By MARK KENNY
THE challenges facing humankind can seem overwhelming, but having glimpsed some of the next generation’s outstanding leaders, I believe the future of our world is in good hands.
At the recent World Health Assembly in Geneva I had the opportunity to ponder the future among so many impressive young professionals providing great optimism for a bright future.
Aimee Brownbill is just one example. A young South Australian PhD candidate who has been elected to the board of the Public Health Association of Australia, she interrupted a dream holiday in Europe to attend the World Health Assembly. Her understanding, insight and vision for the future reinforced the importance of encouraging young professionals to engage.
The World Health Assembly was also the venue for the launch of an international indigenous working group of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA). This group has had strong support from Australia and NZ, and particularly from Ken Wyatt, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health.
Another PhD candidate and Yorta Yorta woman, Summer May Finlay is proving a dynamic force in Aboriginal health.
Finlay has stepped on to the world stage to make a difference for indigenous people internationally. Her contribution at the World Congress on Public Health in Melbourne as a keynote speaker for young professionals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples was outstanding.
The work she has done with the other indigenous leaders is simply inspiring. The future of indigenous peoples internationally is challenging. However, we do have outstanding leaders, including the next generation, who are ready to do the work.
The International NCD Alliance provides hope for the future. Involved are Alessandro Demaio and Lucy Westerman, remarkable leaders from the next generation, who have recognised the importance of tackling non-communicable disease and its root causes. They are tackling the industry mantra that such diseases are simply about personal responsibility. Their focus is on the obesogenic environment and the “causes of the causes”. This means taking on some huge industry players internationally including big tobacco, big alcohol and unhealthy food manufacturers.
There are other challenges. I shopped one evening in a Sainsbury’s supermarket for the first time in about three years. Within hours my Twitter account was sullied by a series of uninvited hits from the company. Ironically, it was on the same day Europe adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, a law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union as well as personal data outside of the EU.
In an era of growing social media we need young, energetic people with an understanding of influence of industry on politics and decision making. The consequences of widespread adoption of digital technology and the necessary protections from big business will have consequences for the health of the next generations and their planetary inheritance.
Health ought to be considered a marker for the future. Planetary health is fundamental. The concept includes humans, animals and the environment and the interaction between all of them. Economic productivity is important – provided it is sustainable.
However for a bright future, economics needs to be considered in the context of the social and environmental consequences. This is sometimes referred to as the triple bottom line. The sooner our next generation of outstanding leaders bumps off the self-interested old farts who fail to count the cost to others, to the environment and to the planet, the better.
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He is the Immediate Past President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations.