The Perron Institute Research Chair in Palliative Care at UWA, Professor Samar Aoun, has contributed to a comprehensive and authoritative textbook on palliative care published recently by Oxford University Press.

Written by international leaders in this field, the Oxford Textbook of Public Health Palliative Care looks beyond the traditional symptom-focused view of palliative care to emphasise the crucial roles of culture and community in death, dying, loss and caregiving, thus reframing palliative care.

Comprehensive in scope, it covers the need for a public health approach to palliative care, basic theory and concepts, practice methods, population-based approaches, and research and education.

In their chapter titled ‘Public Health approaches to bereavement support’, Professor Aoun and La Trobe University’s Associate Professor Bruce Rumbold outline their public health model and its application in other countries and to special population groups such as people with motor neurone disease.

“The concern of public health is for all. Effective and sustainable care requires collaboration between formal services and informal approaches to care,” they said.

“The community needs to own its central role in end of life and bereavement care, with formal professionals advising, supporting and contributing as required.”

Professors Aoun and Rumbold’s research has led to the development of the Public Health Model for Bereavement Support, contributing to improved practice and policy at national and international levels.

“The research findings provide empirical evidence for building a community’s capacity to provide the type of social and practical support during caregiving and bereavement as advocated by the compassionate communities approach.”

Compassionate Communities is a global movement that encourages social networks to play a much stronger role in supporting those at the end of life, increasing people’s connectedness to their community.

Professor Aoun has influenced rapid system change by engaging the community through the South West Compassionate Communities Network, which she co-founded in 2018 and chairs. The Compassionate Connectors Model of Care initiative, in partnership with the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) palliative care and chronic disease care teams, has been adopted by the WACHS as a ‘business as usual’ function of the existing Bunbury Hospital Volunteer Program.

With COVID-19’s sharp focus on death, dying, loss and grief, Professors Aoun and Rumbold emphasised the need to improve death literacy within the community. This could enable more preparedness for dying and the ability to die at home, if it is in line with people’s wishes. The need to improve grief literacy means better community understanding and recognition of grief to support the bereaved.

It’s National Palliative Care Week 22-28 May 2022.