What a shock. Many others already knew, but I learnt only today of the recent death of one of Australia’s great public health advocates, Dr Trevor Beard OBE, from this obituary in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Beard, who turned 90 in May and died on September 2, was active in campaigning for public health right up until his death.
He was probably most famous for his work around salt control, but was also recognised for his work, while a GP in Tasmania in the 1960s, in spearheading a successful campaign to eliminate human hydatid disease.
After working in national health policy and cardiovascular research in Canberra in the 1970s and 80s, Beard officially retired in 1986, and returned to Tasmania in 1987, taking up an Honorary Research Fellowship at the Menzies Research Institute in Hobart.
This obituary in The Age is worth reading. It begins:
In July this year, a Sunday Age article showed Trevor Beard lifting weights in the gym, joking that ”I don’t recommend old age if you can avoid it, but I am doing all right at 90”. Within two months, the giant of public health had died from post-operative complications following knee replacement surgery in Hobart.
In a note to colleagues today, the University of Sydney’s Professor Simon Chapman said that Beard was “personally and publicly a congenital public health advocate”. Chapman wrote:
One of the many privileges of working with Trevor was witnessing his passion for his work. He was a man of formidable intellect, tenacity, good humour and personal warmth. Trevor was a dynamo, immediately inspiring and clear headed about the importance of population-wide thinking in public health. We have lost a truly remarkable colleague and friend…He will be greatly missed by all of us but the many contributions he has made to public health will continue to reap benefits.
The day after his knee replacement, Beard was reportedly found sitting up in his hospital bed emailing colleagues about the need for a simple, colour-coded ”traffic lights” system of food labelling.
In his most recent Croakey commentary, suggesting questions for Health Minister Nicola Roxon and her opposition counterpart Peter Dutton at the national press club election health debate, Beard wrote:
When the European Parliament had traffic light labels ready for legislation in June it allowed the food industry lobby to give traffic lights a crushing defeat.
If Labor is returned, will Labor let that happen when Australia legislates on food labels early next year?