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Well Said: Conversations about public health, from our archives

Read Monday, 30 Mar 2020

From vaccination to wellness, drugs to dementia and hygiene to hypothetical crises, catch up with a selection of our discussions and explorations of topics related to public health, medicine and the healthcare system in Australia.

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Speaking with Sally Warhaft for The Fifth Estate, Richard Di Natale and Fiona Patten discuss Australian politicians’ reluctance to adopt harm-minimisation approaches – particularly with regard to Public Health and Drug Policy Today.

Australia’s healthcare system has been the envy of many countries – from penicillin to the development of Gardasil. But have we become complacent? What are the gaps in our system, and how can we adapt to fix them? Last year, Gustav Nossal and Ranjana Srivastava joined us to talk about Medicine and Healthcare in Australia.

Hosted by Santilla Chingaipe, Racism and Health – from our series, Not Racist, But … – looked into how and why racism impacts minds and bodies, leading to compromised health outcomes. This discussion stemmed from a study that confirmed what many studies had already concluded: racism is literally bad for your health.

In Well Aware, our panellists looked at the seriously lucrative business of ‘wellness’. How much is harmless, how much actually helps, and how much is exploitative and dangerous?

Australians get along famously with booze. Many of us, in fact, are turning to it for comfort now. In The Big Dry: Alcohol and Us, we hear from reporter Jill Stark, writer Jenny Valentish, Hello Sunday Morning founder Chris Raine and host Jacinta Parsons about Australia’s changing relationship with alcohol – and how we can anticipate and deal with the side effects.

For our Question Time series – a full hour of Q&A with a panel of experts – we heard from Susan Ryan, John Daley, Patricia Edgar and Michele Gierck about Getting Older – changing definitions of ageing, our approaches to care and support, and how we honour wisdom and experience too.

And in ‘The 80-year-old outlaw’ – an episode of our long-form investigative podcast series Better Off Dead, Andrew Denton speaks with Melbourne doctor Rodney Syme about defying the law to assist terminally-ill patients to die. This series preceded the passage of laws allowing voluntary assisted dying in Victoria, and illuminates some of its key challenges and issues.


For Question Time: Compassionate Healthcare, host Madeleine Morris is joined by medical oncologist Ranjana Srivastava, head of nursing and midwifery at Barwon Health Lucy Cuddihy, and mental health advocate Kate Richards to discuss the idea of compassionate healthcare. 

In a conversation about the Cultural Impact of AIDS, Sean Strub – the first gay, HIV positive man to run for federal office in the United States – spoke with Dion Kagan, Jessica Whitbread and Paul Woodward about how deeply HIV and AIDS have impacted the cultural community – and how their responses have opened enlightening and exciting avenues of change. Hosted by Dennis Altman.

Ali Moore’s This Is Not a Drill series explored A Hypothetical Pandemic not entirely dissimilar to the one we’re now experiencing globally. This video, filmed in late 2018, outlines some of what public health officials may now be weighing up in their attempts to stem panic and address the unfolding emergency.

In Immunisation: When science isn’t enough, scientist and writer Upulie Divisekera spoke with science-based medicine campaigner and researcher Rachael Dunlop, virus and immunity researcher David Tscharke and WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza director Anne Kelso. Together, they explored debates about the risks of vaccines and what the risks are to our health if vaccination rates keep falling.

Have you wondered if Our Children Are Over Diagnosed? In a debate presented as part of the Intelligence Squared series, Jane Caro, Martin Whitely, Jon Jureidini, Nicole Rogerson, Katie Allen and Jane Burns debate whether we’ve gone too far in medicalising the behaviour of our kids.

For The Fifth Estate, Australia’s former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, talks about the state of Disability in Australia with Sally Warhaft.

And finally – British celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver speaks with Matt Preston about fast food, good eating, political change and the ‘boring’ but crucial issue of water.


In ‘Hygiene Fidelity’, from the Clean edition of Notes, CB Mako recounts the sterilisation routines and isolated environment of the Royal Children’s Hospital cancer ward – and the cleansing rush of being outside.

With ‘Healthy, Wealthy … Unwise?’, Clem Bastow evaluates the meaning and cost of so-called wellness, its emphasis on healing, and the irony of ‘a movement that sprang up in part as an alternative to a malfunctioning healthcare system – staying well in order to avoid expensive hospital or specialist care’.

Responding to a panel discussion about criminal justice and prisoners’ rights, an ex-prisoner and a victim of crime spoke to us about rehabilitation, health services and community expectations. Read more in ‘Beyond Bars: two perspectives‘.

‘Dementia irrevocably changes a person, but the person is still there,’ writes Melanie Joosten in ‘Reading into Dementia‘ – a rumination on dementia’s effects on individuals and their families, and how inventive ways of creating shared understanding and empathy can improve healthcare outcomes for those suffering the disease.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.