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Political Economy of Health SIG Workshop

Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre
10:00am to 4:00pm
Keynote Speakers to be announced 
Power, privilege and priorities: Decolonising Political Economy of Health
Capitalism and corporate interests have been a major driver of colonialism from the 18th to 21st centuries which has led to increasing inequalities in economic development and health between and within countries. Military imperialism of the past is giving way to more sophisticated, digital ways for the ‘colonialists’ to control us. Control is also exercised by the stories and narratives that we are exposed to and that we take to be the ‘truth’.

Even as public health practitioners we are caught up by, and our practice and behaviours are influenced by, these narratives. Does this mean that any political economy of health approach that is in opposition to corporate interests is inherently decolonised? Or does the colonial mindset still shape the way that we characterise, prioritise and address public health challenges? If we seek to achieve a truly equitable future, how do we prioritise decolonisation to address the injustices of the past and ensure that we don’t perpetuate the same mistakes?


This interactive workshop aims to provide attendees with an opportunity to hear and engage with diverse perspectives to generate genuinely reflective, critical and challenging discussions on the past, present and future of colonialism in public health, particularly the political economy of health.

Questions to be considered:

  • How has public health been complicit in colonial practices of the past? How does colonial framing contribute to the way public health is researched and practiced in the present?

  • How might this framing influence how we approach local and global public health issues with a political economy lens?

  • How do we examine, reflect and correct this in the future?

  • How do we ensure that our approaches do not further disempower, drive inequities, or exacerbate power imbalance?

  • What is the current agenda for a political economy of health approach? Who sets the agenda? Who should set the agenda? 

  • What can we learn from the successes in public health in the Global North to improve our contribution to justice within countries?

  • How do we reconcile the tension between the public health advancement and adverse externalities of economic growth, when we have been the beneficiaries thus far?

  • What should we do differently to ensure that voices and knowledge of the colonised are empowered and valued?


Ahead of the Commerce, Economy, Trade and Public Health Conference, this workshop will explore these ideas and questions to provide a critical lens to take into the Conference and into future research, policy and advocacy.

FACE-TO-FACE ATTENDANCE ONLY - Registration is a must; spaces are limited

Workshop registration cost: $30 PEH-SIG members, $50 others, $15 concession/student


Click HERE to register for the PEH-SIG workshop on Sunday 17 November

9:00am to 10:30am

Opening Plenary - 'Public health's role in commercial and economic systems'

  • Welcome to Country 

  • Introductory Remarks by Adj. Prof. Terry Slevin, CEO, PHAA

  • Conference Welcome by VicHealth, sole partner of the Commerce, Economy, Trade and Public Health Conference 

  • Conference Opening - TBC

Session Chair: Prof. Anne-Marie Thow, The University of Sydney
Keynote Presentations:

  • Prof. Ronald LabontéProfessor Emeritus, University of Ottawa

  • Prof. Sharon Friel, Professor of Health Equity, Director, Menzies Centre for Health Governance, Australian National University.

10:30am to 11:00am - Morning Tea & Exhibition

11:00am to 12:30pm

Concurrent Session 1 

  • 1A - TBC

  • 1B - TBC

  • 1C - TBC

  • 1D - TBC

12:30pm to 1:30pm - Lunch & Exhibition

1:30pm to 3:00pm

Workshops - Concurrent Session 2

2A – Pandemic preparedness and response, and health equity
Facilitated by: A/Prof. Deborah Gleeson, Professor Kelley Lee, Professor Fran Baum AO

Target Audience: Public health academics, practitioners and advocates interested in the health equity issues associated with pandemic preparedness and response at global and national levels.

Learning Outcomes:  Understand the health equity dimensions of pandemic preparedness and response at global and national levels; Discuss and analyse case studies of health inequities associated with the COVID-19 response; Identify and develop strategies for more equitable pandemic preparedness and response; Network with others interested in the health equity issues associated with pandemic preparedness and response at global and national levels

About: This workshop will explore the global and national health equity dimensions of pandemic preparedness and response, focusing on case studies from the COVID-19 pandemic. It draws on research on the political economy of COVID-19 responses (including the political actors impacts on pandemic responses) and their health equity outcomes, including access to medical products and technologies, travel measures/border management, and other aspects of global and national COVID-19 policies. Following presentations of key research, participants will discuss case studies and collaborate on developing strategies in small groups. The workshop will bring together researchers, practitioners and advocates who want to see more equitable responses to future pandemics, to review the evidence on health equity impacts, and inform strategies and planning for future events.

