NACCHO Aboriginal #Healthmatters : @AustralianLabor National #HealthPolicy Summit Agenda this week and getting evidence into health policy

smoking-nr

Question to the Honourable Nicola Roxon, former Australian Labor Minister for Health and Ageing (2007–2011) : Can you give an example of this more courageous leadership during your time as minister?

A: One example is a cause close to my heart: Australia’s introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products. We are proud to be world leaders in introducing our shocking and ugly plain packs, and even more proud of the lively discussion and action it is generating elsewhere around the world on the future of tobacco control.

Picture above : Lessons learnt : Plain packaging for tobacco products is a great example of implementing good health policy where trusted health organisations worked across political groups, provided expert research and supported the government to take action

What’s planned for this weeks Labor National Health Policy Summit 

According to the Federal Opposition, Labour will build on a legacy as the party of health care reform by hosting a National Health Policy Summit next Friday 3 March in Canberra , led by Leader of the opposition Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King :

See interim Full day Agenda below

 “One of the most challenging aspects of the current Government is the complete lack of any vision for health in Australia. Instead of building our health system up and preparing for the future, the tenure of the Abbott/Turnbull Governments has been characterised by cuts and chaos.

Not only does our health system deserve more – it needs more. The government simply isn’t filling this space, so Labor will.”

The National Health Policy Summit will put the people who know best at the centre of health discussions – giving patients, providers, stakeholders and experts a much-needed voice in health reform.

It will give representatives the chance to not only contribute to our health debate, but to challenge the direction of our health system.

Labor has a long history of reforming Australia’s healthcare system for the benefit of all.”

 NACCHO Note : Both NACCHO and Croakey will be covering

croakey-new

See Croakey Coverage

We welcome articles and press releases from all political parties

Interview with the Hon. Nicola Roxon:

Getting evidence into health policy

Editor-in-Chief of Public Health Research & Practice, Don Nutbeam spoke to the Honourable Nicola Roxon, former Australian Labor Minister for Health and Ageing (2007–2011), to gain some insight into the process, and advice on how to engage most productively with government.

Q: Often ministers and policy makers must try to make good policy decisions in areas where evidence is incomplete or contested. What strategies or processes did you employ when trying to make good public health decisions at a federal level when the evidence was insufficient? What were the main challenges involved and how did you overcome them?

A: I think it is very rare for ministers or governments to want to make decisions where evidence is incomplete or contested (provided the contest is real, not fabricated by vested interests). There are so many competing, worthy, evidence based causes – especially in health – that these will usually be given priority. However, in a crowded political agenda, having a worthy cause isn’t always enough to capture the imagination of government. The biggest single mistake I saw when I was Health Minister was repeated over and over again, by decent, hard-working researchers, medicos and advocates – and it was the naive assumption that, because they were working on something good, or had developed a worthy project, the government would therefore act on it.

As a minister, I was able to act on some fabulous ideas, and I’m proud of that. But many good ideas were not acted upon – often because of financial constraints, but also many other reasons played a role.

Just because your idea is good, even worthy, isn’t enough.

Q: So, how does evidence inform policy decisions in the real world?

A: To get real decisions and actions in your area, you must think closely and carefully about who you are putting your evidence to, their needs and priorities, and why your proposal will help them. In a world where most interventions cost money – and, in health, usually a lot of money – simply appealing to their good nature is too simplistic. You need to make it easy for decision makers to see how acting on your idea is worth taking up time, money and political energy.

Knowing what is going on in the decision maker’s portfolio, what is troubling them, what is taking up their time and giving them sleepless nights helps you find a way to fit your issue into their thinking space. Start by putting yourself in the position of the minister you want to take action. Do you know what they are trying to achieve? Have you read any of their speeches or policies or recent interviews? Demonstrating your understanding of their issues and pressures is good manners, but also helps you shape your pitch to their current interests or pressures.

