A paper calling for a renewed focus on skin cancer prevention in Australia and another on lessons from three waves of the COVID-19 pandemic have been honoured in this year’s PHRP Excellence Awards.
The awards celebrate outstanding papers that have been published in the last 12 months in Public Health Research & Practice, a peer-reviewed journal of the Sax Institute, and independently ranked Australia’s leading health policy journal.
This year’s Best Paper Award went to a team from Cancer Council Victoria and Cancer Council Queensland led by Heather Walker, until recently Head of SunSmart, for their March 2022 paper (published early online in November 2021) reporting on a decade-long lack of national investment in skin cancer prevention in Australia and calling for a renewed government focus on prevention.
Skin cancer prevention offers strong economic benefits, the authors noted. Prevention programs have been estimated to deliver a return on investment of $3.20 per dollar spent, while recent modelling suggests investment in skin cancer prevention could save up to $363 million per year over the next 10 years, based on current population figures, compared with no investment.
“Excitingly, since we published this paper, the Australian Government has invested in the first national skin cancer prevention campaign in over a decade,” said Ms Walker upon receiving the Award.
“But investment in prevention needs to be sustained to have the most impact. We urge the Australian Government to commit to ongoing, long-term funding for mass-media campaigns and population monitoring and for state governments to mandate an evidence-based sun protection policy in secondary schools. Taken together, these measures have the potential to prevent skin cancers and save lives.”
The judging panel commented that the paper attracted a high level of reader engagement, and made an important contribution to efforts to raise awareness of the significant burden of skin cancer in Australia and the need for ongoing public health messaging about sun protection.
The Award for Best ‘In Practice’ Paper – which specifically recognises work authored by frontline practitioners – was won by a team led by Dr Adam Capon from the Public Health Unit of the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, on the lessons learned from the public health response to successive waves of COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic.
Published in September 2021, the paper examined the local operational aspects of the COVID-19 response during the three initial waves of the disease in NSW, in January, July and December 2020. The authors found that a combination of high levels of testing, rapid contact tracing, genomic sequencing and targeted shutdowns were the essential ingredients needed to successfully control these pandemic waves.
“Although we’re now in a very different policy space compared to 2020 – where we’re living with the virus rather than trying to eliminate it from the population – the fundamental principles we learnt with regard to keeping safe and stopping the spread remain the same,” said Dr Capon.
Faced with the challenge of future waves of the virus, he said we are far better placed now than we were at the beginning of the pandemic, thanks to the experiences and strategies outlined in the paper.
“We have a strong system of detection through testing that can be rolled out on a large scale. We have skilled people with real-life experience in pandemic management who can use this experience to inform and form policy, and we have good evidence regarding the behaviour of the virus and actions we can take to stay safe and limit transmission.”
Congratulating the winners, Editor-in-Chief of Public Health Research & Practice Professor Don Nutbeam said the winning papers demonstrated how well-targeted, high-quality public health research can intersect with policy and practice in a way that has a positive impact on Australians’ health and wellbeing.
“Although both papers originate from Australian experience, they have relevance to public health research and practice internationally, which is reflected in a growing international subscriber base for our journal,” he commented.
The awards for Best Paper and Best ‘In Practice’ Paper celebrate excellence in public health research, practice and policy, and recognise inspirational work taking place in Australia. Papers are judged by a panel of the journal’s Editorial Board members 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
- Forty years of Slip! Slop! Slap! A call to action on skin cancer prevention for Australia
(10 March 2022)
Heather Walker, Clover Maitland, Tamara Tabbakh, Paige Preston, Melanie Wakefield, Craig Sinclair
Best ‘In Practice’ Paper
- Bondi and beyond. Lessons from three waves of COVID-19 from 2020 (8 September 2021)
Adam Capon, Vicky Sheppeard, Nicolas Gonzalez, Jenny Draper, Alice Zhu, Maria Browne, Eleanor Sullivan, Milica Mihajlovic, Rebecca Rockett, Mark J Ferson
Highly commended – best papers
- Learning to live with COVID-19 in Australia: time for a new approach (8 September 2021)
Catherine M Bennett
- Alcohol brands’ use of age-restriction controls on Facebook and Instagram in Australia (15 June 2022)
Hannah Pierce, Abbie-Clare Vidler, Julia Stafford, Danica Keric
- Sometimes they’re gammin, playing tricks, but sometimes it’s ears.’ The perspectives of urban parents and carers of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on their journey to diagnosis of persistent ear health and hearing problems (2 December 2021)
Samantha F Harkus, Kylie AJ Caso, Sharron T Hall, Carmen Kung, Toni N Manton, Sarah J Murthy, Giselle AL Olive, Trumaine M Rankmore, Nikkita L Roberts, Meagan L Ward, Kelvin M Kong
Highly commended – ‘In practice’ papers
- NSW Health COVID-19 Emergency Response Priority Research program: a case study of rapid translation of research into health decision making (10 November 2021)
Danielle Campbell, Barry Edwards, Andrew Milat, Sarah Thackway, Elizabeth Whittaker, Laura Goudswaard, Michelle Cretikos, Antonio Penna, Kerry Chant
- Changes in US hearing aid regulations: possible benefits and risks to Australia (2 December 2021)
Amber Willink, Nicholas S Reed, Isabelle Boisvert, Catherine M McMahon, Frank R Lin