Healing Health

  • presented by Amber Petty

    Amber Petty has worked in broadcasting for nearly 15 years, both as a breakfast radio host on SAFM’s The Rabbit & Amber Show (Southern Cross Austereo) as well as roles on MIX 102.3 FM in Adelaide and Melbourne Talk Radio (Macquarie Radio Network). She was a weekly columnist for New Idea, The Adelaide Advertiser (News Ltd) and is currently a regular contributor for RendezView (News Ltd). In recent years, Amber has moved into podcasting where she has a series called The Wise Guides co-produced with Nova Entertainment, Meet Me At The Barre for the Australian Ballet, as well her own series Instrumental (sponsored by Yamaha Australia) and The Silent Generation (sponsored by Freedom Aveo).

Imagine our health systems were people. Right now, they’d probably be feeling sick, overwhelmed and stressed.

Presented by Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, ‘Healing Health’ explores some of the biggest issues facing our health systems and the best ways to deliver care. Join host Amber Petty and some of Australia’s leading health researchers as they explore various cures for the ills of healthcare and discover that recovery is not just possible – it’s already happening.

  • Talking all things COVID with Professor Catherine Bennett

    with Kate Morrissy and Professor Catherine Bennett

    Join renowned epidemiologist Professor Catherine Bennett in a conversation about what the COVID-19 pandemic revealed about our health systems – the good, the bad and the untold.

    Listen to "Talking all things COVID with Professor Catherine Bennett" on Spreaker.

    “One of the lessons out of what we’ve been through is the need for an independent body that brings together public health expertise from across the country and supports government at all levels in its public health response.”

    She’s been the voice of reason and a sought-after expert by the media during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing facts over opinion and education and reassurance for the general public, while becoming something of a celebrity in the process.

    In this timely episode, recorded halfway through the second year of the pandemic, Professor Catherine Bennett and Kate Morrissy, Executive Officer at the Institute for Health Transformation, discuss Australia’s public health response to the pandemic so far, the need for a national public health body, our vaccine rollout, and the importance of taking time to evaluate our response so we can move forward with evidence-based confidence.

    “We have collected so much data and we must invest in the research we need to do to fully understand where we’ve been without fear or favour,” Catherine says.

    “This isn’t blaming; this is saying we didn’t have that evidence at the time, this is what we did and we kept doing the same because we weren’t looking at that evidence as we went. That’s not the error – the error is if we never get to it, if we never do that evaluation work. I think that’s the gift to future generations: learning as much as we can out of what we’ve been through.”   

    Professor Catherine Bennett is the inaugural Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University and head of Deakin Epidemiology, a research unit within the Institute for Health Transformation’s Determinants of Health research domain. She is a leading researcher and teacher in public health, with a specific interest in infectious disease epidemiology and community transmission.

    Catherine joined Deakin in 2009 after more than eight years with the University of Melbourne as Associate Professor in Epidemiology, Deputy Chair of the Academic Programs Committee in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, and Director of Population Health Practice in the Melbourne School of Population Health. Prior to that, Catherine worked with the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments in a variety of senior positions, including Olympic Public Health Coordinator for Northern Sydney. Catherine is also founding Chair and President of the Council of Academic Public Health Institutions Australia.

    Show notes:

    ‘I love you!’: Australian epidemiologists grapple with newfound Covid fame

    Meet Catherine Bennett, Deakin’s COVID-19 expert

    National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID Response

    Catherine talks about the particular impact of the pandemic on casual workers and refers to this article: Danger at work: tracking the multi-layered risks of being a casual worker during COVID-19

    During the pandemic, Catherine turned her LinkedIn feed into an almost daily blog, explaining the facts behind the daily numbers during outbreaks, correcting misinformation and providing reassurance. Follow Catherine on LinkedIn to catch up on all her commentary.

    As Catherine’s media activity and reach increased, the Institute for Health Transformation and Deakin University developed a web page to capture the most significant of her media appearances and numerous opinion pieces. Visit the page here.

