The British Sociological Association (BSA) West Midlands Medical Sociology Group held a conference at the University on Friday 16 May which brought together a range of speakers. The event, ‘Under served? Or ‘Hard to reach’: community and participatory approaches in health research touched on diverse topics of health research, however certain themes ran through the day including the problematic nature of designating certain groups and individuals as ‘hard to reach’.
Professor Mark Johnson of De Montfort University gave a passionate keynote speech, drawing on examples from his wealth of experience in the field to call for researchers to reflect on their own position when designing research and choosing research instruments to be used in community based research. Other speakers drew attention to the ways that people with learning disability, mental illness and minority ethnic groups can be successfully involved in research, when researchers take the time and effort to include them.
The importance of listening to, engaging and understanding seldom heard groups and individuals underpinned the conference. Novel and creative ways of engaging with participants or service-users were shared, some with an aim of increasing engagement and others aiming to explore alternative understandings of health.
The day was dedicated to Connor Sparrowhawk, whose recent death in an NHS Assessment and Treatment Unit may have been avoidable if he and his family had been listened to. Those that took part in the conference were keen to stay in contact with each other and the convenors of the West Midlands Medical Sociology Group, Dr Geraldine Brady (BES) and Dr Pam Lowe (Aston University) will facilitate this through the Group.