About the Barwon South West Public Health Unit
The Barwon South West Public Health Unit (BSW PHU) is one of nine local public health units established across the state. Led by its director, Professor Eugene Athan, the BSW PHU supports the region that spans from Greater Geelong to the South Australian border and north to the Southern Grampians region.
Initially, the BSW PHU is focused on COVID-19 preparedness, response, and vaccination, then it will move into other key areas of communicable diseases, such as blood-borne viruses including viral hepatitis, HIV, STIs, and food-borne diseases.
A message from the Director
Professor Eugene Athan Director, Dept of Infectious Disease at Barwon Health since 2004 and since 2019 has led the Barwon South West Public Health Unit as Director. He has held professorial positions at Deakin University and University of Melbourne since 2007. In 2018, he was appointed Level E tenured Prof. of Inf. Disease at Deakin School of Medicine.
His qualifications include: MBBS Hons at Monash University 1989, FRACP in Infectious Disease 1998, Masters in Public Health Majors in Epidemiology of CDC and Health Economics at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 2007, Doctorate in Medicine thesis “Modern Epidemiology and Infective Endocarditis” at Monash University 2015. Prof. Athan has co-authored over 180 papers with over 3,600 citations. He is a key member of many professional healthcare and ID societies, Co-Founder for the Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases (GCEID) and Co-director of the Australian Rickettsial reference lab.
Here Professor Athan talks about the purpose and future of the BSW PHU:
The success of Barwon Health’s COVID-19 contact tracing team showed we have the capability to oversee the Barwon South West region’s long term public health needs.
The State Government has invested in nine Local Public Health Units to manage response efforts at a local level, allowing us to refocus resources around a regional approach to COVID-19, and eventually other important diseases that will lead to improved public health in Victoria.
Initially, our local Public Health Unit is focused on COVID-19 preparedness, response, and vaccination, then we will move into other key areas of communicable diseases, such as blood-borne viruses including: viral hepatitis, HIV, STIs, and food-borne diseases.
It will be essential to build a holistic public health model in our region that tackles chronic diseases including lifestyle-related, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and potentially, mental health, drugs and alcohol. We need to align with the needs of the community and across the wider Barwon South West region.
We have a rare opportunity to widely improve the public health of an entire region, particularly those facing disadvantages, and to do this, we will need to undertake genuine stakeholder engagement with local health services, local government, and communities throughout the region.
Ultimately, we’re here to serve those communities, so we need to communicate well and, network extensively to understand the local needs, with face-to-face visits and staff based across the region. Starting with the challenge of a COVID-19 vaccination will be a true test for this new Public Health Unit model, but I am confident we can work with each community in the Barwon South West region to deliver improved public health that benefits everyone.
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Last Modified: Thursday, 21 July 2022