Media release: 11 November 2020.

The awards celebrate outstanding papers that have recently been published in the Sax Institute’s open-access, peer-reviewed, quarterly online journal, Public Health Research & Practice.

An influential research paper on the “revolving door” between government and the alcohol, food and gambling industries and another on a highly successful obesity prevention program in schools have been honoured in this year’s PHRP Excellence Awards.

This year’s Best Paper Award went to Narelle Robertson, Associate Professor Gary Sacks and Professor Peter Miller from Deakin University for their work that explores the “revolving door” phenomenon, where people move between positions in government to lobbying roles for the alcohol, food and gambling industries. Their research found that over a third of people registered on the Australian Government Register of Lobbyists had previously been government representatives, and their lobbying work was often in areas directly related to their previous government role.  

The revolving door phenomenon favours industry interests by enhancing insider knowledge and providing access to policy makers through personal ties, the paper’s authors said. They pointed to delays in implementing alcohol warning labels and the lack of gambling reform despite strong public support as examples of where industry influence has undermined evidence-based public health policy.

“We urgently need a rethink on how we regulate this, and how long former government officials should have to wait before moving on to lobbying roles,” said senior author Professor Miller.

Publication of the paper sparked interest in policymaking circles and generated significant media coverage, with interviews and articles in the Guardian, The Australian, Fairfax newspapers and ABC programs.

The Award for Best ‘In Practice’ Paper – which specifically recognises work authored by frontline practitioners – was won by a team led by Andrea Bravo, Senior Policy Officer at the NSW Ministry of Health, for their work on the Live Life Well @ School program. This is a statewide, whole-of-school initiative which aims to encourage and support NSW primary school students and their families in adopting healthy eating and physical activity behaviours.

The paper reports on the achievements of the program, based on adoption of ten evidence-based “desirable practices”. These include providing opportunities and a supportive environment for healthy eating, encouragement of physical activity during recess and lunch, and incorporation of the program’s strategies into school planning processes. The authors found over 80% of primary schools across NSW were participating in the program, with equitable reach in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and remote location. Around three-quarters of participating schools had adopted desirable practices.

“Live Life Well @ School is a fantastic example of partnership between Local Health Districts and the schools sector to improve childhood health,” said senior author Chris Rissel, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney.

“Our paper shows the importance of having evidence-based goals and good monitoring data for these kinds of projects. The data aspects of the program are a key strength for stakeholders: it really inspires confidence if you can clearly demonstrate improvements and log changes over time.”

Congratulating the winners, Editor-in-Chief of Public Health Research & Practice Professor Don Nutbeam said the work of the two teams, in their different ways, shows how research can make a meaningful contribution to public health policy and practice.

“The winners of these awards, along with those who have been highly commended for their contribution to the journal, are doing work that could end up having a long-term impact on Australians’ health and wellbeing,” he said.

“We are lucky to have researchers of this calibre in our midst, and I look forward to seeing how they and their peers will continue to shape Australia’s future public health landscape.”

The awards for Best Paper and Best ‘In Practice’ Paper celebrate excellence in public health research, practice and policy, and recognise the inspirational work taking place in Australia. The judging panel, comprising members of the Journal’s Editorial Board, judges papers for their potential impact on public health policy and practice, usefulness to policy makers, researchers and public health practitioners, rigour of methodology and quality of analysis and presentation.

Winning and highly commended papers

Best Paper

The revolving door between government and the alcohol, food and gambling industries in Australia (September 2019)
Narelle M Robertson, Gary Sacks, Peter G Miller

Best ‘In Practice’ Paper

The equitable reach of a universal, multisector childhood obesity prevention program (Live Life Well @ School) in Australian primary school (March 2020)
Andrea Bravo, Bridget C Foley, Christine Innes-Hughes, Blythe J O’Hara, Bronwyn McGill, Chris Rissel

Highly commended – best papers

On a knife’s edge of a COVID-19 pandemic: is containment still possible? (March 2020)
C Raina MacIntyre

Developing a screening tool to recognise social determinants of health in Australian clinical setting (December 2019)
Kathryn Browne-Yung, Toby Freeman, Malcolm Battersby, Doug R McEvoy, Fran Baum

Highly commended – ‘In practice’ papers

Proliferation of ‘healthy’ alcohol products in Australia: implications for policy (September 2019)
Danica Keric, Julia Stafford

The Intervention Scalability Assessment Tool: a pilot study assessing five interventions for scalability (June 2020)
Karen Lee, Andrew Milat, Anne Grunseit, Kathleen Conte, Luke Wolfenden, Adrian Bauman

About the PHRP Excellence Awards

Launched in 2018, these awards celebrate the high calibre of articles published in Public Health Research & Practice – an open-access, peer-reviewed, Medline-listed quarterly online journal published by the Sax Institute. All papers considered for the 2019 awards have appeared in an issue of the Public Health Research & Practice journal published within the past year.

Media enquiries

Hugo Wilcken, Media Manager, Sax Institute
M: 0451 122 146 E: hugo.wilckent@saxinstitute.org.au

Nyssa Skilton, PHRP Editor
M: 0408 331 262 E: nyssa.skilton@saxinstitute.org.au

Please acknowledge Public Health Research & Practice as the source for any stories on our papers.

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