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Featured Member

A Passion for Building Formal and Informal Bridges, Links and Connections Where All Partners Benefit

The new CCPH Featured Member is Walid El Ansari. Walid is Reader in Public Health for the Postgraduate Programme in Public Health at the School of Health & Social Care at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England. He is also a member of the World Health Organization's invitation-only Network of Innovators, Observatory on Health Care for Chronic Conditions in Geneva, Switzerland. The Postgraduate Programme in Public Health is one of the earlier programmes in the UK that addresses the public health needs of a range of health and social care professions rather than only the needs of medical graduates. Walid explains the focus of the Programme as being on the determinants of health and of health inequalities. He states that in order to accomplish this broad remit, the unique characteristics of the Programme are that it is rooted in a range of partnerships with a variety of partners and stakeholders. Walid describes what community-campus partnerships mean to him, "It means a great network of like-minded people who are supporting each other in their efforts to bring about better health and quality of life to underserved people. It is an appreciation of skills that different people bring to the efforts. It is a forum for interaction, planning, consultations, joint decision-making and implementation. It is the linking of community and campus clinics.

Briefly, what is the mission of your organization?
What do you most want people to know about the work that you do and the unique characteristics of your organization?
What are you passionate about in your work? What has motivated you to become involved in community-university partnerships?
What is your dream for the future of your organization and/or community-campus partnerships you're involved in?
What wisdom would you like to communicate to others in this field? What advice would you give to a student or professional just entering into the field?
What is the biggest challenge you face in your work and how are working to overcome it?
If you could give advice to a policymaker what would you recommend?
Why did you join CCPH? How would you describe the organization to your colleagues?
What does “community-campus partnership” mean to you?
What value do you see in being a member of CCPH to meet your future goals for your organization and for the field? What is your favorite part of CCPH?
What strengths and talents do you bring to CCPH?
What keeps you motivated to do the work you do?

Q: Briefly, what is the mission of your organization?

A: The mission of the Postgraduate Programme in Public Health at the School of Health & Social Care, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom is to prepare students from a wide range of professions and backgrounds to be leaders in Public Health. I believe that by developing and reinforcing the students' Public Health knowledge and skills base they will have greater confidence and understanding to tackle Public Health issues and health inequalities, no matter what their professional background is. The programme team also believes that by learning together in an inter-professional environment, students will have built a better understanding of how different sectors can and must interact to improve the health of communities. These are basic building blocks for helping the students to provide leadership in promoting the Public Health agenda.

Q: What do you most want people to know about the work that you do and the unique characteristics of your organization?

A: The Postgraduate Programme in Public Health that we run here in Oxford is one of the earlier programmes in the UK that addresses the public health needs of a range of health and social care professions rather than only the needs of medical graduates. The Programme builds upon the social/ public health model of health and acknowledges the need for an integrated approach to health, health care and disease prevention. Our focus is on the determinants of health and of health inequalities. In order to accomplish this broad remit, the unique characteristics of the Programme are that it is rooted in a range of partnerships with a variety of partners and stakeholders. These include national and international academic departments and universities, primary care trusts, public health and social care practitioners, national bodies and think tanks, community agencies and voluntary organisations, the Health Protection Agency and the Health Development Agency, as well as other Department of Health initiatives.

Q: What are you passionate about in your work?

A: I am passionate about building formal and informal bridges, links and connections with others where all the partners benefit. Through such partnerships, alliances and consortia, my passion is to develop two-way capacity building: the capacity of the professional and lay people who we work and interact with and my own team's capacity. Our students and learners bring much expertise with them from their respective fields of work. One of my roles is to mix, match, stir, question, shake and share these excellent competencies and skills so that the process becomes an effective leaning experience for everyone involved. The Postgraduate Programme in Public Health at Oxford Brookes University takes pride in its of excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, and service. I am passionate about making every effort to contribute to an environment conducive to in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the many facets of collaborative public heath. This includes the attending interprofessionalism, multidiscplinarity, problem solving and innovative thinking, community focus and ethical issues.

Q: What is your dream for the future of your organization and/or community-campus partnerships you're involved in?

A: My dream for the future of our Public Health Programme is to render it an international Programme of excellence as regards joint and interagency working for Public Health. Over the last five years we were able to cross many teething challenges that we had. We now hope to set the stage to expand the Programme in order to include new 'exists' that were previously not available to the students. These 'exits' include health protection, biostatistics, international public health nutrition, asylum seekers and refugee health as well as disaster management. We continue to work with our national and international partners within the School of Health and Social Care, the University and the community agencies to accomplish these aspirations, and will accomplish them!

