Successful inaugural conference for inspiring project

Making the Case for Integrated Community Care was the first in a series of conferences organised by TransForm, a joint initiative of the Network of European Foundations (NEF) supported by the International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC). Here IFIC Senior Researcher Monica Sorensen writes about the conference, which was held in Hamburg, Germany, between September 24 and 26, and sets out the next chapter of this inspiring project.

I joined IFIC just as the first TransForm conference was taking place and the first task in my new role was to attend. We learned by local site visits and inspirational talks from international forerunners of Integrated Community Care (ICC) that this approach is a way to improve quality of care and quality of life by empowering and engaging people as co-producers of health through mobilisation of community resources, find out more information here. This implies forming new cross-sectoral and inter-professional partnerships between health and social care services, schools, volunteer organizations and other resources found in the communities and neighbourhoods. It also involves promoting the role of informal carers and families.

The rational for ICC is that traditional curative and disease-based approaches to care are no longer effective or sustainable. In particular, underserved and marginalised populations are being socially excluded and isolated because of the socio-demographic trends of ageing, chronicity and lifestyle behaviour. Radical transformation is needed to make better use of community assets and to break-down organisational, structural and cultural barriers that get in the way of effective collaborations. Improving access to community resources, information and social activities require willingness from community stakeholders and policy-makers to enable real progress through creating an environment for change.

The evidence base for ICC is limited and there is a lack of validated indicators for evaluation of promising approaches. This first TransForm conference sought to develop a common understanding of the meaning and logic of integrated community care, illustrate the potential for its positive impact, and examine how to successfully design and adopt innovative practices of ICC.

Lessons learned from the first conference showed that progressing towards ICC requires complex system thinking. Community development is non-linear and must deal with unpredictability and emergent causality where the interacting agents; citizens, professionals and policy-makers operate based on internal rules that cannot always be predicted.

The second TransForm conference will take place in Turin, Italy, on February 26 and 27, 2019. On the agenda we look to explore how we can mobilise and empower people to express the diversity of perspectives, needs and resources that exists in the communities. Supporting the voices of micro-level actors in the communities is a way to connect policy and practice and demonstrate how more active participation by individuals, carers and families can improve quality of life, care experiences and outcomes.

TransForm aims to inspire policy-makers and practitioners to mobilise change and strengthen the capacity of local communities to meet the health needs of community members across the life course, with an special focus on the most marginalized groups in the society.

Monica Sorensen is a senior reacher for The International Foundation for Integrated Care (IFIC).