For example, when the Australian Government announced health reform negotiations with the states, a few groups came to us with proposals that could be part of those discussions. Not all were successful, but it showed they were tuned in to opportunities, and ready to make the most of them in a way that might suit government.

Even a scandal or problem can sometimes be a chance to offer a helpful solution. It might help solve the problem, or detract from it! Either way, this might be welcome.

The more in tune you are with the decision maker’s pressures, the more likely you are to be agile and think laterally, to find good opportunities to raise your cause at the right time.

Q: When these opportunities present themselves, what is the best way to communicate?

A: Are you clear on what you would say and how you would say it if you got a brief chance to pitch your idea? A lot of people talk about having an ‘elevator pitch’ – this is the idea of what you would say if you were, by good luck, in an elevator with the decision maker. Could you explain your idea simply? And quickly enough?

The aim is to first capture the imagination of the decision maker – get them to be interested in your idea, impressed with your focus and your offer to help them.

I had too many meetings to recall where people tried to download 20 years of in-depth research in a 10-minute meeting – the minister needs to know it is there, to appreciate your expertise or credibility, but they don’t need to be able to present a paper on it to the next technical meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO)!

Stick to the headline message or your core thesis to support a proposal – then you can leave the detailed summary for an adviser or official to mull over.

What you want from your meeting is to spark enough interest that the minister asks for more work to be done on your issue – not that they decide to write a book on it. Worse, your clear message will be diluted or lost if you try to do too much in a short meeting.

Q: What do you say to the researchers who feel that their work is ignored?

A: I am frustrated that governments are almost universally criticised for not taking action on public health. Sometimes that criticism of governments is fair and well based. We are right to expect courage and leadership from our governments. But, in truth, criticism of governments is also sometimes lazy. It can be easier to criticise a government for not acting on your issues than to ask whether you’ve done all you can to help them take that decision.

From the perspective of a former minister, I want to urge researchers, advocates and clinicians to assess whether they have done all they can to create a fertile environment to encourage government leadership. When they do, governments will provide leadership.

Q: Can you give an example of this more courageous leadership during your time as minister?

A: One example is a cause close to my heart: Australia’s introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products. We are proud to be world leaders in introducing our shocking and ugly plain packs, and even more proud of the lively discussion and action it is generating elsewhere around the world on the future of tobacco control.

I have been very flattered, and often overwhelmed, by the recognition I get from introducing this measure. But the truth that ought to be acknowledged is that there were many people and many factors that made this courageous public health decision a good one for government, and easier than people imagine.

What made us choose this courageous path, when there were so many other competing issues on the table? It offers a good case study about advocacy.

The work of so many researchers, advocates, doctors, past governments, journalists and ordinary Australians moved this seemingly courageous decision into a political ‘sweet spot’. Ultimately, it was a good policy decision that was good politics too.

It was an inexpensive policy with high impact; a policy with lots of supporters and a disliked opponent (the tobacco industry); a highly visible policy that complemented other measures important to the government, but perhaps less ‘sexy’.

On each of these issues, advocates and supporters of the initiative sought to make the necessary links to our broader health reforms, our fresh focus on prevention and our interest in Indigenous health.

And it helped that the public had responded well in the past to tobacco control interventions, showing the huge benefits of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control measures. The research was strong, and the international treaty on tobacco (the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) supportive.

Q: What role would you expect from civil society in this process?

A: The Cancer Council and Heart Foundation in Australia were the rolled-gold best examples of this on plain packaging – they worked across political groups, and had expert research as well as highly responsive media teams. They are trusted voices for consumers and were prepared to use that voice to not just criticise, but to help government act, as well. Their expertise and advice were vital.

Their advice on potential problems was also invaluable to the government. In tobacco control, you need a good working knowledge of international tobacco control developments and global industry tactics. Being carefully prepared for attacks is smart for governments, but just as vital is for other civil society participants to be ready to explain to the media or to parliamentary committees.

Q: What of more contested issues, such as alcohol regulation and tackling obesity in the population?

