Dedicated to pursuit of social justice:GAVIN MOONEY, 1943-2012

Image of guest columnist Gavin MooneyGavin Mooney.JPG

Further to the Chair of NACCHO tribute: “Aboriginal health movement mourns the loss of the founding father of health economics Gavin Mooney.”

 Press Release tribute December 2013

If you would like to leave a tribute on the NACCHO communique to Gavin please enter on the comments box blow

The following article is;

Republished from the Sydney Morning Herald 11 January 2013

Gavin Mooney believed passionately in social justice and taught thousands of students in the ”caring discipline” of health economics. The real power of health economics, he said, was to be found in asking the right questions: ”What does the community want from their health system?”, ”How can we improve health unless we achieve greater equity?” and ”What does equity mean anyway?”

Not one for convention, Mooney instilled in all of his many PhD students the obligation to question the status quo and to propel new ideas and methods into the discipline of health economics.

Gavin Hunter Mooney was born on October 30, 1943, son of Hendry Mooney and his wife, Mary (nee Hunter), who inculcated the ideas of social justice into their children. He grew up in Glasgow, graduated from Edinburgh University in economics and became a trainee actuary. He did a short stint in the civil service but his true calling was to the academic world.

In 1977, despite not having a PhD, Mooney was appointed Professor of Health Economics at the University of Aberdeen and founded the Health Economics Research Unit (HERU). To this day HERU remains one of the leading health economics teaching and research centres in the world.

Mooney moved to Denmark in the mid-1980s, married Anita Alban and was Professor of Health Economics at Copenhagen University. He made a valiant attempt to learn Danish and his students made a valiant attempt to understand his Danish delivered with a strong Glaswegian accent. He also took up a part-time position at the University of Tromso in Norway, the world’s northern most university, and developed an influential correspondence course there for health professionals.

In 1987 Mooney made his first visit to Sydney, as a keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Public Health Association. In his opening lines, he said that Australians were a kind and friendly bunch. Then came the challenge – if we are concerned about equality in our society, particularly in relation to health, then we had better consider what we mean by equality and do something about it.

And in time Australia did so. In 1993, the University of Sydney appointed Mooney as the Foundation Professor of Health Economics and it wasn’t long before he helped to establish the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation, based at Westmead Hospital, where he met and later married Jackie Dettman.

He later also established the Social and Public Health Economics Group (SPHERe) in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney and it was here that he pursued his communitarian ideology and abiding passion for Aboriginal health.

In 2000, Mooney moved to Western Australia and led the SPHERe group at Curtin University and established the WA social justice network. An outspoken critic of institutions, governments and some professional bodies, Mooney ruffled feathers and mobilised action for social justice. He also met and fell in love with Del Weston.

During his time at Curtin, Mooney trained five Aboriginal health economists – a remarkable achievement and a reflection of his commitment to Aboriginal health.

His life was run in the pursuit of social justice for people everywhere. He forged an enduring relationship with the health economics group at Capetown University and was a regular visitor to South Africa. At 67, he ran a marathon to raise money to support education for orphaned African kids. His friends and colleagues supported him with sponsorship and he raised a considerable sum of money. He was delighted when, in 2009, the University of Capetown awarded him an Honorary Doctorate as ”one of the founding fathers of health economics”.

No matter what the language, the culture or country, Mooney had what his colleague Steve Leeder described as a ”challenging, clarifying and provocative style”. He also wrote more than 20 books and more than 200 publications and held honorary positions at Aarhus University in Denmark, Victoria University in New Zealand and the University of NSW.

Gavin Mooney is survived by his family in Scotland: sister Helen, brother Grant and four nieces. Del died with him.

Glenn Salkeld

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