IAP2 Member Profile: Geoff Wilson

Director, Public Engagement & Community Health Board Support – Nova Scotia Health

Geoff Wilson
Geoff Wilson

How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I started working in P2 in 2007 – about 8 years now. In that time, I’ve only worked at Capital Health, the regional health authority in Halifax, which is now part of Nova Scotia Health.

What attracted you to P2 in the first place?
I came to the practice of P2 through the PR/Communications end of things. I was in media relations for Capital Health and I was quite disenchanted with the work I was doing; I wasn’t having much impact. In 2007, we embarked on a wide-ranging and massive strategic planning exercise and I got involved in the team doing that. The purpose was to change the whole approach and trajectory of the organization and try to really get the public involved in the notion of thinking about their own health and trying to transform the way the organization was delivering health care into something more along the lines of what the public was looking for.

That required a lot of public consultation and that was how I got my teeth cut. I didn’t have a strong understanding at the time of what we were doing, but I guess we were doing it OK: we won the IAP2 Project of the Year award (from IAP2 International) in 2008.

The biggest change [in the Nova Scotia health care system] is the fact that we’re actually starting to engage patients and the public in health care. Initially, there were 9 district health authorities. In 2007, we (Capital) were the only authority that had embarked on this road to public engagement. Then last year, all of the health authorities merged. The new legislation requires a public engagement plan, and my new position is as director or public engagement for the province.

That sounds like a huge endorsement from the provincial government for what you’re working towards.
We’re still trying to find out feet in a number of areas and one of them is public engagement. The state of health of Nova Scotians is not a good picture and I’m hoping we’ll be launching into a fairly extensive public engagement process to improve that.

The fact is, the healthier the population is, the less demand on the health care system. So over time, we’ll be looking at having a great conversation with Nova Scotians on how to change the health status of the population.

Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”?
There’ve been a couple. I think, for me, one of the biggest learning moments was around the need to have senior leadership entirely committed to any P2 project that you’re going to undertake. It’s been my experience that if senior leaders aren’t fully aware of what P2 means, you’re going to run into problems – a brick wall, I would say. I think it’s fair to say that P2 fundamentally changes the way an organization makes decisions and if your senior leaders don’t understand the implication of what P2 means in decision making … you’re not going to be successful.

What “big wins” have you had?
If I was to use IAP2 as a bit of a yardstick, Capital Health won Project of the Year in 2008, received Special Mention as Organization of the Year in 2012, and last year, the PPEET Collaborative (of which I was a part) received the first Research Award in Canada. I’m a big believer in the IAP2 model and dedicated to what IAP2 stands for, so to be recognized by that organization for your work is a big thing for me.

Tell us a bit about your work, organizing an Atlantic Chapter and what it means to have this new Chapter in IAP2 Canada
It’s been a bit of a long road to get to Chapter status. We’re not even really there yet: we have a lot of work ahead of us to bring the Chapter together. Geographically [Atlantic Canada] is not the largest part of the country, but there are still some pretty big boundaries to overcome – a lot of water separates us. There’s a fairly strong and growing body of IAP2 followers in St John’s (NL) and Halifax, but in the rest of the area, I don’t know: there’s only a handful of members in New Brunswick and none that I know of in Prince Edward Island; so we have some work to do, to identify potential members in that province and bring them into the chapter.

It’s significant to have the chapter – for IAP2 Canada it covers the country from coast to coast and makes all of the provinces part of the organization. I think there’s a lot of growth potential in Atlantic Canada as well: the training in the Foundations program is quite successful and there’s still a lot of opportunity.

If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …
I would say, find somebody who’s well-experienced and make them your mentor. You can learn a lot of what to do and what not to do from someone who’s been down those roads before, and as someone who’s been involved directly with IAP2 for many years, I’ve been able to talk to people with experience and to learn from them.

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