    Catherine writes regularly for The Conversation and you can access her articles from her profile page: https://theconversation.com/profiles/catherine-bennett-1129281

    She has also written for The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/catherine-bennett-australia


    Catherine’s research publications: https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/people/catherine-bennett

  • How do we improve care for older people?

    with Amber Petty and Alfred Deakin Professor Alison Hutchinson

    Recorded pre-COVID-19 and the shocking toll the pandemic has taken on our elderly, this conversation with one of Australia’s leading nursing professors examines how partnership-centred care could help overcome some systemic issues in aged care.

    Listen to "How do we improve care for older people?" on Spreaker.

    The failings of Australia’s aged care system have been laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic and much has been said and written about how it can – and must – be improved. Recorded pre-COVID-19 this episode of Healing Health discusses Alison’s research into partnership-centred care and how it offers a positive way forward in how we care for our elderly and better value aged-care staff.

    “Partnership-centred care in the context of aged care puts the older person at the centre of the care-planning process, with family members and staff working together to support the older person to ensure their needs and preferences are met,” Alison says.

    Alfred Deakin Professor Alison Hutchinson is Chair in Nursing and Director of the Centre for Nursing Research – Deakin University and Monash Health Partnership and Co-Director of the Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS) in Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation. As one of Australia’s leading Nursing Professors, Alison’s research centres on how research is translated to improve care within hospitals, aged care facilities, other health providers and within homes.

     She has a particular interest in how organisational structure and interdisciplinary interaction influence the uptake of research findings by health professionals and has developed a short online course to support those caring for older family members, and another for new parents on infant nutrition. She was also lead educator for Caring for Older People: a Partnership Model, which recognised that looking after an older person can be a challenging experience for family members, friends, care staff and health professionals alike.

    In July 2021, Alison was inducted into the Sigma Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.

  • How can food companies prevent obesity?

    with Amber Petty and Associate Professor Gary Sacks

    Unhealthy diets are creating a public health crisis in Australia, with our rising rates of obesity costing us billions of dollars in healthcare for preventable diseases. What role do our food companies play in this crisis and how seriously are they taking the problem?

    Listen to "How can food companies prevent obesity?" on Spreaker.

    Unhealthy diet contributes hugely to the burden of preventable disease in Australia, like heart disease – our number one killer – Type 2 diabetes and several cancers. Two thirds of Australians are considered overweight or obese, which puts them at higher risk of these diseases. If we can take steps to improve our diets and reduce obesity, we can improve our health.

    But if we’re going to address the problem of obesity, Gary says, “we need a whole of society approach. We’re going to need governments to take some action, we’re going to need food companies to take some action, as well the community taking action.”

    Join Amber and Gary as they discuss Gary’s research into how seriously our biggest food companies take the obesity epidemic and shine the spotlight on the role they could play in preventing obesity.

    Associate Professor Gary Sacks is a Victorian Young Tall Poppy 2020 and a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow with the Institute’s Global Obesity Centre. His research focuses on policies for the prevention of obesity and related diseases. Gary co-founded INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity / non-communicable diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support) – a global network for monitoring food environments and leads the component of INFORMAS dedicated to monitoring the actions of food companies in relation to obesity prevention and population nutrition. He also leads the Australian Food Environments Dashboard, launched in June 2021, which brings together for the first time the most up-to-date data from research institutions and government departments to describe the healthiness of Australia’s food environments.




  • The philosophy of health economics

    with Amber Petty and Emeritus Professor Rob Carter

    Delivering healthcare and prevention interventions is an expensive business. How do we help decision-makers with limited budgets decide whether they’re doing the best they can with the resources they have? How do we decide what ‘doing the best you can’ looks like? And just what does philosophy have to do with economics?

    Listen to "The philosophy of health economics" on Spreaker.

    Health economics, at least the model that Professor Rob Carter talks about, isn’t only about  money. It’s also about the kind of communities we want to live in and what we decide to prioritise. Do we want everyone to access to a certain level of healthcare based on need, or on what they can afford? And how do we make those decisions?

    “I was a bureaucrat before I was an academic, and what I thought was missing was economic advice provided in a way that was useful,” Rob says. “There are all sorts of ways in which governments make decisions, but how do we decide which are the best ways and the best decisions?

