National PHAA president, Heather Yeatman (A/Prof in Public Health, School of Health Sciences, University of Wollongong) opened the conference calling for partnerships on a global as well as a local scale which she said were critical to future advocacy actions.This thought was also echoed in the keynote given by Sharon Friel (Professor of Health Equity, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU) when she stated that to keep a fair go and health equity on the agenda we need to build coalitions.
Three workshop and a panel discussion focused on advocacy and provided practical tips and wisdom from experienced advocates Mike Daube (Director, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Curtin Uni) in Tobacco Control, Fiona Armstrong (Convener, Climate and Health Alliance) in Climate Change and Health and Rohan Greenland (National Director, Government Relations, National Heart Foundation) on nutrition and physical activity.
Fiona Armstrong reminded delegates of the maxim that in public health advocacy, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. The need to find a consistent message and unite around it was learned from the successes of advocacy in tobacco control. As Rohan Greenland put it in relation to nutrition and physical activity: "we need to write the hymnbook from which we can all sing - loud, clear, in tune and together - until we are hoarse." And Mike Daube, noting that not everyone wants to get up in front of the microphone, stated that there is a role for everyone in public health advocacy. If you are not in front of the microphone then you can be producing the research evidence that will be used to convince policy makers or politicians of your views. All three also emphasized the need to be willing to work with people inside and outside your organisations.
we need to write the hymnbook from which we can all sing - loud, clear, in tune and together - until we are hoarse.
Patrick Harris (Centre for Health Equity Training, Research & Evaluation, UNSW) discussed the experience he and colleagues have working in the intersectoral space with the Department of Housing in south western Sydney in the master planning process for major new developments. While the planning process in mulitfaceted, and has significant economic, environmental and social drivers, health is not one that was recognised specificially. Patrick and colleagues worked successfully to identify the critical procedural points where health input could be provided. Success required framing the co-benefits of health as a planning issue. Patrick's advice for working in this space was to be "technical and tactical" - to focus both on the information requirements of the partners and the strategic conditions and processes which enable health public policy decisions. And while it is important to be confident, interpersonal interactions need to be matched to the context: sometimes meaning that confidence needs to be reigned in.
Colin MacDougall (Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University) presented some work which has looked at the uptake of social determinants of health in Australian health policy. The research found some "cross sectoral silences" - some policy arenas where social determinants of health were not on the agenda, for example in taxation policy. To get cross sectoral action on the social determinants, Colin noted, we need to make new friends in other sectors (and not just in families and communities, or education).
To get cross sectoral action on the social determinants,
we need to make new friends
There were a range of presentations which discussed the need to work together in service delivery. Tahna Pettman (University of Melbourne) and Jill Whelan from the Collaboration of Community Based Obesity Sites (CO-OPs) disucssed CO-OPs which is a web-based service which uses networking to promote information sharing for best practice in obesity prevention. A fantastic interactive map charts all of the interventions identified by the CO-OPs collaboration around the country and allows users to filter their search to identify where particular intervention practices (such as social marketing or physical activity programs) or particular policy elements are happening.