It’s been pretty clear that many people are glad to see the end of 2016 – see the much-played John Oliver video, for example (warning: it’s a bit sweary and yell-y).
And it seems (from the tweet, right) that our Health Minister Sussan Ley, despite squeaking back into government and retaining her portfolio following the July 2 election, may be among those not mourning the year’s passing.
But rather than wallow too deeply in the swamps of 2016, Croakey moderator Dr Ruth Armstrong suggested that we should ask Croakey contributors and friends to give a “gift” of writing about one thing that works in health this Christmas.
Please accept their gifts below, as part of our Croakey Summer holiday series.
Janine Mohamed, CEO, Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM)
The formal apology made by the Australian Psychological Society to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, acknowledging psychology’s role in contributing to the erosion of culture and to their mistreatment. That was a gift. They really took leadership in that space for other health professionals.
Leanne Wells, CEO, Consumers Health Forum- @
What shines in health is the professionalism and devotion to patient care that we generally see all around us. Australia has good health workforce. The challenge is to improve the system they work in and that their patients access to make the most of their skills and qualities.
Merrilyn Walton, Professor of Medical Education (Patient Safety), University of Sydney – @
Using an eco-health approach we are working with cocoa farming communities in Bougainville and Sulawesi to assist them to improve their livelihoods. The Bougainville six year project has all levels of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Government involved and communities engaged with our multidisciplinary team.
Dr Peter Tait, Clinical Senior Lecturer, ANU
Nothing beats being able to sit down with someone and using your skill and knowledge to be able to help them along on their journey through life and seeing them blossom into a more ‘at-peace’ person.
Julie Leask, Associate Professor, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney – @
Nothing beats the value of true listening: whether it’s with a parent who hesitates to vaccinate their child or a whole community where vaccination rates are low. Agencies that go to those communities with a truly collaborative spirit and an open mind can be surprised, see their assumptions overturned, and be able to respond more appropriately. I have been looking at how some European countries have been working with communities where vaccination rates are low. Participatory research, community engagement, and co-design of interventions is a long and slow process but in the words of my colleague and mentor in Aboriginal health, Peter Massey, “If you get the process right, the outcomes often take care of themselves”.
Dr Matt Fisher, Research Fellow, Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University
Control over circumstances, meaningful work, caring relationships, contact with nature, creativity, access to quality primary health care, understanding the world in which you live, social, economic and gender equity, a sense of contributing to something larger than yourself.
Dr Rosalie Schultz, Northern Territory GP, member of Doctors for the Environment Australia
My gift is this link to a university-based course in the science of happiness. We need to understand our individual, social and human needs for happiness. Then we can care for ourselves and one another better, increase our positive impact, and reduce our negative impact on our planet’s finite resources.
Sharon Friel, Professor of Health Equity and Director of the School of Regulation and Global Governance at the ANU – @
Many of the reactions globally after the Brexit and Trump vote are examples of resistance to bigotry and asymmetries in power and wealth. Each of these matter for health. Resistance offers hope.
Professor Ric Day, Department of Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, UNSW
Understand the SocioPsychoBiological contributors to your patients complaints before launching into treating.
Martin Fletcher, CEO, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
Our health workforce. Frontline practitioners who care deeply about their patients, are passionate about patient care and are committed to patient safety. It’s a fantastic starting point to keep getting better at what we do.
Professor Fran Baum, Professor of Public Health and Director of the Southgate Institute of Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University – @
I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the NACCHO annual members meeting and was so heartened by the growing strength of Aboriginal community controlled sector: the confidence of the Aboriginal leaders, the growing evidence of the effectiveness of community control as a model of health care and the small steps towards closing the gap with the promise of more to come.
Peter Sainsbury, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney.
For the most part Australia’s public health system works. Most of the time, most people who need care receive very good care from Australia’s public hospitals and primary care services. Sure there are some problems but the appropriate response is to fix the problems, not destroy the system. A lot of untruths are spread around about the Australian health system –‘there’s a funding crisis’; ‘Australian’s overuse and abuse Medicare; ‘it’s third world standard’; ‘the private system delivers better care’, etc. etc. etc. These are seldom based on facts and are usually spoken by the ignorant or the self-serving. The evidence from Australia and overseas is clear: if you want a high quality, accessible, fair, efficient health care system, a publicly funded universal system delivers the best results for the government, taxpayers and patients. It works and those who know the evidence shouldn’t let the ignorant and ideologically driven control the airwaves and the agenda on health care.
