Fulbright to give Australian health policy a physical

Carol Weissert Fulbright 2016_FlindersWP
Professor Carol Weissert will examine how federal, state and other influencers interact to decide Australia’s health policy.

So how does Australia work out its health priorities? Who gets what, why do they get it, and who are the key influencers? Does the State or Federal government have the final say? And where do lobbyists and big pharma come in? Who’s really in charge?

Trying to understand how health priorities and funding are decided in a Federal system can often be more confusing than enlightening, but Flinders University’s new Fulbright Distinguished Chair, Professor Carol Weissert, has the credentials to tackle one of the trickiest areas of politics.

Professor Weissert, head of the LeRoy Collins Institute for Public Policy at Florida State University and former head of the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, will spend a year at Flinders unravelling the complex interplay between State and Federal Governments that eventually decides who gets what, and who pays for it.

At first glance it might not sound like one of the most exciting areas of research, but considering the huge implications of the decisions made about our healthcare, it is undoubtedly one of the most important.

And given the relative simplicity of Australia’s system, with just sixteen states and territories – compared to 50 in the United States, on which Professor Weissert is a leading expert – there’s a fair chance she might just come up with some profound answers.

Her prowess has been recognised with a Daniel J. Elazar Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations, the Donald Stone Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Intergovernmental Relations, and she is a former president of the Southern Political Science Association.

A prolific writer, Professor Weissert is co-author of Governing Health: The Politics of Health Policy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 4th Edition), serves on the editorial boards of four journals, including the American Political Science Review, and was editor of the international journal on federalism, Publius, for ten years.

Speaking in her office at Flinders University’s Bedford Park campus, she says she is particularly interested in how changes in leadership and polarisation in Australian politics have affected our health policy.

“How Federal and State governments cooperate and coordinate has been an area of great interest to me for a long time,” said Professor Weissert.

“I want to look at how health policy is developed in Australia by examining the relationships within government and trying to understand how changes over the past decade in political leadership and partisanship in Australia have changed them.

“I’m particularly interested in hyper partisanship and how that might be affecting health policy, and I want to learn about the role of intergovernmental groups in representing states’ interests at national/Commonwealth level.”

Professor Weissert will make presentations at universities across Australia during her year at Flinders.

She will also travel to meet many of the key players in Australian health policy.

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