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    I neglected to point out in my article that Australia does, of course, have distinguished societies: the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA).

    Their self-described roles are quite different, however, than those of the US NAS. The primary role of the US NAS is to advise on ‘the scientific and technological issues that frequently pervade policy decisions’ in response to specific requests by government departments. While the Australian academies publish reports, provide submissions, and ‘comment where appropriate’, their stated objectives focus more on promoting and advancing science and the social sciences.

    The ASSA lists ‘to consult and advise’ among its objectives, and the AAS has a formal advisory role by virtue of the President of the Academy serving as a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council which ‘advises the Prime Minister on important scientific issues’.

    According to the AAS website, the Academy: “has published many reports on public issues such as national research policy setting, stem cell research, human cloning, pesticides, ecological reserves, food quality, genetic engineering, space science and climate change. The Academy also makes submissions to government ministers and parliamentary inquiries.’ The AAS has, over the years, held a few workshops and ‘think tanks’ on health issues, with the proceedings publicly available.

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    Ben Harris-Roxas

    Some of the people I’ve worked with at the various European national institutes of health/public health seem to be tackling some of these activities, even though their organisation’s primary activities seem to be more akin to the AIHW’s.

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    As an footnote, I see that the IOM has just released a report: For the Public’s Health: Revitalizing Law and Policy to Meet New Challenges. In this review of public health laws (requested by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), the IOM examined the legal and regulatory authority for public health activities, identified past efforts to develop model public health legislation, and described the implications of the changing social and policy context for public health laws and regulations. The IOM found that public health law, much of which was enacted in different eras when communicable diseases were the primary population health threats, warrant systematic review and revision. One of its recommendations was that government and private sector stakeholders should consider health in a wide range of policies and to evaluate the health effects and costs of major legislation.
    Public health law is a hugely (and even increasingly) important subject in Australia as well. Yet — and I apologise if I have overlooked something — I do not believe that we have seen any major publications on this subject since 1997-1998. Bidmeade and Reynolds’, ‘Public health law in Australia: its current state and future directions’ (1997) is an outstanding piece of work which has served us well. More recently, key issues around the role of law in public health have been posed most eloquently by Prof. Roger Magnusson of the University of Sydney. I am not aware, however, of anything similar to the IOM undertaking.


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