    “We try to help decision makers work out how they can improve the relationship between costs and outcomes.”

    Join Rob and Amber for a wide-ranging discussion that’s not all about economics, but takes a deeper look at how what our society values affects what role the government plays in healthcare and how we decide what health prevention interventions are important and who should pay for them.

    Emeritus Professor Rob Carter is widely recognised for his expertise in the economic appraisal of health care services and priority setting, particularly in the area of health promotion, health technology assessment and pharmacoeconomics. Much of his evaluation work over the years has encouraged clinicians to work with policy-makers and academics to tackle important public health issues. In recent years, he has developed and implemented an innovative approach to priority setting that is bridging the gap between academic rigour and applied policy-making in major areas of public health, with a strong focus on knowledge transfer. His evaluation work on the initial Assessing Cost Effectiveness (ACE) study in cancer, for example, impacted on Australia’s national cancer strategy and contributed to the funding of subsequent ACE studies in heart disease, mental health, obesity prevention and the prevention of non-communicable disease.

  • How do we make hospitals safer places for patients?

    with Amber Petty and Alfred Deakin Professor Tracey Bucknall

    One in every ten of the 11 million Australians admitted to hospital each year suffers some kind of harm – from falls to infection – that’s unrelated to their reason for being in hospital in the first place. What’s behind these incidents and how can they be prevented?

    Listen to "How do we make hospitals safer places for patients?" on Spreaker.

    “People go to hospital to be cared for and improve their health. Preventable adverse events, medical errors or harm unrelated to their illness is not expected, nor acceptable,” Tracey says.

    A landmark Australian study revealed that 25 per cent of patients who were harmed in hospital were permanently disabled and the main cause of those events was a failure by health professionals to recognise and act on available information.

    Join Tracey and Amber as they examine the complex decision making that takes place in busy hospital environments and discuss how understanding how health professionals and patients make decisions may lead to improving the decision-making process and reduce the risk of harm to patients.

    Alfred Deakin Professor Tracey Bucknall is Chair in Nursing at Alfred Health, Melbourne. Her research concentrates on understanding how individuals make decisions routinely and in uncertainty and on understanding the environmental and social influences in healthcare. She focusses especially on patient safety, symptom management across clinical settings, and the implementation of research evidence into practice to improve patient outcomes.

  • How do gambling ads influence us – and our kids?

    with Amber Petty and Professor Samantha Thomas

    Aussies are known as a nation of punters who would bet on two flies crawling up a wall, but our increasing exposure to gambling advertising isn’t good for us, our kids, or our wallets. What does the research say about how we can best protect children from the 'normalisation' of gambling?

    Listen to "How do gambling ads influence us – and our kids?" on Spreaker.

    “When you look at the stats, Australians are the biggest gamblers in the world per capita, so if there was an Olympic games for gambling losses Australia would win the gold medal hands down,” Samantha says. “We spend about – or we lose – about $23 billion every year on gambling.”

    Ever since a High Court decision 10 years ago changed the gambling advertising landscape in Australia by allowing bookmaking companies to advertise around the country, Australians have been presented with more ways to gamble than ever. Gambling apps let us have a punt 24/7 from the comfort of our computers or phones and the ads have become ever more appealing.

    And although our children might be too young to act on the gambling advertising they see while they’re watching their favourite sport on television or listen to on the radio during the school run, Samantha’s research is revealing they’re not too young to absorb the messages.

    “If you think about it, a 10 year-old has never watched a game of football in Australia without seeing gambling ads embedded in it,” she says.

    Join Samantha and Amber as they examine how this exposure shapes what kids think about gambling and their intentions to gamble when they’re older, and how we can protect them from gambling harm.

