Blog by Dr Martin O’Neill
The first week of November 2016 saw the third Strong Communities Healthier People Initiative’s Student Selected Component for Cardiff University medical students. The aim of this component is to introduce second year medical students to the reality of engaging and working with communities to begin to famaliarise them with the issues they will encounter in their practice. In order to achieve this the whole component is delivered in various community based settings around Cardiff. The first session started off at the Riverside Warehouse venue which is a centre for youth activity but there are a number of other community activities which are organised there.
As an introduction to the course the students are given a background to the history and nature of the communities that they are working in and also asked to consider the nature and ethics of community based participatory research. This first day was also an opportunity to meet some of the people who work with and in the community. The students had the opportunity to meet some of the local Communities First team the local community development organisation who particularly work in the field of health and well -being. This enabled the students to discuss with the front line practitioners the day to day reality of community based health and well-being initiatives.
As we were located in a community based setting it was possible to meet with and engage community groups in a non-formal relaxed atmosphere. During our first day it was possible to meet with a local Muslim women’s sewing group who met at the facility. This was a valuable opportunity for the students to meet with and discuss with local women what were their concerns and why and what benefits they got from attending such activity.
The second day, following a brief recap of what was covered the first day, the students were taken on a walking transect through the communities of Riverside, Grangetown and Butetown. This enabled the students to familiarise themselves with the layout, relationship, similarities and differences between these three areas. The walking transect concluded at the historic Pierhead building at Cardiff Bay where there was a presentation of various community based projects that were working in the area which again helped the students get a more holistic understanding of activity in the area.
During the third and fourth day the students moved to the Butetown area of Cardiff where they had the opportunity to meet with local community members and discuss with them their experiences of how the community has changed in recent years and also see some of the various community development initiatives that are in place. As an example of this on the Thursday the students had the opportunity to meet with an Alzheimer’s society imitative working with various different ethnic groupings within the community. As the local population ages and the demand for services related to dementia increases it poses particular challenges for the provision of services to different ethnic groupings. This provided the students the opportunity to consider some of these challenges and how they might be addressed.
On the final day of their visit to the community the students were given the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and to start to conduct analysis on these experiences. In order to focus this analysis the students provided a presentation to community members and had the opportunity to discuss with them their experiences.
Community members really value this opportunity to meet and discuss issues with medical students as it breaks down barriers between the community and the University and people appreciate the opportunity to discuss with future medical practitioners local issue.