Saturday, December 22, 2012

Port Waratah Coal Service Cancer Cluster

After the forum on the 8th, I received an emailed question about the PWCS cancer cluster.  Cancer clusters are often difficult to interpret.   I have pasted the essence of my response to the question below.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The media and public health: complexity, controversy and combat

Interesting responses received from both public health and media colleagues on my recent article.  Some print journalist colleagues took exception to it based on hearing a summary on radio but felt it was more balanced when they actually read the article.  Ironically, some institutional media relations folks wanted to be briefed on the implications of an article suggesting that institutions sometimes seek to over manage the media.
The article was a commentary on Melissa Sweet's very interesting paper:  Learning from journalists’ experiences of the H1N1 pandemic

Friday, November 9, 2012

Newcastle Air and Health Forum - Nov 8th

About 150 people attended the forum.  Community concern related mainly to the proposed coal loader and emissions from Kooragang Island. After the forum concern was raised that there is no monitoring of the extremely small particulates of 1 micron or less.  I made the point at the forum that the smaller particles probably have greater health impact than the larger particles between 2.5 and 10 microns. However, there is little benefit in monitoring for PM1s in the Hunter because we cannot interpret the results from such monitoring - Howard Bridgman made the point it is particularly difficult to even monitor PM1s. The powerpoint presentation is available here

Monday, July 30, 2012

On Retreat for 8 weeks

No blogging for a while - on retreat for 8 weeks.  Yes - that is a picture of the retreat centre!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Should we set a date for banning retail tobacco?

Had an article published in the Conversation - which has already attracted 83 comment in the first 48 hours - quite amazing.  The Conversation article was intended to highlight the article published the same day in Drug and Alcohol Review, and a website I set up to further promote discussion about the need for a ban on retail tobacco

Friday, June 29, 2012

Environmental Health for Environmental Advocates Workshop

I conducted a workshop entitled “Environmental Health for Environmental Advocates” in association with the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment on May 29th, 2012.  The purpose of the workshop was to provide a forum in which an extended dialogue around environmental health science and risk assessment, primarily focusing on air pollution and health in the Hunter, could occur.

Flutracking at Skoll Global Threats Meeting in SFO

Myself and Stephen Clarke from had the good fortune to be invited to the 1st International Conference on Self-reported Influenza-like Illness Surveillance hosted by the Skoll Foundation for Global Threats (a foundation set up by Jeff Skoll - former Ebay CEO) and the American Public Health Association. is the second oldest and second largest of the schemes internationally, next to the Dutch system.  We were able to learn a lot from the other surveillance systems.  It seems that excels  in terms of growth of participants and weekly participation (ours is the shortest survey), however, the Dutch certainly do some very interesting analysis and we will exchange data with them to explore new analyses.  This conference has kicked off an international collaboration and we will attempt to standardise our systems to allow great inter-country comparisons.  Thanks to Jeff Skoll, Larry Brilliant and Mark Smolinski for hosting the event.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Presentation on Bhutan, GNH and Contemplative Practice

So I gave a seminar at GRIT (Group for Religious and Intellectual Traditions) at the Uni of Newcastle on Mayu 15 and they recorded it and loaded it up to Youtube.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Evidence of the fragmentation of public health perpsectives?

Plotinus, a "neoplatonist" believed that the ultimate good was a return to the "one" - the experience of the world in its holistic coherence, without fragmentation into silos and fragments defined by narrow human interests and perspectives.  I was reminded of this when I read two articles in the March, 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health - first
Project-Based Housing First for Chronically Homeless Individuals With Alcohol Problems: Within-Subjects Analyses of 2-Year Alcohol Trajectories by Susan E. Collins et al describing how providing housing to people with alcohol addiction problems, without requiring them to be abstinent of alcohol (as many welfare programs require) resulted in decreased alcohol use.  This was an example of ensuring the addiction did not stigmatise the user and further lower their living standards and reinforce their alcohol use.  

In the same issue, Michael Ong et al publish Estimates of Smoking-Related Property Costs in California Multiunit Housing in which they attempt (with a 22% response rate) to estimate the impact of smoking renters on property costs.  They calculate that "implementing statewide complete smoke-free policies may save multiunit housing property owners $18 094 254 annually."   

Contemplative Practice in Public Health Pilot

The evaluation of the 9 week Contemplative Practice in Public Health pilot I conducted with fellow public health practitioners is complete and available here.  What is of interest to me is how much the formal study and evaluation of something that is "alive" loses its freshness when you seek to quantify, categorise, or label it.  The evaluation is very positive overall but it does not really capture the richness of the informal feedback shared in hallways and over lunches.  We will continue the program this year with a slightly longer program of about 12 weeks - participants felt they needed more time on more challenging issues such as interdepence and considering our own mortality (who doesnt!).  Another interesting piece of feedback was that participants wanted to continue the focus on active contemplation of ethical or moral challenges rather than passive meditation - which aligns with the programs theme of "examining reality - not relaxation".