Vancouver Coastal Health: Engaging with the Public to improve healthcare


By: Vancouver Coastal Health, Community Engagement

The “tiny but mighty” Community Engagement team at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) works to enhance patient and public participation in health service planning and decision-making, so that members of the public have a ‘voice’ in the services and policies that affect their lives, and the lives of their loved ones.

One of the main ways that we do this is by supporting a group of dedicated volunteers known as the Community Engagement Advisory Network. We fondly call them the “CEAN” (pronounced KEEN).

The CEAN was established in July of 2009 and provides VCH departments and senior leadership with a network of public members who possess diverse skills, have been oriented to VCH, and represents a cross section of ages, genders, ethnicities, cultures and socio-political backgrounds. This level of readiness allows CEAN members to effectively collaborate with VCH staff in planning together for improvements to the quality and delivery of health care services. CEAN members provide a unique opportunity for VCH to build relationships with members of the public who are interested and motivated to engage for the purpose of improving healthcare. They have a vested interest in improving the system and in establishing mechanisms for continual, sustainable improvement.

We engage with CEAN in a variety of ways, which can range from reviewing a patient brochure and testing its user-friendliness, to sitting on Regional Advisory Committees with the health authority’s senior leadership. CEAN members are communicated with on a weekly basis, and brought together at various times throughout the year to provide them with the opportunity to learn, network, connect with members of VCH Leadership and to provide their feedback on initiatives and projects being implemented within VCH. The input that CEAN provides is incredibly valuable, and many project leads have shared how valuable it is to tap into the patient/family/public perspective in their planning in order to establish priorities and set the direction for their work.

“One of the key contributions is that they readily provide their input from a ‘consumer’ or patient perspective – and it is this feedback that often helps direct the conversation i.e. moving from focusing on what matters to a clinician to what matters to a patient and family/caregiver.” 

 -JoAnne Douglas, Project Manager Integrated Primary & Community Care, Vancouver Coastal Health

CEAN is working hard to add the voice of the patient/family/public member into our health care system. And more and more staff within the health authority are seeking out that voice.

The “tiny but mighty” Community Engagement team has noticed a welcome increase in requests for public participation! We are working hand in hand with CEAN to meet all the requests There are now approx. 30 members of CEAN sitting on various Advisory Committees within VCH. Whatever type and level of involvement CEAN members engage in, their ultimate goal is to improve healthcare and make services more accessible in their communities.

Next month, CEAN will celebrate its 5 year anniversary and the number of CEAN members has recently grown to 100! The Community Engagement Team is enjoying all the different ways that patient engagement is growing at Vancouver Coastal Health.

If you’d like to share your voice at VCH and become a CEAN member, click here to apply, or contact us at