2B Social movement responses to the impact of trade and investment agreements on public health
Facilitated by: Dr Patricia Ranald, Dr Mary Assunta and Dr David Legge

Target Audience: Health professionals, policy makers, academics, advocates, students

Learning Outcomes: understanding of the nature of trade agreements and the impacts on public health regulation; identifying power structures and actors influencing trade agreements and public health regulation; identifying government decision-makers; understanding of advocacy organisations, building alliances and how to influence decision-makers.

About: This interactive workshop will discuss case how trade and investment agreements can restrict regulation that affects public health, including regulation of tobacco, environmental pollution and reduction of carbon emissions, and how social movements can influence governments to reduce such restrictions to ensure that governments can regulate to address changing health and environmental needs.


2C – It’s all about the money: unpacking key actors and practices behind financialisation
Facilitated by: A/Prof. Ashley Schram, Prof. Sharon Friel
Target Audience: Public health academics, practitioners and advocates interested in advancing and implementing knowledge on the role of finance and financialisation in shaping human health and health equity, and those more generally interested in learning more about this emerging area of research.
Learning Outcomes: Understanding what financialisation is; Understanding how financialisation drives human health and health equity; State of the research, particularly in relation to the evolution of actors and practices; Networking with others who are interested and engaged to advance research and action.
About: Join us in an exciting session dedicated to exploring the relationships between financialisation, human health, and health equity. As financialisation increasingly permeates global economic systems, understanding the network of stakeholders and mechanisms behind its expansion is essential. This workshop will open with an introduction to key actors and processes driving financialisation and their implications for health outcomes. This will be followed by a more detailed exploration of specific trajectories and practices. This workshop will foster collaborative engagement and participatory dialogue. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in scholarly discourse, cultivate interdisciplinary networks, and support the advancement of a research agenda on financialisation and health equity.

3:00pm to 3:30pm - Afternoon Tea & Exhibition

3:30pm to 5:00pm

Plenary 2  - 'Mobilising health agendas in economic policy spaces'

Session Chair: A/Prof. Ashley Schram

Keynote Presentations:

  • Dr Benn McGrady, Director, O’Neill Institute Initiative on Trade, Investment and Health, Adjunct Professor Georgetown University Law Center.

  • Dr Bronwyn King, Founder, Director and CEO, Tobacco Free Portfolios

  • Ms Ana Novik, Head of investment, OECD

  • Dr Michelle Maloney, Co-Founder and Director, NENA

6:00pm to 10:00pm

STREAT is one of Australia’s leading hospitality social enterprises. This is the event to attend, make connections new and old and widen your networks. Substantial items that guests can eat while standing and interacting will be provided. Non-alcoholic beverages will be provided throughout the night. Alcoholic beverages will be available to purchase.
Tickets available for SALE during registration - $95.00 pp (inc. gst)

9:00am to 10:30am

Plenary 3  - 'Commercial determinants and strengthening governance for health'

Session Chair: Ms Cass de Lacy-Vawdon

Keynote Presenters:
Prof. Kelley Lee, Canada Research Chair Tier 1 in Global Health Governance

Ms Jennifer Lacy-Nichols, Commercial Determinants of Health Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne

Presenter 3 - TBC

10:30am to 11:00am - Morning Tea & Exhibition

11:00am to 12:30pm

Concurrent Session 3

  • 3A - TBC

  • 3B - TBC

  • 3C - TBC

  • 3D - TBC

12:30pm to 1:30pm - Lunch & Exhibition

1:30pm to 3:00pm

Workshops - Concurrent Session 4

4A - Workshop on safeguarding health in international investment agreements

Facilitated by: Prof Anne Marie Thow, University of Sydney, Ms Diana Rosert, UN Trade and Development, Prof Wolfgang Alschner, University of Ottawa, Prof Alan Winters, UK Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy, Dr Alison Tedstone, WHO-European Region and Mr Thien Hoang, Monash University.

