By Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD
IAHPC Senior Advocacy and Partnerships Director
First of all, thank you for your contributions to our 2021 advocacy work. It was a tough year all around, and your work with patients, at the bedside, in the clinic, and in your teams drives IAHPC’s efforts to bring the value of palliative care to the attention of policy makers and planners at all levels of governance. The pandemic has made the key role of palliative care in health systems clearer than ever, and our advocacy work has never been more urgent. Your work as practitioners continues to inspire me and keep me going, even when the going gets rough!
I firmly believe that belonging to a global community strengthens us in multiple ways: individually, as an association, and as a movement working to make the vision of a world free from health-related suffering a reality. Organic growth is slower than we might like, but it is happening! Please know that we are doing our best to make your work visible at the global level so as to support you in all your endeavors. One way IAHPC is doing that is by preparing the Advocacy Course for our members, to give you the tools to bring about change through your advocacy. The course is in the process of being unrolled (organically!): three modules were made available in late 2021 and we will begin adding the 2022 modules in mid-January.
An end-of-year change to report is that my new job title—IAHPC Senior Advocacy and Partnerships Director—now reflects the true nature of IAHPC advocacy work: the development and nurturing of partnerships with one another, with patients and families, and with policy makers. I will do my best to help you develop fruitful partnerships with your governments that reflect the team spirit and ethos of service that characterize palliative care practice. We understand that many health care professionals, civil servants, policy makers, and members of the public still do not understand what palliative care is, and how it can benefit patients, families, and health systems as a whole. Our preferred approach is through a partnership ethic, not a confrontational approach that identifies deficits and casts blame. We are all learning as we go along.
Plans for 2022 include preparing for the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting in January, the annual meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March, the 12th meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing in April, and the World Health Assembly in May. As a non-state actor in official relations with the WHO, and a nongovernmental organization in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, all these UN organizations invite IAHPC to register delegations for their meetings. We post statements related to the agenda and make them “live” at the discretion of the chair. We may also hold side events with our members as presenters to go into more depth about the need for, and benefits of, palliative care. To better understand this process, I invite you to review the Introductory module of our 2021-2022 Advocacy Course, the only module that is open access, which we hope will whet your appetite for more information about how we interact to build global partnerships.
Last but not least, the IAHPC back-office team is in the process of reviewing our current Advocacy Focal Points (AFPs) cohort, whose members have served so loyally since 2020. We will add some new countries based on the membership of the WHO Executive Board, and will build a new cohort around the current AFPs wishing to stay on. If you are interested in serving as an Advocacy Focal Point for your country, please contact me to find out more about what the role entails.
As a lifelong learner, I would like to share an end-of-year gift with you as we enter 2022: the End-of-Life University podcast by hospice physician Dr. Karen Wyatt. Posted every Monday, this podcast has enriched my walks, travels, and (occasional) housework chores. Episode 331—Looking Ahead to 2022—reviews all the excellent interviews Dr. Wyatt has conducted with hospice and palliative care practitioners around the world during 2021. It’s free and I can’t recommend it too highly for those of you wishing to make new intellectual and spiritual connections while learning about how the movement to improve end-of-life care is developing apace.
This month’s photos show where I spent Christmas, at Montserrat in Catalonia, recharging my batteries to better serve you in 2022!