The following is a letter from one of the consumer members of the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group.
I live in Perth, Western Australia (WA). I am married to Peter and we have four children.
I have been involved formally in the health consumer area for 4 years. I belong to The Connective Tissue Diseases Group (LINK) of the Arthritis Foundation of WA. I attended The Health Consumers' Council (HCC) of WA meetings, and got involved as a Board member of the HCC. I then attended a consumer workshop in Perth in June 1996 run by Hilda Bastian and Chris Silagy of the Australasian Cochrane Centre (ACC). Whilst at the Workshop I joined the Consumer Network of the Cochrane Collaboration and then was fortunate enough to get a consumer stipend to attend the Colloquium in Adelaide in October 1996. I then became newsletter editor for the Consumer Network.
I am now a consumer representative of the CMSG, the newly registered Consumers and Communication Cochrane Review Group and the Child Health Field.
My main role in the CMSG has been to help with consumer summaries and to promote Cochrane and the CMSG to everyone I meet. I have also tried to interest the WA medical scientific community in the Cochrane Collaboration.
I am currently helping a reviewer with consumer input into a Perinatal review.
Whilst at the Amsterdam Colloquium, I met many people, learnt a great deal, made friends and established contacts. I helped Hilda Bastian and Judi and Carolyn (both from New Zealand) to run two consumer workshops.
I have recently been appointed the Consumers' Health Forum of Australia's representative on the ACC Steering Group. Hilda Bastian is the other consumer representative on this committee.
In conclusion, I would like to add that within the CMSG I am delighted to be part of such a dedicated team, which includes so many consumers. Every time I sit at my computer and punch out some information and receive responses quickly from the other side of the world, I am inspired to continue with the Collaboration. I know that together, this international team will produce more reviews and that the health of people with Arthritis will hopefully improve as a result of all the hard work put into the Cochrane Collaboration.
Rebecca Coghlans, Perth, W Australia