Dear Mid North Community,
We started out this journey, you and I, with me thinking I could show you the way. Well, I was wrong. That was the first thing you taught me.
Luckily, to protect you from me, I hired The Australian Centre for Innovation (TACSI), who knew how difficult it was to get organisations like me to listen to consumers.
They worked with you to discover what it was about asthma, and living with it in your community, that we all needed to know if I was going to support you with it. You were patient with me as I watched TACSI tease it out of you.
And then we had to unpack it.
I thought we could go about it “our” way. But I was wrong. By not turning up to “our” events, you made me listen to the echo of silence in the empty workshops. You made me listen to you.
That is when I eventually understood you were telling me you wanted a local person who was not a health care professional but who had the information to help you with breathing difficulties. And who knew who you needed to see. Or what you needed to do.
Oh yeah, and you made me realise that using the word “asthma” meant you couldn’t hear me. So now I talk about not breathing well and you understand what I’m on about. Or rather, I am starting to understand what you need from me.
You also told me who was ideal for the role. And you started talking with me because you started talking with your Asthma Community Connector. Finally, I had listened to you and delivered something useful to your needs.
Thank you for your patience with me.
I kept learning and I hope, kept listening. I did sometimes keep getting in the way. But I found, that if I stopped getting out in front, recognised the only role for me was out back, then things went better. I now understand being in the background, supporting you out front and centre, is what I need to do, if you and I are going to work together to help you live better with your breathing challenges.
I then thought I’d take what you taught me and try to support other communities with your model. Your Asthma Community Connector model. So I’ve taken it and am working with the southern Yorke Peninsula community and I’m trying to remember what took me a while to learn from you – to put them first. To remember what you showed me, in your unassuming but direct way, that it is not me that’s important here. It is the community members and how they live their daily lives with their asthma and where they think I will be useful in improving their health outcomes.
I’m now taking your model to regional Tasmania. I couldn’t have done this without you being so bold and brave to share your breathing experience with me. And patient with me. And showing me the way.
This is yours Mid North.