    Professor Samantha Thomas is a public health sociologist in the Disability, Inclusion, and Advocacy Research team at Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation. She is also the Higher Degree Research Coordinator for Deakin’s School of Health and Social Development. Prior to joining Deakin, Samantha worked at the World Health Organisation (Geneva), King’s College London, Monash University, and the University of Wollongong. She has provided expert testimony to a number of Australian Parliamentary Inquiries, most recently to the Australian Senate Committee on Gambling Reform, and specialises in understanding the range of factors that may contribute to the prevention and reduction of gambling related harm. Her research includes the impact of gambling advertising on young people, young men and sports betting, young women’s gambling, and factors that may contribute to the normalisation of gambling.


    Show notes:

    Read more about Samantha’s work, including her latest comments on how COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have affected the gambling industry:

    The Conversation: With pokies shut down, coronovirus stress could drive more people to reckless online gambling

    disruptr: Action called for on gambling harm 

    disruptr: Gambling on our children’s future

  • How patient participation can enhance recovery

    with Amber Petty and Alfred Deakin Professor Mari Botti AM

    How do we get patients back on their feet more quickly after surgery? It’s an important question, because patient participation in their own recovery is an essential element of high quality care. It’s just trickier to achieve in acute care settings, but fortunately there’s an app for that.

    Listen to "How patient participation can enhance recovery" on Spreaker.

    MyStay is a multimedia tool developed with clinicians and patients to enhance patient involvement in their own care and evaluation shows it works, with patients experiencing lower pain intensity and less time in hospital after surgery.

    “We need to enhance patients’ capability to participate by providing clear, unambiguous information about how they can participate in their pain management and recovery and we need to provide opportunities to do so through effective patient and clinician interactions,” Mari says. 

    MyStay delivers interactive information to patients, explaining what to expect post-surgery and how patients can participate in their own care. From the first day of surgery, patients can use the program to access information about their goals for the day, and how they can manage their pain, keep safe and prepare for discharge.

    “There is an expectation that health services involve consumers in their own care and recovery but it’s actually not that easy in acute care,” Mari points out.

    “While it’s been a mainstay of chronic illness management that people are participants in managing their illness, in acute health we tend to do things to people, rather than with them.

    “The key challenge for researchers is how to help clinicians to implement solutions within the culture of care delivery in acute care settings.”

    Join Mari and Amber as they explore the complexity of pain management in acute care settings and how recovery after surgery can be enhanced through innovative technology.

    Alfred Deakin Professor Mari Botti AM is Director of the Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research at Epworth HealthCare. Her research interests cross a number of clinical practice domains, with a particular focus on pain management, symptom management, quality and safety of care and clinical outcomes in acute care settings. She is lead investigator in a program of research focused on models of care delivery that encourage patient and family engagement in their care, safety and wellbeing. A key element of this work is the development of the MyStay modules. These modules are surgery-specific, multimedia, web-based modules that facilitate patient participation in their care and recovery after surgery.

  • Is there such a thing as ‘too much medicine’?

    with Amber Petty and Associate Professor Martin Hensher

    The OECD estimates around 20% of all health care activity and expenditure in high-income countries is wasted and of little or no value. Much of this waste is driven by over-diagnosis and over-treatment – when patients receive services that could never really have helped them.

    Listen to "Is there such a thing as 'too much medicine'?" on Spreaker.

    The economics of health care systems have become increasing important in the past 25 years as we battle with the problem of making sure everyone has access to appropriate care, while ensuring every dollar spent results in the best possible outcomes.

    “Every dollar spent on something which has less impact on people’s health is a dollar that could actually have saved lives elsewhere,” says Associate Professor Martin Hensher.

    But over-consumption of health care isn’t just a question of wasted resources. Unnecessary care exposes patients to the inherent ‘downside’ risks of adverse events, injury and even death – without them gaining any ‘upside” benefit’. And every instance of unnecessary care also causes environmental damage – through greenhouse gas emissions, chemical pollution, and the use of non-renewable resources – again without delivering any real benefit to the patient.

    Join Martin in this wide-ranging episode as he explores the causes and forces behind over-diagnosis and over-medication and explains why health economists have a vital role to play in ensuring that everyone can have access to the ‘right care’ when they actually need it, while reducing avoidable harms, conserving resources, and minimising the environmental harms of health care. 

