Empowering Health – RMIT EFI2019 Conference

General 1 March 2019

Last week Lee-Ann Breger, Director of the Partner Relations and Program Office, presented the call to action on digital health as part of a keynote panel on Empowering Health at RMIT’s Engaging for Impact 2019 Conference.

The panel, consisting of Prof. Sarah Rowland-Jones, Head of Infectious Diseases at Oxford University and President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicare and Hygiene; Prof. Katie Flanagan, Head of Infectious Diseases and Tasmania Clinical Professor at the University of Tasmania and Launceston General Hospital; and Dr. Bianca Brijnath, Director of the Social Gerontology National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) spoke about the challenges and opportunities they face in their respective areas, and shared what needs to be changed now so we can reap the benefits in the future.

Here are Lee-Ann’s thoughts on the conference and the Empowering Health panel discussion:

It was an honour to be part of the Empowering Health keynote panel on day two of EFI2019 and to share the stage with people working and thriving in challenging areas of health.

Of interest for me from Prof Sarah Rowland-Jones’ presentation was her foundational and ground-breaking work with HIV patients at a time when there was an abundance of fear and very little evidence. Sarah and her team were at the forefront of work that has changed the face of HIV and I found Sarah’s work in Africa with at risk communities to be inspiring.  

As a world leader in vaccine research, it was a privilege to hear Prof. Katie Flanagan Head of Infectious Diseases and Tasmania Clinical Professor at the University of Tasmania and Launceston General Hospital speak. Her messages on vaccine efficacy were profound.

In this day and age, where diseases like Polio and Smallpox have been almost eradicated, we run the risk of becoming blasé in our attitudes to vaccinating populations. We have seen recent outbreaks of measles in communities that are actively not vaccinating their children, promoting an anti-vaccination message that has been discredited over the years. Powerful messages on protecting communities from preventable diseases coming from a true leader in her field.

With ageing populations presenting real and growing challenges to society, Dr Bianca Brijnath’s shared perspectives were both heartfelt and enlightening. Her focus on ageing well in appropriate environments with empowered decision making in the hands of people as well as providers, was thought provoking.

My message was a call to action sharing the benefits that technology can offer but focusing on the resistance that always accompanies change. The take out was to be brave, be collaborative and to just get on with it.

EFI2019 brought together some incredible people who were all willing to share and learn from each other. When you have an amazing group of people with a desire to make a difference, they seem to collaborate passionately, share willingly, debate vigorously and ultimately change the world.

I am already looking forward to EFI2020.

Lee-Ann Breger, Director Partner Relations and Program Office



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