‘A buzz of excitement’: Prof Jacquie Bowden gives wrap up of Preventive Health Conference 2023

Headshots of all members of the Prevention 2023 Conference Advisory Committee.

Image: Members of the Prevention 2023 Conference Advisory Committee. Top row L-R: Stephanie Kilpatrick, Mary Brushe, Stephen Harfield, Prof Jacquie Bowden. Bottom row L-R: Prof James Smith, Erin Bowen, Adj Prof Terry Slevin, Christine Morris, Laurianne Reinsborough, Dr Anna Chevalier.


Professor Jacquie Bowden, Chair of the Preventive Health Conference 2023 Advisory Committee

As public health researchers, practitioners and policy makers gathered in Adelaide for the opening of Preventive Health Conference 2023 on 2 May 2023, there was a buzz of excitement. The previous evening, Australian Health Minister Mark Butler announced significant nation-wide policy reform in tobacco control and vaping, with further detail emerging.

The conference theme was ‘Prioritising Prevention – Action Now!’, decided upon some eight months prior by the Conference Advisory Committee who felt that prevention needed to be a much higher priority on the political agenda.

As the SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton spoke with great enthusiasm in the opening plenary about the sweeping reforms just announced, those of us from the committee sat in the audience thinking how apt that theme ended up being. We were all excited, and rightly so – things were off to a great start!



Minister Picton was followed by a powerful speech by Thomas Mayo and panel discussion on the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – it was insightful, emotive, and a strong call to action for us all. We all recognised or were reminded that we have an important role to play to support the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the referendum in late 2023.

Throughout the conference, we heard from an array of keynote speakers during plenaries and wonderful concurrent session presenters. Attendees discussed industry influence and power, and the need to shift the framing and responsibility away from a focus on the individual ‘lifestyle’ and toward a focus on supportive environments for behaviour change. Health equity as an underpinning principle was also a key focus, including lessons from a decade of the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre and also discussion on newer methods including co-design, and the ins and outs of doing so.

Key researchers and policymakers provided examples and tips on how to bring research into policy and practice. Many of us learnt and marvelled at the engaging presentations about a wellbeing economy and what it would mean for society. We also heard from Professor Simone Pettigrew about drones, autonomous vehicles, and the potential positive and negative influence they may have on public health (any presentation that features music by Fat Boy Slim has my vote!).

Emeritus Prof Mike Daube AO speaking on stage.
Emeritus Prof Mike Daube AO presenting the Douglas Gordon Oration at Preventive Health Conference 2023


The final plenary included the Douglas Gordon Oration, where Emeritus Professor Mike Daube AO guided us through 50 years of tobacco control. Mike had us concerned, angry at industry, laughing, and motivated for what is possible to achieve in public health. His comment that early career practitioners and researchers can be highly influential was motivating for many and was the perfect segue to the next presentation by emerging star and winner of the PHAA ThinkTank competition, Nathan Harrison, who argued the case for more regulation of the marketing of zero alcohol beverages.

The Conference Advisory Committee were so pleased with the conference. We received a large number of abstracts and submissions for workshops and ended up condensing some of the breaks to fit in more (thanks Mandy Winter at PHAA!). We were also overwhelmed with the generosity of our sponsors.

On a personal note, I want to extend a very big thank you to our Conference Advisory Committee (pictured above in top image), including Stephen Harfield, Mary Brushe, Erin Bowen, Terry Slevin, Stephanie Kilpatrick, Laurianne Reinsborough, Christine Morris, Anna Chevalier, and James Smith. The committee met regularly ahead of the conference and were enthusiastic in determining themes, session format, the jigsaw puzzle of the program (particular thanks to Laurianne and Mary), keynote speakers, chairs, and chairing sessions themselves. We had lots of fun, and it was such a pleasure to work with a group who brought so much expertise to the table. Also, a huge thank you to the team at PHAA for all the work and organisation behind the scenes.

Finally, thank you everyone for all your fantastic contributions to the conference and we’re looking forward to seeing you again in the Top End, in Darwin, next year! Mark Tuesday 30 April to Thursday 2 May 2024 in your diaries for next year’s Preventive Health Conference.



Prof Jacquie Bowden is the PHAA South Australian Branch President, and was Chair of the Prevention 2023 Conference Advisory Committee.


Note: Fifth and final paragraphs updated 11/5/23. First caption, first image, and second-last paragraph updated 15/5/23.

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