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Barwon Health / Barwon South West Public Health Unit

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Public Health Priorities

The Barwon South West Public Health Unit (BSWPHU) is led by Professor Eugene Athan OAM. Here, Professor Athan talks about the purpose and future of the BSWPHU:

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.

Last Modified: Friday, 18 March 2022