“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.
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