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Consumer Advocate joins Curtin

Ben Horgan, Consumer & Community Health Research Network, has just joined Curtin. Ben’s background is in consumer advocacy, and he will be working with researchers across the faculty.


Ben Horgan, Consumer Advocate, and colleagues.
Ben Horgan, Consumer Advocate, and colleagues.

Tell us about your new role in the faculty?

I am the new Consumer Advocate at Curtin, working on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My role is to support Curtin health researchers to involve consumers and community in their research from design through to translation.

What is the history of the Consumer and Community Health Research Network?

The Consumer and Community Health Research Network was originally established in 1998 at the UWA School of Population and Global Health, and the Telethon Kids Institute, in response to community concerns about linked data research.

Funding from Lotterywest in July 2016 has allowed the program of work, which has been established over 18 years, to be taken across all WA Health Translation Network partner organisations. The first phase of this is the commencement of three consumer advocates at UWA, Telethon Kids Institute, PMH, Curtin, ECU and Perkins Institute. I am one of the three advocates.

The consumer advocates will be working with researchers and, where appropriate, students to increase and enhance consumer and community involvement initiatives.

Who will you be working with?

I will be working across all schools that undertake health research. I am currently situated in building 400 but have plans to base myself in each school on a rotational basis.

Ben presenting at a training session.
Ben presenting at a training session.

Why is input from consumers important?

It’s about getting the ‘whole’ picture – using people’s lived experiences to inform research to ensure that it is relevant and meets their needs. It’s also about accountability and transparency for the use of public money.

How does your role positively impact researchers, consumers and the broader community?

It’s a bridge between researchers and the community to facilitate the community having a ‘voice’. We use tried and true methods to support involvement

What are the challenges of working with researchers and consumers in this way, and how do you overcome them?

Researchers are very good at doing research but it can be easy to lose touch with what is happening in the real-life situations related to living with particular conditions, or caring for such people. Likewise, consumers and community can struggle with the complexity of research and how they can contribute to better, more relevant, results.

We offer a range of training workshops for researchers, consumers and community members to promote partnerships that will actively involve consumers and community members in research.

Our workshops have been developed in direct response to queries from researchers, funding bodies, government and non-government organisations.

How do researchers in the faculty begin the process of working with you?

I can be contacted via email with information about your project and preferably a plain language summary. From there we can meet and discuss how best to engage with consumers and community depending on your type of project, timeframes and budget.

Where can people find out more about the Consumer & Community Health Research Network?

There is lots of great information here.