The Australian Health Promotion Association’s National Symposium will be held in Canberra later this week, on August 23 and 24.
Jennifer Doggett writes:
“Better Practice – Better Placed” is the intriguing theme of the Australian Health Promotion Association’s National Symposium. Taking place a decade after the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health delivered its report to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this event provides an opportunity to reflect on how Australia’s approach to health promotion has changed over the past ten years and to explore the role of health promotion in addressing our current and future health challenges.
The WHO report identified the social factors that cause health inequality and made recommendations to governments and society on how to create better social conditions for health, particularly among the most vulnerable people. It clearly demonstrated that poor health cannot be addressed without action in other areas, such as employment, social status, education and housing.
However, despite the clear messages in the Commission’s report, a Senate Inquiry that recommended major policy changes in our approach to health, and ongoing advocacy from health and social justice groups (both individually and as part of the Social Determinants of Health Alliance), Australia’s approach to health policy has not substantially changed over the past decade.
Although we know that our current health challenges, such as reducing the rate of chronic disease, require action at the population level and outside of the health sector, the bulk of our health care resources, including political capital and media attention, are concentrated on the provision of individual health care services.
This is a matter of choice and not necessity. Australia is a much wealthier country than we were ten years ago. However, the benefits of this increased wealth are not being shared equally across the population and wealth inequality is rising. The health gaps between different groups in our community – disadvantaged vs affluent, Indigenous vs non-Indigenous, rural vs urban – remain.
Health promotion can play a key role in closing these gaps by addressing the drivers of health inequality and challenging the individualistic and medicalised approach to health that dominates media and political thinking.
However, the question is how successfully health promotion can meet the challenge of working across different sectors, communities and environments to reduce inequality and influence the structural drivers of health and well-being.
The Symposium’s program is structured around three key themes that explore these challenges, outlined below.
1. Policy, Power and Politics
This theme focuses on tackling the inequitable distribution of power in our community. Despite being richer than we were 10 years ago, we are more unequal society. This session will draw on the experiences of researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and civil society across sectors to shed light on the interactions between power, policy and politics and the roles for health promotion in advocacy, leadership, and participatory governance for health.
It features keynote speeches from Fran Baum, Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Director of the Southgate Institute of Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University and Lisa Jackson Pulver AM, an Aboriginal women who is a Pro-Vice Chancellor at Western Sydney University and leader of Maridulu Budyari Gumal – The Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise’s Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Stream.
Concluding the plenary for this session will be a panel discussion where Fran Baum and Lisa Jackson Pulver will be joined by Michael Thorn, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).
After the plenary, a series of workshops will address a broad range of topics associated with the theme, including: Health in all Policies; the Prevention Tracker; and Countering industry involvement. Among the talks featured in the two rapid presentation sessions are: ‘Getting the NT minimum unit price for alcohol over the line’; ‘Powerful supermarkets are gatekeepers of the Australian food system: the implications for health promotion’; and ‘The importance of alliances in policy, power and politics.’
2. Populations, Partnerships and Programs
The second session of the Symposium focuses on the risk factors for chronic disease (which are largely preventable) and how these are influenced by complex social, cultural, and environmental factors that require multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaborative action.
The presentations address how health promotion can move beyond simply counting the ‘reach’ of programs, to capturing evidence of community engagement and of sustainable changes in complex systems. The sessions focus on how best to use opportunities and resources to impact local places and populations to improve health and reduce inequalities.
The first keynote of this session will be delivered by Chris Rissel, the Director of the NSW Office of Preventive Health and Professor of Public Health with the School of Public Health, University of Sydney. He will focus on Leadership and Innovation for Traditional Health Promotion.
This will be followed by Donisha Duff, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and currently the General Manager, Deadly Choices at The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH). She will speak on Changing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health attitudes and behaviours in south-east Queensland.
The two keynote speakers will then be joined for a panel discussion by Stephanie Harvey, a Bidjara woman from Queensland and the CEO of ICV, a successful Australian Aboriginal organisation working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, government and corporate sectors, and Kirstan Corben, Executive Manager, Programs Group at VicHealth.
This session concludes with a number of workshops, covering topics such as: systems thinking, health promotion practitioner registration, Aboriginal health and the Healthy Beginnings program. Rapid presentation sessions held concurrently with the workshops are organised into two streams: ‘Early childhood and schools’ and ‘Partnerships, collaboration and challenges’. Specific presentations in the ‘Early childhood and schools’ stream include: ‘Building belonging with breastfeeding support in early childhood education and care’; ‘Achieving and sustaining culture change within school canteens’; and ‘Nine factors for success: Changing the food and drink culture in primary schools.’
The ‘Partnerships, collaboration and challenges’ stream features presentations such as: ‘Turn down the heat’; ‘Looking after our truckies’; ‘Collaborating with industry to tackle men’s health’ and ‘Throwing the baby out with the bathwater: Overlooking strengths in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.’
3. Planet and Place
On the second day of the Symposium, the focus is on Planet and Place. This theme explores the profound effect that the places where we grow, live, learn, work, and play have on our health and wellbeing.
These places include both the immediate local environment, such as a community, school or workplace, as well as planetary health. The session will explore how engaging communities and working together can create broad opportunities in areas such as urban and regional planning; aged care, housing and welfare services; food production and security; transport infrastructure; sport and recreation; sustainability and contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The presentations focus on finding the best ways to work to make a difference, globally and locally, to improve understanding and respond collaboratively to maintain or change our built, social and natural environments which impact on health.
The first keynote presentation for this session will be given by Tony Capon, the inaugural Professor of Planetary Health at the University of Sydney and a public health physician who is an authority on environmental health and health promotion. His research focuses on urbanisation, sustainable development and human health and his keynote will focus on how to promote health in the “Anthropocene”.
This will be followed by a presentation from Susan Thompson, Head of the City Wellbeing Program in the City Futures Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. She will discuss Working Together to Create Health: Supportive Build Environments.
For the panel discussion on this theme, the two keynote presenters will be joined by Hannah Badland, Principal Research Fellow in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University,
Iain Butterworth, a specialist in healthy cities and communities, population health approaches, liveability policy research, measurement and implementation, and university-community engagement and Xiaoqi Feng, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and a Founding Co-Director of the Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab (‘PowerLab’) at the University of Wollongong with a research interest on the interface between environment, child and maternal health.
After morning tea there are a series of workshops on urban liveability, community health ethics for health promoters, design for healthy active living and tips for writing and reviewing for the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.
There is also a Rapid Presentation session focused on Indigenous, CALD and low socioeconomic populations and includes the following presentations (among others): ‘It’s never too late – Empowering people to exercise in residential aged care’; ‘Boozy illusions: Challenging misperceptions around alcohol use in uni students’; and ‘Beyond Tokenism: How to ensure marginalised voices are part of the conversation in health?’
The final keynote speech will be given by Barry Sandison, Director of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This will be followed by a Q&A session titled ‘Influencing Policy’, which will include a panel comprising Rohan Greenland from The Heart Foundation, Mel Edwards and Justin Barrie, from Design Managers Australia, and Sarah Ward from FARE.
The Symposium will also feature an extensive poster display and trade and sponsors exhibition. For more information and to register go to the Symposium website.
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