Keeping the Community Safe from Emerging Public Health Emergencies in Australia [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Katherine_Faull_Public_Health_EducationGuest: Dr. Katherine Faull

Presenter: Henry Acosta

Guest Bio: Dr. Katherine Faull is the Program Director of Public Health in Torrens University Australia. She is an experienced Public Health professional with interests in education, epidemiology, environmental health, and ecology. Katherine has held positions at The University of South Australia in research and as a member of academic staff. Katherine joined Torrens University Australia in 2016 and is particularly passionate about inspiring students to follow their own journey in Public Health and pursue their passions. Katherine is also the Vice President, Australian Science Communicators – SA Chapter. Torrens University Australia currently offers a number of undergraduate and postgraduate Public Health programs for completion online, on campus or a hybrid of both.

Segment overview: Dr. Katherine Faull of Torrens University Australia talks about public health concerns in Australia, how to reduce public health risks, and how to keep the community safe from epidemics and virus outbreaks through effective public communication and response between health professionals and members of the society.

Henry Acosta: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m Henry Acosta and I’m the host for today and with us in studio is Dr. Katherine Faull. Dr. Katherine is the Program Director of Public Health at Torrens University Australia, she is also the Vice President of the Australian Science Communicators, South Australia Chapter. Her passion in education, epidemiology, environmental health and ecology led her to becoming one of the top heads in Torrens University Australia. Today we’re here to discuss about the developing of the camel flu or MERS, Lassa fever, and Nipah vaccines, and the public health challenges that Australians are going to be facing this year. With all that said, thank you for coming on the show Dr. Katherine, it’s an honor to have you with us today.

Dr. Katherine Faull: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me. Yes, I’m excited to be here talking to you today.

H: Can you give us a little bit more background on who you are and what you do?

F: Sure. As you said I’m the Program Directress of public health here at Torrens University Australia where we’re really going supporting our students in their progression and educational journey through the public health program including the Bachelor of Applied Public Health, the graduate certificate, graduate diploma to primer in public health in masses of public health as well. I have interests and background in epidemiology, and human and disease surveillance, as well mosquito research and the passion in biology and environmental science as well.

H: What’s inspired you to get in to this line of work?

F: That’s really interesting question. Probably a number of factors, public health really is a varied and diverse field. Bringing all of my passion as I’ve mentioned in biology, environmental health, and humans, and community development, and engagement all together into the one role as well as communication, and health promotion, and advocacy which are strong interests of mine.

H: Can you tell us about the coming public health concerns for all over the world and Australia?

F: Sure. You’ve mentioned the development of vaccines for this Lassa fever and Nipah virus. Each of these diseases are highly contagious and their currently no vaccines or treatment. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations or the CEPI is a partnership between multiple public, private, philanthropic and civil organizations including the one Belinda Gates Foundation, The World Health Organization and several international governments and the CEPI recently announced the plan to fund vaccination research into these three viruses: MERS, Lassa fever and Nipah. But this decision was not based on any immediate threat of the epidemic. Conversely, as a response to the West Africa, Ebola epidemic in 2014 and the current … situation in the America, the epidemic potential of 37 viral species the world has determined including the likelihood of the emergent in public health risk. And some based of these 37 species, MERS, Lassa fever and Nipah virus were chosen by the CEPI called Vaccine Development. I guess developing vaccines for all 37 viral species we could say would be unrealistic, but keeping these viruses and others above our radar and proactively working toward vaccines may end up saving thousands of lives in the event of an outbreak. As was with the case of the Ebola, these viruses have been bubbling away below the radar but we have learnt that when we don’t have a vaccine waiting for an outbreak to occur, it can be a little bit too late to implement these research and development processes. Keeping them above our radar and proactively working towards vaccines is a really positive move on behalf of the CEPI. Currently, urbanization in the development world such as Australia is fairly well-established. But in the developing world particularly Asia and Africa urbanization is creating mega cities which can act as incubators for disease and can also the epidemiology of genetic diseases bringing animal hosts closer to humans and also increasing the likelihood of human to human transmission. So the emergence and re-emergence of diseases is therefore likely to continue. In Australia we are likely to see the importation of such diseases thru travelers landing on or returning to our shores as we did with Zika. While these are unlikely to cause epidemic within Australia we should still be aware and vigilant in our behaviors and response to public health warnings including board of protection and quarantine processes and requirements. We’re not in Australia, however it mean to be effective extreme whether then such in the heat waves we’re experiencing right now, particularly in Adelaide where I am it’s quite warm and also floods … and cyclones and these extreme weather events will always be present and present an element of risk for our communities.

H: What can the public do with regards to staying safe from all those kinds if viruses?

F: Australia is quite well equipped to respond to public health emergencies as a result of for example of the extreme weather events that I just mentioned, but communication and response are key. While prevention of the course in many cases is not possible. The impact that they use may have on our population can be reduced thru clear and timely public health policy, messages and warnings. And the adherence to or appropriate response to such guidelines on an individual and community level are crucial. So warnings, messages and guidelines seek to prevent public health emergencies by reducing the risks to individuals, our community service workers, emergency service workers, and health professionals, and practitioners so be all as individuals, professionals and members of the community all play a role in the communication and response. For example, here in South Australia our fire danger seasons and associated … season runs roughly from November to April. This is clearly communicated to communities and visitors within high risk areas and it has been their responsibility or the responsibility of the individual in the community to appear to these restrictions and associated recommendations. In the event of a fire, our country fire service teams are incredibly prepared and reactive and again during such occasions of evacuation or response. It is up to the individual to respond appropriately to communications and recommendations. If we have a willingness to be open to the communications around public health messages and we adhere to those recommendations we can help keep ourselves safe and keep our community safe.

H: With regards to Torrens University Australia, what are the steps that they are taking to help public health be more aware of what’s happening around the world?

F: Sure. Well, the university is offering public health programs such as Torrens University Australia. Our producing scholars with the knowledge and tools were in fact this communication around public health at a policy level so at community and individual levels. In addition the research vital to development in public health are largely conducted by university research groups such as Torrens University Australia. We have industry partners working on the ground at a domestic Australia level as well as international partnerships that are strengthening public health initiatives and programs. And we have some exciting research on the cards as well that to involve and engage our students as well as our staffs and our communities.

H: For anyone interested in doing a program with Torrens University Australia, what are the public health programs that you guys offer?

F: We have both face to face on the campus in Adelaide. We also have a really dynamic learning environment online as well. So I encourage anybody interested in public health or health in general to jump on the Torrens website and seek out certain information or they can give me a call personally to discuss their potential educational journey here at Torrens University in health, in public health.

H: What’s the main take away message that you want our audience to hear about this interview?

F: At Torrens University Australia we’re offering some really exciting programs across discipline and I’d be really think to discuss what we can offer in the field of public health for anybody who’s interested. It’s a really growing field and still where you can learn and interact with a variety of different people across different communities and on multiple levels from policy, to promotion, and advocacy, and communications. So I encourage anybody interested to seek out further information.

H: Awesome. Well that’s all our questions for today Dr. Katherine, it was a pleasure having you on the show.

F: It was a pleasure to speaking with you. Thank you very much for having me.

H: You’re welcome. And that was Dr. Katherine Faull of Torrens University Australia and we just finished talking about the public health concerns that Australia are currently facing and are about to face. If you are listening to this and if you want to listen to this again, you can go on www.hpr.fm and you can find us on Soundcloud and iTunes.

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