    Martin Hensher is Associate Professor of Health System Financing and Organisation at Deakin Health Economics within the Institute for Health Transformation. He has worked as a public servant and economic adviser to health departments in Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa and his research interests include health care financing, health care systems and the macro-economy, and transforming the organisation of health care.

  • Reducing childhood obesity – for the community, by the community

    with Amber Petty and Professor Steve Allender

    One third of Australian primary school children are now overweight or obese. Global expert in obesity prevention Professor Steve Allender explores the complex drivers behind the statistics and shares good news about successful community-led obesity prevention programs that really make a difference.

    Listen to "Reducing childhood obesity - for the community, by the community" on Spreaker.

    In the past 30 years, the rates of childhood overweight and obesity have risen alarmingly. With research showing obesity is difficult to reverse, and evidence building about the consequent chronic disease burden on individuals and society, Professor Steve Allender is on an urgent mission to save our children from a lifetime of poor health.

    “Obesity is a marker for a lot of other important things, like what we eat, how much we eat, our activity levels, how well we sleep, our social relationships and a pointer for a whole lot of other health risks,” he points out.

    As head of one of the largest research groups in Australia dedicated to obesity prevention, Steve believes solving the problem lies in empowering communities to create healthy environments to live in.

    “Rates of overweight and obesity haven’t increased over time because individual decision-making has changed radically,” he says. “They’ve increased over time because the social conditions in which people are making decisions about activity and food are changing and make it much harder for us to make healthy choices.

    “What we currently have is a situation where unhealthy is normal and conditions are set against the healthy thing being the easy thing. But we know that when everybody in a community is pushing really hard in the same direction to improve the health of their kids, the kids get healthier.”

    Professor Steve Allender is a Professor of Population Health and Director of the Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE), a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation. He leads a team of researchers focused on applying innovative approaches from systems science to community based obesity prevention and has a particular interest in the emerging burden of chronic disease in developing countries and the possibilities for using complex systems methodologies in community based interventions.

  • How changing our food systems can change population health

    with Amber Petty and Professor Anna Peeters

    Unhealthy diets are the biggest contributor to burden of disease in Australia and internationally, but the ability to eat a healthy diet is not just about personal food choices. Internationally renowned public health researcher Professor Anna Peeters puts the case for why food environments need to change in order to make healthy options readily available and more attractive than unhealthy options.

    Listen to "How changing our food systems can change population health" on Spreaker.

    In Australia, the number of adults living with obesity increased from one in ten in 1980, to one in three in 2019 – with similar increases in kids. While most of us want the best chance at health, we’re often at the mercy of powerful food environments – like supermarkets, or the local cafe – many of which get in the way of us making the healthier choices.

    In this first episode of the Healing Health podcast, Professor Anna Peeters, Director of Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, talks about how research into Australia’s food environments shows we can improve the healthiness of diets across our entire population – without food retailers taking a financial hit.

    “Current food environments really drive us to buy or consume unhealthy options over healthy options, so that even though we know eating healthier is good for us, in reality it’s hard to do,” Anna says.

    “But we know that the more you normalise healthy food options, the easier it becomes for people to choose them.”

    “Supermarkets, fast food giants, the café at a health service all have a role to play in helping people choose a healthy diet over an unhealthy diet and evidence shows that food retailers can push healthy options without affecting their bottom line.”

    A Professor of Epidemiology and Equity in Public Health at Deakin University, Anna is the lead investigator in the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Food Retail Environments for Health (RE-FRESH). She also sits on a number of national and international policy and research advisory groups, including for the World Cancer Research Fund.

  • Welcome to Healing Health

    with Amber Petty

    It’s time to start a conversation about the health of our healthcare systems.

    Listen to "Welcome to Healing Health" on Spreaker.

    Imagine our health systems were people. Right now, they’d probably be feeling sick, overwhelmed and stressed.

    Presented by Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, ‘Healing Health’ explores some of the biggest issues facing our health systems and the best ways to deliver care.

    Each episode highlights the different work being done locally to transform how we deliver prevention and care globally. Join host Amber Petty and some of Australia’s leading health researchers as they explore various cures for the ills of healthcare and discover that recovery is not just possible – it’s already happening.