Following her attendance at the Equity at the Centre Conference in Alice Springs (4-5 September 2014), HPF Senior Health Promotion Strategist Karen Hicks reports on some of the presentations made during the two day event.
“Austerity kills” – that was the claim of Sharon Friel, Professor of Health Equity at the Australian National University, Canberra in her presentation Power and People: a game plan for health equity in the 21st Century. “Health promotion is about freedom and empowerment; giving people a voice,” she said. “What is shaping our everyday living resources is power.” She characterised budget cuts as ‘structural violence’ that threaten equity and wellbeing.
“Injustices are everywhere and they affect peoples’ health. These injustices can and should be eliminated. ….. How we understand, frame, communicate and engage around matters to do with health equity guides the types of actions that are taken, or not, to improve the lives of all groups in society.”
“Health promotion is about freedom and empowerment; giving people a voice,” she said. “What is shaping our everyday living resources is power.” She characterised budget cuts as ‘structural violence’ that threaten equity and wellbeing.
Asked what health promoters can do in their everyday practice, Prof Friel said “We need to think about our work with an equity lens on every day; otherwise we are not addressing the social determinants of health.”
Prof Friel’s game plan for health promoters consisted of three steps:
1. Keep equity at the centre.
Rather than focusing on selective social determinants of health (such as housing or education) we need to keep equity as a whole at the centre of everything we do.
2. Frame your messages to fit your audience.
Realpolitik (based on power and on practical factors) rather than ideology is the way to go in the current Australian climate, for example.
Data is powerful. Evidence will support the value of health promotion and initiatives.
Social media is a powerful way to create a movement. It will succeed where traditional media often meet with resistance from the industry that fund them.
3. Release the power.
The strength of health promotion lies in its ability to work collaboratively with a range of people and disciplines. We can release the power of these networks by:
Recognising the skills and capacity of our workforce and empower them to make a difference.
Foster relationships with a wide range of complementary disciplines to create a team effort.
About Sharon Friel
Sharon Friel is Professor of Health Equity, incoming Director of Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet) and Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy, The Australian National University, Canberra
She is is from the east end of Glasgow. After leaving Scotland in 1990, she pursued an academic career in public health following a brief stint making carpets in Germany and smelling beer in England. Sharon Friel is currently Professor of Health Equity at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and Director of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the Australian National University. Between 2005 and 2008 she was the head of the Scientific Secretariat, based at University College London, of the World Health Organisation’s global Commission on Social Determinants of Health. In 2010 she was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to investigate the interface between health equity, social determinants and climate change (particularly through food systems and urbanisation), based at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU. Before moving to Australia, she worked for many years in the Department of Health Promotion, National University of Ireland, Galway. She is co-founder of the Global Action for Health Equity Network (HealthGAEN), a global alliance concerned with research, training, policy and advocacy related to action in the social and environmental determinants of health equity, and chairs Asia Pacific-HeathGAEN.
10 September 2014