A: In Australia, it has been harder to garner support for strong interventions on alcohol and obesity. On obesity in particular, the mixed approaches from advocates and researchers about what is needed to be successful have made it more difficult for governments to act decisively. When multifactorial approaches are likely to be needed, this can make the ‘ask’ confusing – governments often want a clear plan, or a clear starting point. In some public health areas, it is often hotly contested where one should start.

With alcohol, at least in Australia, it is sometimes difficult to find the lever. Do we target individuals or the community? Consumers or business? And it can be even more perplexing with food, where mixed messages make the need to improve public awareness of the risks of obesity even more complicated.

The challenge to advocates on these issues and most other public health priorities is to find that lever – the right lever, at the right time for the decision maker you are trying to convince. Be careful, of course, not to weaken the argument by going in too many directions at once.

Developing alliances across consumers, clinicians, advocates and researchers will always be very powerful. The same proposal from multiple groups gives your argument weight and depth. Instead of all asking for something slightly different, if you can agree on one major initiative or a good starting point, it is a very much more convincing request. It automatically lifts it above the 20 other meetings and requests the minister has that day. You can be confident that everyone else asking the minister for something that day will probably not have done that work – so it is a way to make your cause better and more attractive, easier to sit up and take notice.

bill-a-ck

What’s planned for the Summit

Labor says the Summit will bring together more than 130 of Australia’s leading thinkers on health to be part of roundtable discussions via a packed program, with two blocks of four concurrent sessions, led by Shadow Ministers and leading health figures.

The event will begin with a welcome from Shadow Health Minister Catherine King and a keynote from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and will end with a panel discussion between chairs to report back on the following policy roundtables (see also the co-chairs, some who are still to be announced).

1.Opportunities and challenges in our health sectors

Protection, prevention and promotion

Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore
Stephen Jones, Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government Stephen Jones.

  • the preventable chronic disease crisis
  • risk factors
  • protective factors

Primary, secondary and community care

 Sharon Claydon, Chair, Medicare Caucus Committee

  • general practice
  • specialist primary health
  • allied health
  • pathology & imaging
  • pharmacy & medicines
  • dental

 Hospitals

Brian Owler, former President, Australian Medical Association

  • post-2020 public hospital funding
  • reducing emergency department and elective surgery waiting times
  • interaction between public and private hospitals
  • private health insurance
  • improving quality, safety and value in hospitals
  • outpatient clinics

Mental health and suicide prevention

Frank Quinlan, Mental Health Australia and Sue Murray, Suicide Prevention Australia
Julie Collins, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health

Mental health priorities

  • Mental health reform
  • Measuring outcomes
  • Stigma and awareness
  • Workforce

Suicide reduction priorities

  • Early intervention and prevention
  • Integrated services
  • Research and data collection

2.Where to for health reform?

Ensuring universal access for all Australians

Dr Stephen Duckett, Grattan Institute
Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services

  • access, including out-of-pocket costs and waiting times
  • integration of primary care
  • coordination of primary, secondary and acute care
  • health financing

Designing our health workforce for the future

Professor Mary Chiarella, Sydney University
Tony Zappia, Shadow Assistant Minister for Medicare

  • future health service needs
  • health workforce reform
  • Commonwealth health workforce programs

Tackling health inequality and other whole-of-government challenges

 Professor Sharon Friel, Australian National University
Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy

  • Regional, rural and remote health
  • Indigenous health
  • Other health inequalities
  • Interface with aged care
  • Interface with NDIS
  • Other social policy issues
  • Climate change and health

Innovation across our health system

Professor Christine Bennett AO, School of Medicine, Sydney, The University of Notre Dame Australia and past Chair of Research Australia
Murray Watt, Senate Community Affairs Committee

  • Health, medical and translational research
  • eHealth and digital technologies
  • Safety and quality
  • Precision medicine
  • New technologies
  • Partnerships and collaboration.

 

NACCHO welcomes feedback/comment:Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s