Act Now

A training program development for healthcare professionals to use the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to facilitate patient adjustment to the challenges of living with a visible difference

In Europe it is estimated that approximately 12 million individuals have a disfigurement that results in body image dissatisfaction (BID), which is recognised as a global public health concern. Healthcare professionals (HP) across Europe commonly report caring for patients who have BID as a result of a disfiguring condition. There are many causes of disfigurement, including craniofacial conditions (e.g. cleft lip and/or palate), injury (e.g. burns and combat-related injuries), skin conditions (e.g. psoriasis) and medical treatment (e.g. following cancer or meningitis). Given their high level of contact with patients with disfiguring conditions, HP are well placed and motivated to positively address patients’ BID, but many lack knowledge and confidence to do so. Research shows that giving HP simple training and access to specialist resources enables HP to take on this role.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers a psychological model well suited to the needs of patients with a disfiguring condition. ACT focuses on helping patients to lead fulfilling lives and teaching them skills to manage difficult thoughts and feelings, which enhances their quality of life.

The objectives of this project are to (i) develop, (ii) test (iii) implement and (iv) disseminate the training package for HP, enabling them to use ACT principles to facilitate patient adjustment to a disfiguring condition. A further objective is to produce a functional training programme, reflective of the sociocultural diversity across Europe. A needs analysis of each partners’ healthcare setting will therefore be carried out. The project aims to make the training material accessible to a broad range of HP and will do so through multi-mode delivery.

In the partnership there is highly experienced researcher partners (United Kingdom, Sweden) and knowledge mobilisation partner that has extensive VET experience (Norway), Health Care providers (Estonia, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Romania) and NGO (Netherlands). These partners have been selected to provide the necessary expertise and experience of the project’s educational remit, and to target health care professionals from Estonia, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia and Romania, in order to implement the training into service provision.

Project methodology and activities comprise:

1. A functional and evaluated training material that is based upon research evidence and the needs analysis from the target recipient nations.
2. The training will quickly have an impact through high quality work-based VET that enhances service provision by addressing the need to create tools on how to address the patients with body image dissatisfaction (BID) as a result of disfiguring conditions
3. Health care organisations will have access to this open resource material so they can provide continuing education and training (CVET) that will update their health professionals’ knowledge in this area in order to maintain safe and effective practice
4. As prioritised by the European Commission, it is paramount to create more sustainable health care system that can address that everyone has access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality. Those individuals that are affected by body image dissatisfaction will receive an enhanced provision of service since health professionals or other relevant stakeholders will have a better awareness of the needs of this group. This will also reduce or prevent any unintentional marginalisation of members of this group.
5. The training will be economically viable to implement and at the same time be able to reach a large group of members of healthcare staff, students or NGO’s. This is due to the methodological design of a concrete and focused 1-day training course that emphasis on addressing knowledge and skill deficits in this area.

In the long-term, the training package together with its implementation plan will be updated and adapted for other partners’ operational directives. The project’s key products (project outline, reports, didactic guidelines, extracts from the training pack) will remain freely available online for a minimum of 5 years after funding, allowing longer-term access for HP and healthcare stakeholders. It is anticipated that the transnational networks and relationships formed through this project will also lead to new training initiatives and projects across Europe.

The project will result in raising a European awareness of these aspects, which adheres to the established priorities of the European commission (European Commission Communication ‘European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Commitment to a Barrier-Free Europe’, November 2010; European Commission Communication ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion’, December 2010).

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