Dr Lesley Russell, Adjunct Associate Professor, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney – @
here are so many examples of what is working well in communities, in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, and in General Practices around Australia that should be widely communicated and celebrated. It is clear that leadership in health and healthcare reform must come from the bottom up, in response to local needs and using local cultures and expertise. The stories about what works and the learnings about why it works can inspire others.
Bronwyn Carlson, Associate Professor in Indigenous Studies, Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts at the University of Wollongong – @
Indigenous people “work” – I mean this in actual physical and emotional labour but also in that Indigenous initiatives work. I worked at our local Aboriginal Medical Service for many years and while people are constantly insecure in these services because of shifting funding priorities they work because they provide much more than health services. The staff care and have a personal and cultural obligation to the community. If I could give an actual gift it would be funding security and honest investment from governments.
Margaret Faux, lawyer, researcher, registered nurse and CEO of Synapse Medical Services – @
I travel the world a lot for work, and every time I return I appreciate how lucky I am to be able to drink water from the tap and not risk death doing so. I have first-hand experience of the challenges accessing high quality healthcare in many countries, in both the developed and developing worlds, and I sometimes despair at the relentless whinging about our own system which is still one of the best and most affordable healthcare systems in the world. Yes we can and must modernise, improve, innovate – all the buzz words – but we don’t do too badly on a global scale and would do well to sometimes appreciate what we have.
Lea McInerney, writer, facilitator, former policy person, plain language junkie – @
Some of my family have been helped enormously by health workers this year – I salute them and their acts of kindness and skill.
Craig Dukes, CEO, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association
When the broader medical community understands the unique needs of Indigenous people it helps improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes. More needs to be done in this area to increase to awareness around the unique needs of Indigenous people, but where these practices are in place, they work well.
Rebecca Zosel, Public Health Consultant – @rzosel
Cooperation over competition. Always.
Dr Tim Woodruff, president of the Doctors Reform Society – @
Humour. I’m continually surprised by the number of my patients who seem surprised that I show my sense of humour. It helps the relationship. It needs to be done carefully, but it seems odd that many of the doctors they have seen are so locked into seriousness, often I’m sure because they are dealing with serious problems, but also perhaps because they are concerned that humour may be taken the wrong way (always possible), because they are far too focused on the outcome rather than the process, or they are just humourless. But it seems to work for me as people then feel relaxed to talk more which is usually what I need.
Dr Stewart Condon, Médecins Sans Frontière Australia President
Listen to what others are saying, and what they are really saying, before you respond or take an action. That may be a colleague, a patient, or a fellow traveller on a bus. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen, so that what you “do” next has a real benefit. As health professionals, we sometimes think that we know how to do this, but it’s a great thing to re-learn! And anyone can do it (thanks to the https://pammcleancentre.org/ who’ve reminded me of this in 2016).
Richard Weston, CEO, Healing Foundation – @
What works in health is healing for our spirit. We cannot have lives of purpose or hope unless we feel confident and safe in our identity; we cannot go forward with hopeful lives if our minds and bodies are stuck in trauma. A strong, healthy spirit is at the centre of a flourishing life and economic prosperity. We can strengthen our spirit by trusting in the culture and identity that our ancestors have gifted to us, as we will gift it to those who follow us.
Alison Verhoeven, CEO Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association –@
A high quality healthcare system is key to a healthy population and a strong economy, and Australia is fortunate to have such a system, delivering world-class health outcomes for many Australians. But this overall strong result also masks many pockets of health inequality in Australian society, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The gift of health should be a gift accessible to all Australians, and we call on all health leaders to work together to achieve this.
Tarun Weeramanthri, Chief Health Officer, Western Australia – @
What works in health are people –- working for others, working with others, creating transparent accountable learning systems, and using the best technology we can afford.
Maggie Toko, CEO, Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC)
What works or has worked for VMIAC is the team work we have seen happen. The energy generated by a lived experience person is amazing – it’s positive, enlightening, fantastic. I have met the most amazing consumers this year through my work within VMIAC. They continue to inspire me and the team to strive towards best practice.