Healthy Mothers - Healthy Babies Overview and FAQ

How do you engage citizens, decision-makers, and experts in an appropriate way to address complex health issues? One approach is the Consensus Development Conference. The Consensus Development Conference approach has been used effectively in Alberta by the Institute of Health Economics. The program is modelled on the National Institute of Health (NIH) Consensus Development program in the United States and is an approach used in may other countries. The best way to describe it is - it's a "jury trial" on health policy or scientific issues.


Overview

Conducting the Event

The conferences usually involve 15 or more experts who deliver the scientific evidence and testimony around 5-8 specific questions on a particular health subject. They deliver this evidence to a jury of 12-15 people over two days in front of an audience of 300+ people. The consensus format provides an independent look at issues from an unbiased panel. The jury takes this all into consideration during a "sequestered" period overnight after the two days of hearings and renders its recommendations in a consensus statement. That statement is read by the jury chair for the experts and the audience on the morning of the third day, and then widely disseminated across the Canadian health-care system.

Evidence-based Policy Development

The consensus statement is based on publicly available data and information. It is not intended as a legal document, practice guideline, or primary source of detailed technical information. Rather, the statement reflects the views of a panel of thoughtful people who come to understand the issue before them and who carefully examine and discuss the data available on the issue.

Conference topics

Topics should include issues that affect a significant number of people and there should be some feasible interventions to address the problem or issue. Controversial or unresolved issues should be chosen where the process can help clarify, or a gap between current knowledge and current practice may be narrowed. The topic should have an adequately defined and available base of scientific information from which to answer the conference questions and resolve controversies. The conference topic and resulting recommendations should have an impact on health care costs and quality and there should be a high degree of public interest.

Conference quality

The percentage of people attending the Institute of Health Economics' first Consensus Development Conference that rated it excellent or good - 100%

"As Jury Chair, I experienced first-hand, the high level of commitment the Institute of Health Economics has to knowledge transfer. After the event, the subsequent demand for dissemination of our consensus statement shows the value of this highly-effective knowledge transfer tool." ~ Michael Decter, Jury Chair, Consensus Development Conference on Self-Monitoring in Diabetes

"The Consensus Development Program is an exciting way to engage decision makers, experts and most importantly - citizens - in addressing important health care issues. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is delighted to participate with IHE in exploring Depression in Adults - a vital subject that affects all of us." ~ Senator Michael Kirby, Chair, Mental Health Commission of Canada


FAQ

What is a consensus development conference?

The best way to describe a consensus development conference is that it is a "jury trial" on health policy or scientific issues. 

How does a consensus development conference work?

At a consensus development conference (which is run much like a legal court hearing), a group of experts (or witnesses) is brought together for a short time (3 days) to present scientific evidence on specific pre-determined research questions to an independent, non-government panel (or jury). The jury then deliberates to reach consensus and write a statement with answers to the questions in the form of a series of recommendations.

What is the purpose of a consensus development conference?

A consensus development conference is a gathering of experts and community leaders that provides a valuable opportunity to integrate, in a practical way, evidence from leading national and international experts and diverse stakeholder groups, including professionals, families and service providers.

What is a consensus statement and how is it used?

A consensus statement is the set of policy recommendations written by the jury based on publicly available data and information and the evidence presented at the conference. It is not intended as a legal document, practice guideline, or primary source of detailed technical information. Rather, the statement reflects the views of a panel of thoughtful people who come to understand the issue before them and who carefully examine and discuss the data available on the issue.

The recommendations contained in consensus statements are meant to be used by policy makers in their decision making. These statements are written in plain language and often health care practitioners, researchers, service and advocacy groups and the general public find them to be useful educational and awareness tools.

What will be expected of me at a consensus development conference?

Conference attendees will have the chance to engage in the debate by asking questions of the experts and will learn of emerging practices and current research on a particular topic.

How are conference topics chosen?

Topics should include issues that affect a significant number of people and there should be some feasible interventions to address the problem or issue. Controversial or unresolved issues should be chosen where the process can help clarify, or a gap between current knowledge and current practice may be narrowed. The topic should have an adequately defined and available base of scientific information from which to answer the conference questions and resolve controversies. The conference topic and resulting recommendations should have an impact on health care costs and quality and there should be a high degree of public interest.

How can I participate in a consensus development conference?

Contact the Institute of Health Economics at info@ihe.ca for more information on upcoming and planned consensus development conferences.