Marie McInerney reports from the the 42nd Annual Conference of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA):
The head of the international public health organisation has called on the Australian public health community to take a global focus.
Presenting the Douglas Gordon Oration at the Public Health Association of Australia’s 42nd annual conference, James B Chauvin, President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, said many national public health associations struggled to influence thinking and action along the ‘policy to practice’ continuum.
“While they have demonstrated some success in this regard, many have done so in the face of considerable organisational and contextual challenges,” he said.
- fragile organizational capacity
- heavy reliance on limited volunteer input and resources
- difficult political environments where speaking out on issues is minimally if at all tolerated
- national contexts wherein governments have not made a political commitment to the concept of health equity, or where investments in public health are decreasing.
Professor Chauvin said he had met last year with World Health Organisation Director General Dr. Margaret Chan and asked how the WFPHA could help move forward the WHO’s agenda.
“She was quite forthcoming: first, contribute to the definition in practical terms of public health for the 21st century; second, help build skills and competencies for public health in low and middle-income countries; and third, advocate for the achievement of health and health equity through universal health coverage and the social determinants of health.”
He urged the PHAA and public health community to engage in the global health community on four levels:
- Adopting a strong dialogue on global health at the national level, to engage both politicians and citizens alike in defining a strategy to address the risks to the health and wellbeing of nations, regions and the world.
- Taking conjoint action on public health issues with other national public health associations.
- Supporting the creation of regional networks of public health associations, particularly the emerging Asia-Pacific Public Health Association Network – to advocate for public policies that affect regional health and health equity including on the public health implications of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty (TPPA).
- Seeking a greater role at the global level, including input to the WFPHA/WHO collaborative study on ‘What is public health for the 21st century” and in its public health competencies initiative.
Finally, Professor Chauvin recognised Australia’s leadership in tobacco control, noting that former Health Minister Nicola Roxon was in his home province of Québec recently, briefing a provincial government committee about Australia’s plain package laws. “Thank you for helping us move forward,” he said.