The first official gathering of the Public Health Association (PHAA) was held in Adelaide in 1969.
Fifty years later, many luminaries in public health were recognised with awards at the association’s conference in Adelaide last week, as Summer May Finlay reports below.
Also check out the Twitter wrap beneath her article, including presentations on law-breaking as a legitimate public health activity, abuses of the human rights of asylum seekers, Indigenous knowledge systems, corporate determinants of health, and how the climate crisis is already impacting health, including during “the angriest summer” in Queensland.
Summer May Finlay writes:
It’s important to stop and reflect on the significant achievements that individuals have made. Every year, the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) does just that through various awards. However, in the 50th year of the PHAA, the awards are reflecting a significant history in public health.
As a PHAA Board member, public health researcher and lecturer, I am forever amazed at some of the amazing achievements so many people in the public health space have made – contributions that the majority people are never going to know have had a significant impact on their lives.
This piece is pay homage to the winners, to recognise their successes and to celebrate public health achievements.
This year’s awardees have been involved in the decriminalisation of sex work, creating vaccines that may lead to a cancer being eradicated and working to reduce the prevalence and impact of HIV in Ethiopia. Their careers are diverse: researchers, ex-politicians, students, and campaigners, just to name a few.
Dr Rosemary Stanton has been awarded the Public Health Association of Australia’s 2019 Sidney Sax Public Health Medal, in honour of the late Dr Sidney Sax. Stanton broke down barriers many barriers for women, including applying for a medical cadetship at a time (the 1950s) when these were only for men. However, she was offered a cadetship in nutrition.
Immunologist Professor Ian Frazer AC received the 50th Anniversary Public Health Achievement Lifetime award for his contribution to public health, specifically his role in the development of the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
HPV causes the large majority of cervical cancers and genital warts and is now part of the immunisation schedule for teenage boys and girls. It is a vaccine that many women, including myself, have received, and which may eventually lead to the eradication of cervical cancer.
The Co-Chair of the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, Jane Martin, was awarded the PHAA President’s Award, acknowledging her work across tobacco, alcohol and obesity to improve population health.
She is a tireless campaigner and doesn’t shy away from tacking on the commercial tobacco or food giants.
Professor Michael Moore, immediate past CEO of PHAA, received the Association’s Life Membership Award for his contribution to public health over the past 25 years, including as an Australian Capital Territory Minister for Health.
His career’s many notable achievements include, as Health Minister, the decriminalisation of sex work in the ACT. Moore is both a friend and mentor to me personally and many other people in public health. This award is so well deserved.
The inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award went to Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, an Aboriginal woman who has an extensive career in public health. Among other things, Professor Fredericks has been an ACCHO CEO, researchER and is currently the Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Queensland. She is also a Commissioner with the Queensland Productivity Commission. She has supported many younger Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people, including me. One of her significant contributions is co-authoring the first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Health Strategy.
Read more in this University of Queensland press release.
Dr Danette Langbecker was awarded Mentor of the Year. Her nomination was supported by colleagues and students, a testament to her dedication to mentoring and supporting future public health leaders. She has demonstrated her commitment both in the workplace and in a volunteer capacity. Her achievements are extensive but just to name one of them, she co-developed the Career Pathways events run by PHAA and the Australian Health Promotion Association in Queensland. Events like this have immeasurable impact on people new to the public health space.
The Tony McMichael Public Health and Ecology Environment Award was presented to Associate Professor Fay Johnston, an environmental health researcher from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania for her work on air pollution and climate change. Her research looks at the public health and clinical impact of smoke from bushfires and planned burns, the long-term health implications of early-life exposure to severe air pollution and interventions to reduce the public health impact of severe smoke episodes. In 2016, she led the development of the world’s first air quality and allergy monitoring system designed to help people breathe easier, the AirRater smartphone app, which helps to assist people suffering from hay fever, allergies, asthma and other lung diseases. The award goes to someone who has made a significant, discernible contribution in the combined domains of public health and ecology or environmental health, which is consistent with and has contributed to fulfilling the aims of the PHAA and the Ecology and Environment Special Interest Group.
Dr Deborah Gleeson from La Trobe University was recognised for her tireless work on the impact of international trade agreements on public health and access to medicines, and public health policy.
The Public Health Association also recognises those who are up and coming – those who are doing great work now and who are likely to be future leaders.
The Fran Baum Equity Scholarship went to Eliza Schioldann, who is undertaking a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine through James Cook University. She is currently working part time on the ROSA Project at South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, and is one to watch!
Dr Hailay Gesesew received the Kerry Kirke Student Award. Gesesew works seeks to develop and evaluate interventions to improve HIV prevention, detection and treatment in Ethiopia, the focus of his PhD. His work continues with an Emerging Leader Investigator grant of $639,750.
Awards are not only for the individuals who receive them. They are a way for the whole community, especially public health, to recognise their successes to date. It is successes like these that inspire emerging leaders or reinvigorate those who have been slogging away at it for many years.
A legacy shouldn’t be forgotten because if you don’t know where you have come from, how will you know where you are going?
And a small selection from #AustPH2019
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this post and the wider sharing of news via #AustPH2019.
Leave a Reply