Target Audience: Public health academics, practitioners and advocates interested in the interface between health and international investment treaties, and opportunities for action at global and national levels.

Learning Outcomes: Understand the role of health safeguards in international investment treaties; Discuss and analyse case studies of health safeguards; Identify and develop strategies for ensuring that investment treaties better protect and promote public health; Network with others interested in strengthening action on health and investment treaties at global and national levels.

About: International Investment Agreements (IIAs) form parts of efforts by governments to attract foreign investment. However, industry actors have used them to dispute health policy measures in critical areas, including tobacco control and access to medicines. Governments find themselves caught between the interests of the investors (companies), and the health of their citizens. The World Health Organization has recommended that health safeguards be built into IIAs. However, their adoption has been limited and inconsistent.

This workshop will present new evidence on: 1) best-practice options to successfully safeguard health in IIAs, and 2) strategies for public health actors to support the inclusion of health safeguards in future IIAs. The workshop will include facilitated discussion on opportunities for investment policy to better enable and protect the adoption of strong health policy measures at the national level, and how public health actors can strategically encourage inclusion of health safeguards in IIAs.


4B - Commercial determinants of health and conflicts of interest

Facilitated by: Dr Belinda Townsend, Dr Katherine Cullerton, Prof. Barbara Mintzes
Target Audience: Practitioners, researchers, health promotion and organisation staff
Learning Outcomes: Drawing on the research results that will be presented at the workshop and on the planned discussions, the three learning objectives of the workshop are to: Identify how conflict of interest is conceptualised in international settings and in Australia in regard to commercial actors and health; Understand current challenges and tensions faced by Australian health, consumer, and patient groups in regard to managing engagement with commercial actors; Develop capacity to be better equipped to identify, prevent and/or manage conflicts of interest.
About:  While there has been much focus on how commercial actors influence and interfere in health policymaking and practice, less attention has been paid to how health organisations, researchers, and patient groups are managing their engagement with the broad suite of commercial actors that influence population health.
This workshop draws on research projects with

  1. Australian health organisations on how they are managing engagement with commercial actors particularly in the areas of alcohol and ultra-processed foods.

  2. Population nutrition researchers and a new toolkit for identifying, preventing, and managing COI in research activities; and

  3. How patient and consumer groups are navigating this landscape particularly in pharmaceutical policy.

The overarching aim of the workshop is to explore current tensions and challenges for organisations, researchers, and the public, and identify good practice internationally and locally, including potential tools that can be adapted and developed to assist the public health community.

4C – Workshop on wellbeing economies and alternative economies

Co-Facilitated by: VicHealth, Mount Alexander Shire Council and Castlemaine Institute

Target Audience: Community leaders and local government executives and economy, culture and wellbeing staff

Learning Outcomes: What are the key wellbeing economy concepts and principles?; How have wellbeing economy concepts been applied in a Victorian rural local government context (with learnings generally applicable to Australian place-based work); Reflect with others on the possibility of wellbeing economy in your own local community(s)

About: What is a wellbeing economy? And how does this apply to local communities in Australia? Hear from a rural local government team who have embarked on a wellbeing economic development strategy journey about how they have applied wellbeing economy concepts to their strategy development process and what they have learned along the way. Bring your questions and ideas about what a wellbeing economy might look like for your community (where you live and where you work). Share your ideas and reflections with others as we explore place-based systems change for health and wellbeing in 2024 and beyond. Facilitated by Mount Alexander Shire Council and the Castlemaine Institute Wellbeing Economy Team.

3:00pm to 3:30pm - Afternoon Tea & Exhibition

3:30pm to 5:00pm

Closing Plenary - 'Moving forward in research and action'

Session Chair: A/Prof. Deborah Gleeson
Keynote Presenters:
Mr Jason Mifsud

Dr Fabio Gomes, Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, PAHO/WHO

Professor Fran Baum AO, Professor of health equity, The Stretton Institute, The University of Adelaide, Australia

Conference Close

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