The societal impact being led by Health


Part 1 of the 2 part interview: Kevin Hardy talks with Danny O’ Connor, Chief Executive of Western Sydney Local Health District. Having moved beyond the challenges, Danny explains what failure would look like and how the Western Sydney population has changed.

Kevin: What do you see as the role of Western Sydney LHD in societal changes?

Danny: While delivery of public healthcare is important to making a contribution to the society of Western Sydney, it’s also a significant leverage point with other partners who have the potential to impact on what can be and should be a healthy society. A society where people understand what it means to eat well, exercise well, be mobile and make the right choices for our lifestyle. Where we work in collaboration with local government and indeed the private sector around urban design. Where we work with local transport to make sure people have options for the way they move around. Our role is to provide healthcare, but is also to work with others to contribute to a healthy society.

Kevin: (1.52) The broad definition of Health is about societal impact. People can be healthy in lots of ways, whether it’s through the housing they have, through the fact they have employment or whether they have access to the sorts of services Western Sydney can provide in the future. So, it’s a point in time to be captured – The New Frontier, and Western Sydney LHD is part of the Starship Enterprise.

Kevin: (2.38) What do you think your biggest challenges are as you go forward?

Danny: I don’t think so much in terms of challenges. Its how would I imagine failure? If I think about challenges, I think we’ve moved beyond that. Because the challenges some time ago were:

  • How do we make a good connection with others that we need to be in partnership with, to impacton decisions that need to be made on creating the conditions for a more healthy place? Those connections, those relationships and their partnerships are in place and are very strong now. And that collaboration is already occurring.

So for me, how do we imagine failure? I imagine failure from the point of view of us collectively failing around:

  • Good urban design
  • Around the involvement of the commercial retail sector in a program which articulates and helps individuals incorporate in their lives an understanding of healthy choices and healthy lifestyle.
  • Where we collectively help people collectively understand that if they make certain choices around lifestyle over a certain period of time they will be highly likely one day be in one of the ambulances that comes to one of my hospitals. Where at this stage, about 2/3 of the ambulances that come to my hospitals come because of lifestyle related illnesses.

Kevin: (4.24) How will the population (of Western Sydney) change over the next 10 years?

Danny: The population has changed immensely over the last 10 years and is going to change over the next 10. A lot of people have in their mind the population of Western Sydney being somewhat less educated, a somewhat less wealthy population and somewhat heavily mobile for the purpose of employment. So much of that has changed. We have a very significant distribution of income in Western Sydney. We still have a number of the population on lower income – salaries and wages. We have a lot of people who are on higher salaries and wages. In parts of Western Sydney we have some of the highest private insurance rates in Australia.

We have a lot more people working locally although we need a lot more people working locally and we have significant numbers employed in Western Sydney, educated in Western Sydney and a whole lot of people who are enrolled in institutions such as Sydney University, Western Sydney University, who in fact live in the west of Sydney.