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Institute of Health and Wellbeing Early Career Researchers' Blog

The Scottish Learning Disability Observatory’s experience of raising public awareness of the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities at the Glasgow Science Festival

  • Aug 04 / 2016
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PhD Experience

The Scottish Learning Disability Observatory’s experience of raising public awareness of the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities at the Glasgow Science Festival

LDB Archive.

LDO Archive.

By Lisa O’Leary, Laura Hughes McCormack and Kirsty Dunn

We were delighted to have the opportunity to participate in a table top event at the Glasgow Science Sunday birthday bash. We attended this event in order to promote the work of the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory, and raise awareness of the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities. We also wanted to exchange ideas and network with others who may be interested in our work. We used innovative methods to share what we do at the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory with the public. We developed three games: 

The first game was a multiple choice quiz focused on health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities. Questions were divided into themes, which related to individual, family, society and policy influences on health. Players were encouraged to identify a picture that corresponded with the question. They were then encouraged to stick the picture on the poster of the model of health.

LDO Archives.

LDO Archives.

The second  game involved  individuals playing charades  wherein they act/describe a health problem commonly experienced by people with learning disabilities, without using certain words.

LDO Archives.

LDO Archives.

The third game involved comparing health outcomes of people with and without intellectual disabilities at different age groups in Scotland. This is based on data from the Scotland’s 2011 census.

LDO Archives.

LDO Archives.

The games serve as a useful tool to describe the health and health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities. We initially piloted this idea at our conference in December 2015. With some guidance on how to improve our initial ideas, we were able to create three informative and fun games. Prior to the Science Festival, we were a bit apprehensive about how well received the games would be, given that this was a new way of communicating our work. However we were impressed with the level of public interest. Over 40 people participated in the games and the majority were under 18 years of age.

The charades game appeared to be the most engaging for children, as it was very colourful and used simple concepts to convey communication difficulties experienced by people with learning disabilities. We found that the health inequalities and health comparisons games were the most appropriate for adults, as they had some abstract concepts. However older children appeared to enjoy and understand the quiz following simplification of some of the questions. We were impressed by the level of knowledge that some of the older children had about the health issues faced by people with learning disabilities. Many participants could relate to our work, because they had either a family member or friend with a learning disability. We were filmed talking about our activities by the Science Festival crew. While enjoyable it was a little nerve-wracking!

It is important to receive feedback on all our engagement activities so that we can continuously improve. Feedback from our evaluation form indicated that the instructions were clear and that the games helped participants to improve their understanding of health inequalities of people with learning disabilities. Feedback suggested that there should be more activities catered to younger children. Hence we are considering adapting some of these activities. We plan to adapt the evaluation form, possibly using pictorial scales, to make these more accessible to a wider audience.

Our participation in the Science Festival has been a very inspiring and educational experience and we are very keen to contribute to further public engagement events.

Tell us about your experiences with public engagement in the comments below!

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