Q: What wisdom would you like to communicate to others in this field? What advice would you give to a student or professional just entering into the field?

A: My advice to myself and to others (not in any prescriptive manner) would be to embed their efforts into working partnerships that address the social model of health. Involve the community agencies and lay people as equal stakeholders and partners who bring assets to the partnership. Get good representation of the people you work with. Develop a wide sense of ownership of everybody to the programme, making it their programme. Consult, communicate, debate, and buy into innovative ideas that that could help to solve the problem you are tackling. Have tolerance to disagreements, give credit others' activities and be sensitive and perceptive to other's work aspirations. Develop your leadership abilities. Stimulate your partners, through clarity of roles, duties and responsibilities, to contribute their share in the greater work that is being undertaken. For students or professionals just entering into the field, I'd like to say that public health is a highly politicized arena, and is not the easiest path, but a very rewarding one.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in your work and how are working to overcome it?

A: My first biggest challenge that I face is the diverse backgrounds and multiple disciplines that the students come from. The difficulty is pitching the Programme at the appropriate level, stimulation and relevance so that it builds upon people's interests and previous training and fits well with their future aspirations. This is challenging when the students are diverse audiences: doctors, nurses, dentists, social workers, environmental health officers, overseas development managers, directors of public health and infection control personnel.

The other challenge that I face in my work is to bring a range of partners and interested stakeholders to collectively contribute their efforts to bear on a common problem. It requires a melange of patience, consistency, persistence, logic and common sense, evidence, motivation and leadership. How do I overcome it? Gradually and incrementally through a rational positive balance of each partner's monetary and non-monetary benefits and costs. The trick is to try to strike a balance that maximizes the accompanying benefits and decreases the perceived costs for their positive involvement and contribution. Do not forget that the values and cultures of both the individuals and organisations you are trying to work with will play a role in what they see as benefit for them and what they perceive as costs. So pay great attention to values and cultures.


Q: If you could give advice to a policymaker what would you recommend?

A: My advice will not only be to policy makers but also health professionals and researchers. We require to forge and maintain ongoing relationships between ourselves: campus, communities, and policy makers. One way to accomplish this is by building bridges and acting as advocates in order to span the boundaries between policy-sensitive research findings and research-sensitive policy makers. Today, public health in its broadest sense is at the forefront of our policy making, so for policy makers: please fund it with a view of a wise investment. For health professionals and researchers, my advice would be that partnership working is becoming the greatest governance challenge. We need to urgently know many unknowns about how partnership functioning could be more effective at both the population macro level of communities, and the client micro level of doctor-patient relationships. The consequences of not doing so are serious in terms of disease and ill health and the alternatives are very costly in terms of care, treatment and management. Without loosing focus on our local goals we need to work together.

Q: Why did you join CCPH? How would you describe the organization to your colleagues?

A: CCPH and I met at the appropriate time in our lives. I had just completed a major research study on community partnerships in South Africa and CCPH was holding their annual conference in San Francisco. Our passion and goals were mutual and interests overlapping. It was hence a natural partnership. CCPH is a viable and active organisation as regards a range of aspects relating to the health professions, service learning and partnership development and maintenance.

Q: What does “community-campus partnership” mean to you?

A: It means a great network of like-minded people who are supporting each other in their efforts to bring about better health and quality of life to underserved people. It is an appreciation of skills that different people bring to the efforts. It is a forum for interaction, planning, consultations, joint decision-making and implementation. It is the linking of community and campus perspectives for debates, synergy and forward change.

Q: What value do you see in being a member of CCPH to meet your future goals for your organization and for the field? What is your favorite part of CCPH?

A: Great networks, practical initiatives and ideas, conferences, contributions and discussions.

Q: What strengths and talents do you bring to CCPH?

A: A range of international experiences and expertise to contribute to their wonderful efforts. My work across many countries and cultures, examining different challenges in partnership working and their possible solutions. It is a mixture of academic knowledge that I have acquired through formal training and practical wisdom that I have learnt from the communities I have worked with in the UK, South Africa, Egypt, Malawi, India and others.

Q: What keeps you motivated to do the work you do?

A: To see that the efforts make a difference for the communities we work with….even if it is a little difference, it still makes my day!


To read about other previous featured members click here.

 

 
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