Twilight talks: engaging health consumers with public lectures

Daniel McDonald, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service

Concurrent session 2
Tuesday 30 August 2016, 11:00am - 11:25am


The “Twilight Talks” initiative was borne out of the Toowoomba Hospital library’s use of public lecture podcasts made available by numerous academic institutions from around the world. This interest led to speculation that the Darling Downs community would greatly benefit from lectures on general health topics delivered by local clinicians. Climbing rates of chronic disease allied with rising demand for public health services highlight a present need for honest conversations and information sharing around health behaviour. Health information delivered concisely and with authority is undoubtedly an important intervention in reducing disease burden and enhancing patients’ abilities to act as partners in their healthcare. Such lectures would also contribute to achieving Hospital and Health Service strategic goals and national standards around engaging health care consumers.

A pilot lecture was held in October 2014. The success of this lecture in attendance and feedback led to 4 public lectures scheduled for 2015, branded under the collective banner of “Twilight Talks”. These lectures focused on themes of interest to a broad public audience, addressing preventative measures for diabetes and stroke and cancer as well as the challenge of dying at home. The library initiated the idea for this lecture series and then gave the program impetus and direction. It played a central coordinating role in garnering executive support; encouraging speakers; arranging multimodal promotion, free carparking, venue availability, catering; event management and preparation; and feedback analysis.

Numbers of attendees was an important initial metric for this project. Generating community interest in something so novel was more hope than expectation. Results have exceeded even optimistic predictions, with an average of 46 attendees and a range of 20 to 75. Audience reception and knowledge transfer has been an equally important measure of success. The qualitative feedback received has been exceedingly positive, with the only negative comment in 70 being a request for milo. The following comment captures many sentiments expressed: “Excellent lecture providing awareness and simple and reachable goals for change”. Such has been the enthusiasm emanating from “Twilight Talks” that this project received a DDHHS employee award in 2015. This award was given significant coverage throughout the hospital resulting in a very visible profile for the project. The receipt of this award, together with the more general success these “Twilight Talks” have achieved, has ensured this has moved from a speculative pilot project to a consistently scheduled program of lectures which will form part of the Toowoomba Hospital’s customer engagement for the foreseeable future.

A series of public lectures is an imperfect and incomplete answer to public health priorities, but it is a worthwhile contribution nonetheless, and a novel initiative for the Darling Downs. More than 200 people have demonstrated a desire for health information received in this way. The lecture topics already delivered have focused on areas with significant disease burden and health service impact – heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, futile deaths in hospital. The end result is the local public health service providing a consistent schedule of occasions to a good number of customers to think seriously about aspects of their health and learn about practical ways of making positive change. 

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