I am currently feeling very sad, as I’ve arrived back in Sydney airport, ready to fly to Heathrow tomorrow morning. I hear that I’m to be greeted with heavy rain and stormy weather and after 4 weeks of almost continuous sun, the prospect doesn’t fill me with joy! The 4 weeks have flown by and I have enjoyed every second of it – it has no doubt, been an experience of a lifetime. I would encourage anybody who wants to travel and to investigate and learn more about a certain issue, to apply for a Winston Churchill Fellowship – even though it has been a lot work pre and during (and post while I write the report!) travel, it has been more than worth it. I have met people through work that I’d never even imagined that I’ve meet and been to places that I’d never thought I’d see. It has left me even more enthusiastic about public health and full of ideas about implementing certain things back at work (I’m sure they can’t wait to see me back!!).
However, my last two days here have been hectic and it’s only now that I’m having a chance to relax after what’s been quite a tiring week. Yesterday morning (Thursday), I arrived in the Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA), where I was joined with other interested individuals from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), in a morning of discussion about tobacco control in Wales and then a broader discussion about tobacco control in general in both countries. I have to admit that I was quite nervous about this, as even though I had prepared the presentation before going, I am always a bit apprehensive before presenting on a certain topic. However, I enjoyed the morning’s discussion with like minded people and make a few contacts that provided me with more information about their organisation. Members of staff at the Department of Health, had bought me a complete set of plain packaging cigarette packets (obviously empty!), so that I could take home and show people what the messages on the packets looked like. I was very pleased with this gift, as it will be a visual tool that I can use when I get to Wales and show people, in order to engage their interest.
The staff at ANPHA (particularly Michele Mack and Anita Rodrigues Marcias), had been so helpful and accommodating before I arrived at ANPHA and even through Michele couldn’t be there yesterday (I had greatly looked forward to meeting with her), Anita (Tobacco Control Policy Officer) was a fantastic host, introducing me to ANPHA staff and visitors who had come to join in the morning’s discussion. I must take tips as to how she makes networking look so effortless! ANPHA had arranged for me to have lunch with Kate, who is the Assistant Director of Alcohol Programs in ANPHA and who has previously lived in Scotland for some time, and we discussed more about the work that they do in ANPHA on alcohol related issues. I then travelled to Deakin (around 15 minutes from Canberra), where I met with Jane Shelling, Manager of the National Drug Sector Information Service (a non governmental organisation, which is part of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia). Jane is a Churchill Fellow herself and had travelled to Canada, the UK and the USA in 2010. It was great to meet another Churchill Fellow (the Fellowship is well recognised in Australia) and talk about our different experiences and what I could do with the learning once I was back in Wales. Here is a picture of Jane and I:
ADCA works collaboratively with the government, non-government, business and community sectors to promote evidence-based, socially just approaches, aimed at preventing or reducing the health, economic and social harm caused by alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families, communities and the nation. I would do disservice to the services that the organisation provides by trying to explain myself, so follow the link below and have a look at the bottom of the home page, where it shows the range of online services that they provide.
Unfortunately, the organisation has not received an extension to their current funding and will be closing next week. This will sadly cause a gap in the gathering and dissemination of evidence and resources surrounding alcohol and other drugs around Australia.
Last night, Anita and Jack Quinane (Acting Manager of the Policy and Research Branch) met me for an Asian supper, where we further discussed public health issues within Australia. Anita and Jack both used chopsticks very competently to eat, but I stuck with a fork and spoon! Since Meinir and Alun have gone home, I haven’t gone out for supper and have lived on dried pasta (mixed with milk!), so it was lovely to have some company for supper. Thank you both for your company, as I know that they were very busy with other pressing matters in work. Here is Anita and I before I left on Friday:
This morning, I went back to ANPHA again, where I presented on what’s happening in Wales surrounding alcohol related issues. Both countries are very similar in terms of how normalised alcohol is – it’s connected to sport, to TV soaps (everything is based around the pub!), to advertising campaigns, to music festivals being sponsored by particular brands of alcohol. There is also a social pressure to drink and being drunk is something that happens to thousands of people every weekend. The big question posed is whether there will ever be a culture change where the consumption of alcohol will not be the norm (as has happened with tobacco). It was re-iterated during the discussion this morning that when army personnel came back from WW2, 80% of them smoked and nobody at that time probably thought that smoking would not be the norm. I very much hope that this is the case. It was a very interesting discussion, which I enjoyed very much. Here are some of us having an informal discussion after the presentation!
Before leaving, I had a chance to discuss the work that the Social Marketing Team at ANPHA are involved in. At present, the alcohol social marketing team are working on the Be The Influence campaign, which is targeted at 16-24 year olds. They connect with this age group through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube and through having a big yellow inflatable tent at music festivals called Recharge, Refresh and Regroup. This is an alcohol free zone in festivals, where people can go to have water, re-charge their phones, chill out and re-charge themselves on massive bean bags. While they’re there, the team have a chance to talk to them about alcohol related messages, through social media (by showing them You Tube clips that they have designed etc). I hadn’t considered myself to be that out of touch with social media until I visited the team, as they were talking about ‘eyeballing’ sites and Instagram – concepts that I am not really familiar with! I though back to my own teenage years where the most important thing was when I was going to play hockey and trying to avoid a telling off from your parents for using the landline to talk to friends too much! Communication has certainly changed over the years and this campaign had energy, vibe and used active sports (such as surfing, bmxing and stakeboards) to promote their message. Have a look at their website www. And like their page! http://www.tacklingbingedrinking.gov.au/internet/tackling/publishing.nsf
Here are the enthusiastic members of the Social Marketing Alcohol team, Melaine Moore and Rachel Stedman:
I also had a chance to discuss the work that the tobacco social media team develop with Mary-Jana Griffin – in this instance an app called My Quit Buddy. This free app (which is available on all three platforms: IPhone, Android and Windows), is for smokers who want social media support whilst trying to give up. The app has health related messages, shows the user how much he/she has saved whilst not smoking since they registered and games as distracters when a user gets a craving for cigarettes. They also market their message through other ways – in Australia, drivers are encouraged to take a break from diving every two hours. Across Australia there are Driver Reviver vans, manned by volunteers, giving out free tea/coffee and biscuits. As individuals are not permitted to smoke in cars if they have passengers under the age of 12, many drivers use this stop as a place to have a cigarette. When these drivers have their cup of tea in their polystyrine cups, they see adverts for my quit buddy displayed on the cups, see picture below. Check out www.quitnow.gov.au for more info.
Well, I thank you all for following me throughout my journey, it has been an amazing 4 weeks. I am going to have a swim now before embarking on the very long journey that faces me tomorrow morning and put my fleece and jeans on to brave the elements when I get back! I would like to thank everybody who supported me both in the UK and in Australia during this trip – I hope I can return the favour to others one day.