From peer support to consumer engagement

Like many other members of the consumer spinal cord injury community, my quality of life has been enhanced by peer support. As an inpatient going through rehabilitation, I asked my peer support workers many questions and I sought to benefit from their experience of living in the community with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Peer support really helped me build and shape the quality of life that I have now.

Once I had gained my own experiences of living with SCI, I was very keen to become a peer support mentor and share my knowledge and learnings with those who could benefit. In my time from having received peer support and, in turn, sharing my experience, I feel that this practice of sharing knowledge with each other, is one of the strengths within the  spinal cord injury community. The willingness members of our community have to enhance the quality of life of others is a testament to our passion for improving our overall quality of life as a community.

This passion and willingness highlights the potential that consumers have to shape and contribute to research outcomes. Peer support is an excellent example of how sharing lived experience can improve the quality of life within the spinal community. My goal for the Consumer Engagement Program is that members of the consumer community now start sharing the same perspectives and experiences with researchers. Participation in research could mean many things such as: being involved in clinical trials; being interviewed in a qualitative study; sharing a unique experience; developing a research question; and ultimately co-designing a study. As consumers, we also play a vital role in knowledge translation by keeping ourselves up-to-date with the latest spinal research and also sharing this information amongst our broader community.

The role that we as consumers have in influencing research outcomes is similar to how we as individuals can impact one another through peer support. By sharing our stories with researchers, we can provide our perspective and knowledge, which has the potential to benefit thousands.

By Antonio Vecchio, Consumer Engagement Lead

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