Monday, September 14, 2015

The Public Service has to do More with Less - Unquestionable?

So this is an email I just found that I sent to the NSW Public Service Commission general feedback email address on 30th November 2011  - with no response:

'Hi I have some feedback on the Workwise newsletter - actually its more a question..

In the newsletter it states:


All public sectors around the world are under pressure to deliver more services to the public with the same or fewer resources."
What does this mean?  What does the author intend by this statement?
Is this a statement that is meant to legitimise the provision of more services to the public with same or fewer resourcs as a normative position - because it is a"worldwide" phenomena?
Is the statement lamenting the requirement for provision of more services to the public with same or fewer services?
Should a public service commission provide sophisticated values-based analysis of contexts and question why this is happening world wide -  when it severely impacts upon the very services the commission is attempting to optimise?
How is it in the 21st century that the public service should be expected to receive less funding without questioning the moral and ethical implications of this statement and just accept it as a "given"?
thanks, Craig.'

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Contemplative Practice Workshop Primer for Public Health Congress

 So here is a primer for the Contemplative Practice in Public Health Workshop I will be running at the Public Health Congress in Hobart on Tuesday morning next week.

Hopefully this will help prepare everyone so we can get the maximum benefit from the workshop time together. The workshop will be approximately 1/3 theory and 2/3 practice.  Theory - how are the roots of contemplative practice found in Buddhism, Greco-Roman philosophy and Christian medieval practices relevant to the academy today? And what have I learned as a convenor of an undergraduate course on contemplative practice over the last 2 years.  But at least two thirds of the workshop will be experiential contemplative practice (starting with basic meditation which is the "container" that provides a safe space for potentially challenging contemplations).   The traditional contemplative practices have mostly been lost from western philosophical schools but were once the very basis of the academy - they have application in any professional field.  Public health practitioners have found the practices valuable for examining ethical issues, overcoming interpersonal conflicts in teams, and reflecting on the values they bring to public health.  I am happy to take any questions about the workshop via email (craig.dalton

So here is what can you do to prepare for the workshop (in order of importance):
  1. Watch this video by Mingyur Rinpoche on "What Meditation Really Is".  This video helpfully dispels many of the western misconceptions about meditation. Try practicing any simple meditation practice such as just watching your breath for 5 minutes per day based on the advice in this video.
  2. Choose a "problem" or challenge to use during the contemplation sessions - what's a good problem? Something that causes recurring discomfort - a problem with a coworker, a partner, an area of indecision, an ethical challenge in public health practice or conceptual conundrum. Bring it to the workshop.
  3. Consider reviewing the evaluation of the pilot program in 2012.
Look forward to meeting you in Hobart!

Brief one page description of the program I ran for our local population health unit:

Contemplative Practice in Public Health
This program was inspired by the incorporation of contemplative practice into programs at the Royal University of Bhutan observed by Dr Craig Dalton during his secondment to Bhutan in 2010.
There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening – Marshall Mcluhan
Public health practice is a highly complex and busy undertaking. We “do” many things that have far reaching societal impacts and make choices among an almost infinite number of public health activities. Rarely do we have the opportunity to stop and step back from the sweeping flow of this activity and reflect upon our role in it.  While contemplative practices are rooted in the religious and spiritual traditions, they have an important place in intellectual and ethical inquiry.  

The Contemplative Practice in Public Health at Hunter New England Population Health teaches practitioners:

·         Mindfulness based meditation as a support for contemplative practice

·         Analytical and Resting contemplative practice that alternates between conceptual and non-discursive contemplation

·         A practice to arouse and affirm our altruistic motivations as public health practitioners

·         A method to contemplate and explore the role of our own cognitive biases and ego-centric habits that create further complexity in an already complex world.

Feedback from participants of the program:
“After my first session I felt different, it gave me a different perspective on some things and I really found the concept of mindfulness (without wanting to sound over the top) life changing. I have enjoyed the “mind game” of stepping out of myself and watching how I am acting or speaking and thinking “would I like/ agree” with myself right now. I think this has altered my behavior both at home and at work. It has really helped me understand some colleagues and family members behaviours and altered how I interact with them, with I think, some really positive outcomes.” 

 “I am now looking at journal articles with an eye for underlying values, whether they are explicitly stated or not. The contemplative practice program has helped me to start to draw together the bits that have intrigued and bothered me over the years, it is another (large) step in the journey.”
“An excellent course. I think that it offered a taste test of a lot of complex issues and I would like to   spend more time on these topics/issues in the future.”

Monday, June 1, 2015

Housing Bubble identified by Google Trends ahead of commentators?

Error (title should read Google Trends, not Flu trends)
 First the disclaimer - I am a medical epidemiologist not a real estate data analyst, and no real experience analysing Google Trends data streams - although I did receive some insights into this when invited to Google in 2010 and left very impressed by their methods. (yes even Google Flu Trends). But draw your own conclusions from this graph - would you you invest now?  The search trend was skyrocketing in April - well ahead of todays surprise acknowledgement of the bubble by the Treasury Secretary John Fraser. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Flutracking breaks record of 23,000 responses per week in 2015

2015 has started as a big year for, we are receiving over 23,000 responses from across Australia every week (most within 24 hours of sending the Monday morning survey.  We are still seeing low level early season influenza activity at this stage. Please invite your friends and work colleagus to join. You can see the real time engagement on our website on a Monday morning here

Monday, January 5, 2015

How to investigate health and coal mining in the Hunter

Published an article Investigating the health impacts of particulates associated with coalmining in the Hunter Valley in Air Quality and Climate Change.
Particularly want to thank the authorship team and in particular C. Arden Pope III as senior author on the paper. Interestingly, some commentators on reading the paper alleged we were "pro-mining" but there was no dispute on the facts presented.  You only have to see how Republican politicians have attacked C. Arden Pope over the years and note my "Vote Green" election poster out front of the house to suggest we are unlikely to be biased towards mining.  Bias is dangerous - you build a house of cards and then you try to defend it.