The Conversation: We are happy to be part of it

By Kate Hawkins

The Conversation is a website that was established in 2011 in Australia. Its purpose is to enable experts to comment on current affairs and to uphold high standards of journalistic integrity. Their charter expands outlines the principles that underpin their work, they aim to:

  • Inform public debate with knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence.
  • Unlock the knowledge of researchers and academics to provide the public with clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.
  • Create an open site for people around the world to share best practices and collaborate on developing smart, sustainable solutions.
  • Provide a fact-based and editorially independent forum, free of commercial or political bias.
  • Support and foster academic freedom to conduct research, teach, write and publish.

Last week our colleague Barbara McPake had a piece published by the Conversation on “Fixing broken health systems in the aftermath of conflict.” We would like to extend our thanks to the site for featuring us and hope that you will visit their pages, have a browse, and support this important news portal.

BuzzFeed: Everything You’ve Ever Needed To Know About Health Systems

If you work on health systems research you may be asking yourself – what on earth is BuzzFeed, and why should I care?

Well, BuzzFeed is an online news portal that creates and aggregates content (using the term news lightly as there are a lot of ‘fun’ stories on the site, kittens in dresses, that kind of thing). BuzzFeed authors have a fondness for lists, infographics and quizzes. It is the type of content that you regularly see shared on Facebook and other social media sites. It is very popular with younger people. In terms of audience an estimated 24 percent range between the ages 18-24; 28.7 percent are between 25 and 34 (figures from May 2013).

If we are serious about making health systems research accessible then we need to be experimenting with new formats for sharing ideas. We need to find routes to audiences who are never going to engage with our research through a journal article or even an editorial in the daily newspaper. Which is why we are delighted that our colleague Jeff Knezovich of Future Health Systems has put together a fabulous BuzzFeed ‘Everything You’ve Ever Needed To Know About Health Systems.’ He explains:

“New to the wonderful world of health systems? Then this post is for you! Whether you’re a wonk that needs to brush up, a student, a health care practitioner or just an interested and engaged citizen – this primer is full of everything you’ve ever needed to know about health systems and how they function around the world.”

So visit, give it a ‘LOL’, maybe ReTweet. It’s the future!

Photo courtesy of Nina J. G.

What should the Australian government be doing about global health threats like Ebola?

By Kate Hawkins

ABC radio in Australia interviewed one of our colleagues Barbara McPake to get her views on what the national response to Ebola and other health crises should look like.

She explained how the response is a broad church from lab based scientists to social scientists looking at the social determinants of ill health. The Nossal Institute is currently meeting to discuss health security and the Australian aid for health.

She suggested that the global health community is responding fairly poorly to health threats. Ebola should be quite an easy disease to control given that there is a fairly small period when people are infectious but the symptoms are invisible. In places like Syria and Iraq it is difficult to prioritise health systems when there are so many other emergencies and crises. But both their health systems have been very seriously damaged by events there.

National health systems weaknesses underpin the problem. But there have also been two major global health systems failures:

  1. The lack of sufficient investments in health systems over a long period which has left them vulnerable to shocks like Ebola
  2. A lack of investment in global emergency disease control measures

“The World Health Organisation has acknowledged the failures in its response, but longer term there has been a failure to invest in the World Health Organisation…Budget costs there have meant that it has lost a lot of Ebola experts in the last few years.”

Barbara explained how a lot of health aid has been targeted at specific health conditions over the last decade. This has had positive results and been quite effective for the particular illnesses which received support. But the ability of the health system to respond to a range of health problems in many settings is weak because of under-investment.

Both Bird Flu and SARS are threats to Australia as they emanate in the region. Countries like China have significantly strengthened their health system since the SARS outbreak. But other countries have very weak health systems.

Barbara went on to state that Australian aid has made some really good investments in the past, for example in Cambodia. The current administration continues to emphasise health and education. Health systems should be part of that. There are simple and effective investments that can be made in this area and there is also a need to innovate and find new mechanisms for the delivery of health care. Barbara is hoping that the Government will focus on these innovations in the health system as well as investments in general development as part of the mix. Weak health systems rely significantly on people paying out of their pockets for health care. There is a need to get that balance right and see these things as mutually supportive.

Listen to Barbara on ABC Radio or download the sound file…

A view from Australia on Ebola

This week our Director Barbara McPake has been in the news in Australia talking about Ebola:

Global Health’s Professor Barbara McPake, speaking ahead of a conference on global health security in Melbourne on Wednesday, said although it is likely we will see the Ebola within our borders, Australia is well placed to deal with an outbreak.

“As the epidemic gets larger and larger in west Africa the likelihood of the odd case emerging in Australia is quite high, but I do think Australia will deal with it very well,” she said. “If anybody dies in Australia it’s likely to be somebody who has come already at a fairly advanced stage of the infection.”

Read the full article…

In a second article in the West Australian she explains:.

“Australia has a very strong health system.” 

“I think what Australians need to be worried about is if future outbreaks like this are being adequately prepared for and prevented by the strengthening of health systems in countries in the region.”

Read the full article…