Dr Coralie Wales spent about two years collecting feedback from Western Sydney Local Health District’s consumer representatives to develop The 7 Habits of a Highly Engaged Community.
The 7 Habits program supports staff to better engage with consumers and community members and it is recognised by WSLHD as a valuable initiative that staff members are embracing.
“It’s resulting in much higher levels of partnership and engagement,” Wales says. “So that’s gratifying.”
Wales is WSLHD’s manager of community and consumer engagement. The purpose of her job is to develop and roll out engagement strategies that target WSLHD’s 10,000 employees, consumers and families, community members, partner organisations and external stakeholders.
The Western Sydney community is the most culturally diverse in the world, according to Wales.
The implications for her job are significant.
“The crucial aim of engaging our community in Western Sydney is to develop a relationship where we understand who is in Western Sydney and what their health needs are,” Wales says. “As we build new hospitals, the relationship we have with the community informs us about what we need to do.”
Wales has a bachelor of arts (psychology), master rehabilitation counselling and a PhD in community and behavioural health.
She is an experienced manager of major projects and programs in healthcare. Before beginning her current role in 2014, she had project manager roles with Hunter New England Local Health District.
Wales is also the president and founder of Chronic Pain Australia. The organisation convenes Australia’s National Pain Week and seeks to promote understanding about living with pain. It also works on reducing the stigmatisation of those who live with chronic pain.
Last year, Wales was the recipient of the University of Sydney Faculty of Health Sciences Alumni Award for Community Achievement.
She says her work with Chronic Pain Australia complements her role with WSLHD. Chronic Pain Australia has become known as the voice of people living with chronic pain.
“You have to be really good at understanding how to communicate with communities.” Wales says community engagement roles, like the one she has at WSLHD, have become increasingly common as hospitals have become more focused on the benefits of involving consumers in healthcare planning.
“There’s a bit of a collaboration between the public health service organisations across the state.
“We all tend to know each other and we try to learn from each other. Healthcare is expensive and if you don’t address the needs of the consumer or customer it’s probably quite wasteful.”