CMSG builds on the collaborative spirit which exists within the CC. Face to face meetings which occur at the annual colloquia are an important catalyst to ongoing consumer participation. The enthusiasm and involvement of our consumer group has led to new consumer-driven initiatives. Having consumers involved as partners in the review group process results in more research truly relevant to consumer and clinician concerns.