It’s late, I just driven home from Glasgow after four hours on the train, so don’t expect more than a few bare bones of a tale told tonight.
I was in London today at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) for a meeting of the Assembly of Representatives, who are the elected members from the CIEH’s regions in the UK. The big challenge for the profession is the emerging public health agenda and, in England, the radical changes that the new NHS structures will have for public health delivery and the role of EHPs in local authorities.
We started, however, with a discussion about how we can best and most effectively deliver services to our members in our regions – that’s a particular challenge in Scotland which has a large geographical area and a relatively small number of CIEH members. But it’s also a challenge for all regions in that people these days are very busy and find it harder and harder to get away from work and attend professional meetings, even if those meetings are an essential part of maintaining professional currency and networking.
The discussion turned to the potential of new technologies (podcasting, video-conferencing etc.) in delivering services to members instead of the traditional meeting. It occurred to me that the need was more than simply delivering CPD opportunities, but building a professional community and building value for members in being part of that community – in other words, not being involved would have a tangible sense of loss for people. Thinking about what such a community would look like and do led to to consider parallels with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (go look it up for now, I’ll elaborate in a future post). At the moment, people are concerned with security and survival in a changing environment, and even maintaining professional currency is a low priority. So to think about a community which is seeking self-actualisation and autonomy for EHPs, and enabling folk to thrive rather than just survive, might seem to be very aspirational. But aspirations give us strategic direction, and we can then choose the steps that walk us towards, rather than away from, those objectives. We can only invite people into our communities, but we can do a lot to meet their immediate needs on the way.
And thanks to David Newsum, who also blogs on WordPress, and was one of the two excellent facilitators for the day.