Jeremy Lasek – PHAA
Ask the President of the PHAA’s Tasmanian branch and national board member, Dr Kim Jose, what matters most to her, and what she’s most proud of as a public health professional, and one word keeps popping up – ‘collaboration’.
In fact, amid her life’s work, first as a practising clinician (physiotherapist) and more recently as a public health practitioner and project manager, Dr Jose has embraced ‘collaboration’ as her raison d’etre.
Her philosophy came through strongly in the PHAA’s recent submission to the Tasmanian Government’s Healthy Tasmania – The Next Five Years Strategic Plan 2021-2026 consultation.
“The 2021 Tasmania Statement: Working Together for the Health and Wellbeing of Tasmanians also recognises working together with the community is the preferred way to tackle issues such as climate change and poverty,” Dr Jose said.
“Collaboration and community engagement are central to the success of such initiatives with public health professionals being skilled in working with communities, often acting as facilitators and connectors across and between the disparate elements of the health system in its broadest sense.
“Population level health interventions inevitably require professionals with expertise from multiple sectors to work together to address issues.”
Consistent with the PHAA’s national priorities for the upcoming federal election, the Tasmanian branch’s submission to Government recommends that the spend on public health be increased to 5% of total health expenditure, and that investment in prevention is prioritised.
“Although Tasmania has been relatively unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic we did experience an early impact on the health system and ongoing disruption to the way we live, work, and engage in social life,” Dr Jose said.
“The pressure on the health system during the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces that this is the time to focus on prevention and build community and system resilience.
“I’ve also had a focus on ensuring that prevention doesn’t get lost in the Tasmanian pandemic response and dealing with communicable diseases.”
On a personal level, Dr Jose’s work was little affected by the pandemic.
“I might be one of the few who, at the time the pandemic started didn’t get drawn directly into the COVID response,” Dr Jose recalled.
“While supporting the response through public messaging, I made the decision early that the work I was doing needed to be completed and shouldn’t be delayed.
“At the time I was evaluating the child protection system in Tasmania and I felt it was important that I needed to continue and finish that.”
Child protection reform
Strong Families Safe Kids (SFSK) was and is an ambitious project designed to reform the child protection system in Tasmania, and for which Dr Jose led its evaluation.
The project adopted contemporary public health approaches to child protection and incorporated best practice principles. It is aimed at changing understandings of child safety in two ways. First, by situating child safety concerns and ‘risk’ within the broader, holistic notion of child wellbeing. Second, by changing community understandings of its responsibilities with respect to supporting the wellbeing and safety of children.
“Four years into the redesign of Tasmania’s child protection system – now called the child safety system – this evaluation has revealed a system in the process of major cultural change as it moves to embed the public health approach to child safety across the whole system,” Dr Jose said.
“The evaluation has found that SFSK has successfully begun this process but unsurprisingly for a systemic change of such magnitude, there is still work to be done if the new approach is to be embedded across the whole system and anticipated impacts on Tasmanian child wellbeing are to be realised.”
Dr Jose is currently employed as a senior research fellow supporting several public health and translation projects at Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, where she completed her PhD in 2013.
If Health Minister for one day
Dr Jose set her sights high when asked what she’d make her top priority if she was made Health Minister for one day.
“I’d actually like to see the redesign of the entire health system from scratch,” she said.
“But that might take a little longer than one day.”
“I’d certainly be making a commitment to put more resources into the prevention arm of health as a priority. And we need greater support for those in greatest need, such as people who live with multiple chronic health conditions – including providing greater access to crucial health information.
“It requires a joined-up approach; greater support through more coordination and integration right across the health system…absolutely, more collaboration, including with health consumers.”
There’s that all-important word again.
Dr Jose is a member of the Tasmanian Public Health Research and Action Coalition (TasPHRAC) – a group of 25 researchers from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and practitioners/policymakers from Public Health Services in the Tasmanian Department of Health.
This group is building new evidence for collaboratively identified priority local public health issues, including nutrition, physical activity, smoking, and air quality, with an emphasis on research translation and implementation.