Friday, July 8, 2016
Laos - Janet and Andrew Michelmore: championing women’s health
Janet Michelmore uses a mining analogy to explain the sometimes frustrating aspect of promoting preventative solutions for women’s health.
“It is like an investment in a mine. There is always a long lead time before you get a reward.’’
That the executive director of the not-for-profit Jean Hailes for Women’s Health organisation uses a mining analogy is no surprise. Her husband, Andrew, is chief executive of MMG, the fast-growing Melbourne-based and Chinese-controlled global miner.
Andrew is also chairman of Jean Hailes, co-founded in 1992 by Janet in honour of her late mother, a pioneering doctor whose core tenet was that women’s health could be improved by the provision of practical information based on the best available evidence. “Everyone needs a trusted authority. And that’s where Jean Hailes wants to be,’’ Janet tells The Australian.
Andrew got involved with the organisation by initially helping out as a proofreader of its publications and documentation.
“In 1996, the first chair resigned and I agreed to fill in for six months. And here I still am,’’ he says. “What I see at the board level is these world-renowned clinicians and researchers handling the technical side of it, which I have no input into. But I can bring the commercial side to things, things like administration, human resources, legal advice, and so on.’’
He identifies a big issue faced by all not-for-profits and the role corporates can play in the funding mix. “A corporate looks at a not-for-profit, confuses it with a charity, and then says the services should be provided for nothing.
“They want to take all that information and everything else but don’t want to pay. They should be thinking that a not-for-profit is run on a not-for-loss basis and that it relies on funding to be able to put together the information that is passed on.”
Janet adds it not just about the money. “We certainly need financial support. But we also need skill support, which is one of the things that MMG has provided to Jean Hailes.’’
Andrew says while he is free to mention Jean Hailes and the work it does within the company and his broader mining world interactions, it is something that can’t be pushed. “I see myself as a network orchestrator for Jean Hailes,’’ he says.
Janet is in no doubt corporate Australia stands to benefit from striking effective partnerships with not-for-profits operating in the general health space, and women’s health in particular.
“The reality is that corporates employ people. And to have people in tiptop shape is good for productivity.
“If you are able to support people in the workplace with their mental health and their physical health, it seems to me that you are raising the bar,’’ she says. “That requires good evidence-based information being available to the corporates and their employees. And while the internet has been a wonderful thing, the reality is that anything can be put up on it.
“But to actually support people on how to evaluate evidence, and what to look for on a website, is one of our key platforms.
“It is also about ensuring that information is readily accessible to a wide range of literacy and educational levels. It must also understand that people have different learning styles. I think organisations like ours are ideally placed to support workplaces and workplace health.’’
As it is, Jean Hailes — apart from running two women’s clinics in Melbourne — has a workplace (free) portal to which about 200 corporates are signed up.
“We are in constant touch with them to find out what the current emerging issues in women’s health are, then tailor our information for that portal,’’ Janet says.
An example that crosses over into the mining industry is mental health. “It is a big issue in the mining industry and we developed, after 10 years of research, an app and a blog dealing specifically at reducing anxiety in young mums. And one of the opportunities was to come into MMG with the lead researcher and talk about the issue,’’ Janet says.
Dissemination of information to individuals, the broader community and workplace health professionals also crosses international borders. Each year for the past four years, it has received delegations from China looking to overcome what health professionals term the “valley of death” between research findings and improving patient outcomes.
“China has access to all the research in the world. But what they didn’t know was how to disseminate the information by translating it into usable programs,’’ Janet says.
MMG operates mines in Australia, Africa, and Laos and recently led the investment of $US10 billion ($13bn) in the building of a copper mine Peru.
Andrew says women’s health — and health and education in general — are a critical part of the company’s dealings with local communities.
“Health and education, and the role women play in driving them at the local level, are key to our interactions in remote locations. Being able to access an enormous amount of information online and in various languages goes to awareness of women’s health issues,’’ he says.
His shared championing of women’s health with Janet has found a practical response in Laos where MMG has a copper mine.
It recently committed an additional $US1.39 million in funding for the second stage of the “1000 Day Project’’ in conjunction with the government and UNICEF. The project recognises the first 1000 days of life are critical in intellectual and physical development. It aims to reduce stunting and iron-deficiency anaemia in children through community outreach programs and from the distribution of Superkid branded zinc micronutrient powder supplements.
“In co-operation with our partners — the Ministry of Health, Lao Women’s Union, and UNICEF — we are well-equipped with cultural knowledge and qualified personnel to make this significant intervention a success,’’ Andrew said when announcing the new commitment. “This is what we mean when we say, MMG mines for progress.”