Policy-makers and involving consumers

Involving consumers in healthcare policy development can help in different ways. For example:

  • consumers can provide views about new approaches that may affect the way health care will be planned and delivered in the community
  • interacting with consumers as policies are developed can provide unique perspectives to those on the policy development team
  • many consumers of health services want to have a say in their own health and in the way services are provided. 

The opportunity to give feedback and improve care is highly motivating for consumers if they believe their input will be heard. Some view it as an opportunity to ‘give something back’ or to ‘improve the experience for others’, and it can encourage discussion among and with stakeholders.

For cancer policy, consumers have been involved in:

  • development of policies associated with the national cancer reform
  • state-level cancer reforms as consumer representatives in policy development teams
  • development of specific policies such the national policy on advance care planning.

Consumer groups in policy

Consumer groups have an active interest in health issues. Because they are familiar with the consumer involvement process, they are generally more knowledgeable than the general public about health policy. They can provide a useful perspective on the issues from an important and distinctly different perspective. They are also a great resource for finding active and experienced consumers. Because consumers who are members of these groups will usually be accountable to the wider group for the contributions that they make at a policy level, they can provide a useful consultative link.

Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) is the national peak body representing the interests of Australian healthcare consumers. CHF runs the consumer representatives program in which organisations nominate consumer representatives to sit on select high-level, national committees.

There are also many cancer consumer organisations, charitable organisations and non-government organisations that are led by active consumers or support active consumer involvement.

See Getting started to identify consumers and engage them in policy development.