OBJECTIVES: To evaluate workshops delivered to citizen health advocates about financial conflicts of interest in healthcare, transparency databases which disclose industry payments in the USA and Australia and the pros and cons of advocacy groups accepting industry sponsorship.
DESIGN: Thematic analysis of workshop participant recorded discussions, and pre, post and 3-month follow-up questionnaires on confidence and knowledge about financial conflicts of interest, transparency databases and the merits of advocacy organisations accepting industry sponsorship.
PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: 48 citizen health advocates participated in a half-day workshop, held in four Australian cities, which ended with a 1-hour recorded discussion. Participants were recruited with assistance from leading state-based health advocacy organisations.
RESULTS: The thematic analysis of the recorded discussions revealed two major themes, (i) transparency and (ii) relationships with industry; and three minor themes: a lack of awareness about conflicts of interest and transparency, issues relating to trust and next steps in terms of potential reforms. In relation to transparency, participants felt strong support for transparency, strongly favouring the mandatory, extensive and accessible US Open Payments over the self-regulatory Australian model. Participants also noted that transparency had limitations, including the utility of disclosed information. In relation to industry sponsorship of advocacy groups, some participants expressed an openness to and support for accepting sponsorship, while many expressed a caution around potential downsides. Questionnaire results showed increases in both confidence and knowledge after the workshop, though only 23 of 48 participants returned the 3-month follow-up questionnaire.
CONCLUSIONS: Following a half-day workshop, citizen health advocates recruited by leading health advocacy organisations expressed strong support for tough transparency rules, and mixed feelings about advocacy groups accepting sponsorship from industry. Study limitations include a non-representative sample and a large drop-out at the 3-month post-workshop follow-up.