Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Raising Palliative Care Awareness Through Film Screeenings

(Ed. - Can you believe it another new author!  Please welcome Paul Tatum @doctatum, a family medicine physician board certified in geriatrics and palliative care who practices medicine in at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  Paul is no stranger to blogging and also posts at Geripal.  Please welcome him to Pallimed! - Christian)

When I strike up conversation on the airplane and discussion turns to palliative medicine, the response tends to be either one of a blank stare and question about what is palliative medicine or a knowing smile and a ready story about how hospice and palliative medicine made a difference in the life of a loved one.  I love the stories and they reinvigorate me.  But to help the public with the questioning, blank stares, we still have a lot of work to do.

As part of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine's Shaping the Future Campaign, one of the 3 key areas of focus is Raising Awareness.  Each and every member of the HPM community should play a role in facilitating advocacy and raising awareness. A simple way we all can raise awareness is telling stories (with appropriate confidentiality precautions of course!) One powerful patient story is more compelling than a pile of data.

The master storytellers of our day and age are in film. Spielberg, Lucas, Abrahms, Lee are all master storytellers.  Pallimed with the help of Elaine Wittenberg-Lyles at Clinical Communication Collaborative (@palcarecomm) has created a wonderful list of films that have palliative medicine themes.  Go to the list and add more!

However notably absent from the film lists are documentaries.  Documentaries come in many forms but at their best they can change minds and generate conversation.  More on documentaries from the Lincoln Center Film Society here.

Good documentaries drive the audience to want to ask questions and learn more. Hosting community screenings of documentary film about serious illness can be an excellent opportunity to educate your community about palliative care.  Universities, public libraries, and art house cinema venues are all excellent partners where your hospice or palliative care team can help host a discussion after a screening.It is a chance to tell the story and value of palliative medicine.

An excellent opportunity to get started is coming up June 21. The makers of I Am Breathing are calling for a global screening of their film to raise awareness about Motor Neuron Disease (Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis, aka ALS or "Lou Gehrig's Disease.") I was fortunate enough to see an early screening at The True/False Film Festival, and the film is excellent! I Am Breathing tells the story, hopes, and coping of Neal Platt, age 34, during his last year of life with ALS.  While the purpose of the global screening is to raise awareness about ALS, I can't imagine ALS without comprehensive palliative care early in the illness.  Here's a chance to teach that palliative care is for serious illness anywhere in the disease trajectory.

Consider partnering with your local film community or library or university to host a screening.  Click here for more details on hosting a screening. Partner with your local ALS neurology team to lead a discussion.  Hey, you can build connections to Neurology too.  Tell the story of ALS, but also bring the message of how palliative medicine can help with serious illness and can be used sooner. (Palliative medicine is not featured much in the film but they were actively involved. )

And add some documentaries to the Pallimed  list of films that have palliative medicine themes.