Supporting All Aspects of Lung Health thru Australia-wide Awareness Activities and Advocacy [Interview][Transcript]

Guest: Heather Allan
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Heather has a strong background in public health awareness campaigns and in developing strategies to encourage people to look after their health. Before joining the Lung Foundation, Heather worked in various senior roles in public health in New Zealand. In addition to public health roles, she served for four years as the Executive Director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. She ran her own communications and strategic planning consultancy for five years with clients from a variety of sectors, including tourism, health and hospitals, fashion and local politics.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, let us learn more about the national organisation Lung Foundation Australia and how they educate people on lung health thru their awareness and advocacy campaigns. We are joined by Heather Allan, the Chief Executive Officer for Lung Foundation Australia and she brings a wealth of business, public health promotion and advocacy knowledge to the role. She has worked for the Lung Foundation since 2005, initially as Director of the COPD National Program before becoming the Director of Marketing and Health Strategy.


Health Professional Radio

Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar. My guest today is Heather Allan the CEO of Lung Foundation Australia. And Heather joins us today to tell us about the work of the foundation, hello to you Heather.

Heather Allan: Hello, thank you for having me.

W: It’s a pleasure to have you on with us. Tell us about Lung Foundation Australia.

H: Well Lung Foundation Australia is a national not-for-profit. And our job is to make lung health a priority in Australia. In Australia we are all conditioned to things about a heart health, our breast health, our skin health but were not thinking about our lung health and we know this and this is when we surveyed our patients at the community, we know there are about 37% have never or rarely seen about their lungs. So this means that for many people they may be missing early symptoms of lung disease and not seeking medical advice and therefore taking important sets to manage their condition. But were also not just about awareness, we are here for patient once they are diagnosed with a lung disease by being credible source of information resources for anyone with any lung disease or anyone who maybe concerned about their lung health.

W: Now Heather you’re an Australian wide organization?

H: We are Australian wide. We are based in Brisbane but we offer services nationally. We offer services for people with lung disease, by being a one stop shop if you will. We want people to call us on our 1800 number and contact us via our website which is or through our email information link. And we’re here to provide information whether it’s a small flyer on a lung air-condition right through to a complete guide on how to manage and live with chronic lung disease.

W: Now Heather you mentioned the 1800 number, can you give it to me while are people thinking about it?

H: Yes it’s 1800 654 301.

W: I just thought we should mention that since it came up with the website. Now a friend of mine who dealt a lot with as a surgeon with lung cancer said “If lungs on the outside instead of the inside, no one would ever smoke ever again.” I can understand why you say that our lung health doesn’t kind of rate highly. What’s the message that you’d like clinicians to take away from hearing you today?

H: Well clinicians who are listening should consider the Lung Foundation as a secondary support to them and their patients. People living with a lung disease or a lung condition live with that condition every single day of their life. They may see their specialist once every 6, 9 months. They might see their GP once every 2 or 3 months but the Lung Foundation is here to support those patient to live everyday with their condition. And our job is to empower those patients by making sure that we understand their lung condition by providing education about how the lungs work and about the various air conditions that are out there. And importantly the very critical role that the patient has in managing their lung disease. They can learn tips how to handle symptoms of lung disease and breathlessness and cough, understand how to recognize their condition might be worsening and when it’s important to seek medical attention. What puts on how to live and exercise with their lung condition exercise is an important element for most people with chronic lung disease, to ensure that they get the best quality of life that they can with their condition and improve their strength and ability to carry out their activities of daily living.

W: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and my guest today is Heather Allan. Heather is the CEO of Lung Foundation Australia and we’ve just been discussing the role of Lung Foundation Australia. Heather is there a formal referral process or can patients self-refer can in fact clinicians or staff just pass your number onto patients or is there a referral process needed?

H: There is no referral process needed at all. And in fact there is a message we give to clinicians who maybe are listening is to ask their patients have they call the Lung Foundation yeah? Call the lung foundation on 1800-654301 and find out about local services that might be available to that patient. The Lung Foundation has exercise programs around the country called the “Lungs in Action” that we can put patients in touch with, put them on rehab programs, offer assistance community services that will be available to patients. So encourage your patient to call the Lung Foundation and find out what’s available for them.

W: Now Heather I notice on your website the Lung Health Alliance, can you talk to us about that for a moment?

H: Yes, they’re a number of organizations that work in lung disease and lung health space – the Asthma Foundation, the Thoracic Society which is a professional body, a Cystic Fibrosis and of course the Lung Foundation. Lung Health Alliance was designed to bring us all together so that we can fit with a lot of ways, particularly with government. In past times where we would all be going to government and speaking to them about our particular areas and government for getting a little confused about the messages coming to them. So the Lung Health Alliance is designed to get us all working together and speaking together to increase government support for lung disease across. And in particular one of the issues that we have gone together with is to support money coming into research into lung disease.

W: Yes, it is a fact of life whether we like it or not that government does like to deal with high level bodies and as sure as if possible if it can.

H: Well that’s right and while the Lung Health Alliance isn’t another body – we work very careful not to create another body – it was an opportunity for us to all work together understand what our priority are and where our priority think that we work together on those issues.

W: Now Heather my favorite question in every interview is about misconceptions. There’s misconceptions in everyone’s work and in every field. What’s the biggest misconception you find amongst clients, patients, clinicians, the people you work with about your field that drive you nuts and keep you awake at night?

H: I guess that really drives me nuts and keeps me awake at night is the stigma that they’re always living with lung disease at least every day. There is a perception in the wider community that lung disease is smoking related and therefore somehow not worthy of support whether government support, community donations or even media coverage. And there are two things I’d like to say about that, firstly no one deserves lung disease. Secondly an important thing to say that there are many chronic diseases that in fact I would argue that most chronic diseases have a lifestyle aspect to them. People have made a lifestyle choice that have affected their chronic condition. In fact I don’t think they face the same level of stigma that I know our lung disease patients face every day. The other important thing to say is that not all lung diseases are lifestyle related. Thirty percent of women with lung cancer had never smoked, about 10-30% of those who have COPD have never smoked. And there are probably 30 rare lung diseases that affect children and clearly have never smoked. So it’s important that lung disease doesn’t discriminate with an equal opportunity … that affect young or smoker, non-smokers. So if I could change something I think would be the level of stigma that is out there for our people who are diagnosed with lung disease.

W: Let’s hope that we’ve help with that misconception just a little bit today with our audience. Heather let’s mention the website and the phone number again because I’m always getting into trouble for not giving people time to get their pencils ready when I mention phone numbers and websites. So fair warning listeners, the website again Heather was?


W: And the phone number?

H: 1800-654 301

W: Thank you for that Heather and it’s been a pleasure having you with us today. It’s very clearly a subject about which you’re passionate. I can hear the passion in your voice when you speak. So thank you for your passion on behalf of patients and thank you for your time.

H: Thank you very much Wayne.

W: My name is Wayne Bucklar. If you just missed my conversation, I’ve been in conversation with Heather Allan. Heather is the CEO of Lung Foundation Australia and we’ve been talking about the work of the Foundation. But the good news is there’s a transcript available on our website at or you can listen to the SoundCloud archive or the YouTube archive. Both of which are available from our website, search for Lung Foundation Australia and you’d be able to listen to whole interview again. You’re listening to Health Professional Radio, my name is Wayne Bucklar.

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