Community wellbeing demands cohesive policy

What makes a community healthy is greatly affected by how we plan our cities, protect our environment, use and pay for energy – areas that are the focus of a public policy forum hosted by Flinders University’s Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity.

The Policy Translation Forum, placing a microscope on how to maximise the value of public policy in the areas of justice, energy sector, environmental sector and urban planning, is being held at Flinders Victoria Square on Wednesday 26 June.

It will provide timely scrutiny of current public policy by bringing together academics, leading bureaucrats and politicians from around the nation, according to Professor Fran Baum, director of the Southgate Institute and Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Public Health.

“The forum will report on the Southgate Institute’s ARC research, which has examined policies in each of these sectors, to determine how likely it is to promote health and well-being and how each sector could do this more effectively,” says Professor Baum.

A primary aim is to draw a focus on difficult areas of public policy, and to answer nagging questions of social wellbeing – such as why is it so difficult to get crime prevention on the agendas of justice departments?

Professor Dennis McDermott from La Trobe University will deliver a presentation to the forum on justice sector policies and population well-being, and a report will be delivered on the lack of attention to crime prevention in justice policies, especially the failure to prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being incarcerated at a much greater rate than non-Aboriginal Australians.

“Aboriginal women are 21 times more likely to be imprisoned that other Australians. Changing this is important to closing the gap in life expectancy,” says Professor Baum.

The forum is being opened by Hon Chris Picton, Shadow Minister for Health & Wellbeing, and will also feature Hon Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, as part of an energy sector policies panel with Fiona Armstrong from the Climate & Health Alliance, Mark Henley from Uniting Communities and Associate Professor Peter Sainsbury from the University of Sydney.

Among other presentations at the forum will be Professor Richard Eccleston from University of Tasmania on the contribution of research to creating whole-of-society promotion of wellbeing and sustainability.

A key panel discussion on “How to create sustainable cities and natural environments” will feature Professor Colin MacDougall from Flinders University; Professor Ian Lowe, Griffith University; Carmel Williams, SA Department of Health & Wellbeing; Dr Patrick Harris, University of Sydney; and Paul Laris, Western Adelaide Coastal Residents Association.

The forum will promote a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach, which is strongly advocated by the World Health Organisation and has been implemented on a small scale in South Australia over the past decade.

“This SA HiAP has had an impact on improving urban planning in Adelaide, so that planners take into account the health impact of their plans and the ways in which they can make them more likely to support health and wellbeing,” says Professor Baum.

“The forum will hear about an analysis of the Adelaide 30-year plan and how it leads in Australia as an example of healthy urban planning.”

Registration to the forum is available via the Flinders University events page.

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