A compilation of tributes to Professor Gavin Mooney and Dr Delys Weston
(This post was updated with more tributes on 28 December, 2012, and 12 January, 2013. On January 14, details were added of a memorial service to be held in Tasmania on 20 January. See bottom of post).
Some tributes to the late Professor Gavin Mooney and Dr Delys Weston have been left on a previous post about their traumatic deaths.
No doubt many will be considering ways of commemorating them. It is clear from the tributes below that friends and colleagues are determined to ensure their legacy lives on.
A giant of a man and a true leader
Glenn Salkeld, health economist, head of the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney
Gavin’s was a life lived to the full. He believed passionately in social justice – something his parents instilled in him as he grew up in Glasgow, Scotland.
As an academic Gavin didn’t waste a minute – he knew he had been given a privileged position in society and he used it to great effect. Advocating for a better deal for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, critiquing institutions that cared more for power than people and blasting those who would not listen to what the community had to say.
I will remember Gavin for many things – most notably his relentless work in educating thousands of students in health economics. Who else would set up (in 1990) a postgraduate distance course in health economics based out of Tromso University, Norway (the northern most university on the world) and expect it to succeed?
But it did succeed. I was just one of the many who signed up to the degree in the first cohort. I enjoyed every bit of the course. Gavin had a way of engaging you in intellectual debate that left you challenged but immensely satisfied.
Gavin was a prolific book writer. Here’s one story – at Gavin’s expense – that had him rolling in the aisles in laughter.
He had invited me to give a valedictory speech at his farewell from Curtin University. It was around 2007. I flew over to Perth and I remember clearly as we taxied in the plane to the gate that I mustn’t forget my iPOD and Gavin’s most recent book at the time. Both had sustained me on the 5-hour flight across to Perth.
Well, I did forget both items and duly left them in the seat pocket. I left the plane with that nagging feeling that something was missing. Once I got to the hotel it dawned on me that the iPOD and book were missing.
So I rang the airline. The lost and found chap couldn’t have been more helpful.
“What did you lose?” he said.
“An iPOD,” I replied. There was an audible intake of breath as he mentally noted that chances of getting back such a hot item were not good.
“What else mate?”
“A book,” I said.
“What’s it called?”
“Challenging Health Economics, by Gavin Mooney.”
There was an audible exhalation on the other end of the phone. I could hear him thinking – no worries on that one mate, you’ll get that back for sure.
I relayed the story to Gavin as we were driving to Curtin University. I had already written my valedictory speech and I reassured Gavin that I wouldn’t really the story at his expense. He wouldn’t hear of it – he insisted that I tell the story at his farewell. Gavin’s laugh was loudest.
The other story I’d like to share is very personal, but it says so much about Gavin.
In 1996 Tracey and I had a son, Cameron, and he died at birth. I needed to tell someone at work what had happened.
I rang Gavin. He was shocked, sympathetic and told me not to worry about a thing. And I didn’t have to. He covered all of my lectures, told all my colleagues and helped me organise a wake at our house so that all of my colleagues could help Tracey and I come to grips with our devastating loss.
If you were in need there was no better friend than Gavin.
Gavin was a giant of a man and a true leader in our discipline of health economics.
Last time I was in Hobart, I caught up with Gavin, Del and her son Nick; it was delightful. The circumstances could not have been more congenial–Salamanca markets with the sun shining over our lunch spot.
The following night, they all came to watch my band play in the local pub. I publicly dedicated a song to ‘Tasmania’s ‘newest health economist’, a dedication no doubt unique in history.
Gavin and I had forged a friendship which spanned a generation gap and two sides of a continent. He taught me that one can combine the finest of values at work and at home, with the highest levels of academic and professional success.
There was no disjoint with Gavin; the qualities which made him Australia’s most respected left-leaning health economist (is any other kind worth listening to?) also made him a personal mentor to me, although he would have scoffed at the suggestion.
His Scottish congratulations was the first voice I heard upon publication of my Naked Doctor blog: he would barely have had time to finish reading it.
He was a guest in my house when he flew to Brisbane to set up the Inala Indigenous Health community jury, and in typical fashion discussed my and my wife’s work more than his.
He did have one unabashed boast, though; his beloved Del was about to complete her PhD.
The circumstances of Gavin and Del’s deaths could not possibly be more horrible, nor more contrary to the way both of them lived. It is the most unjust end to the most just of lives. I cannot dwell on it further for the moment.
Vale, Gavin and Del, and thank you both for what you gave to this earth. I would aim to live so meaningful a life.
A challenging, clarifying, provocative style
Professor Stephen Leeder, Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Sydney
Gavin Mooney entered my life in the mid 1980s when he addressed the Sydney PHA conference entitled Just Health.
What does equity mean, he asked us? Same cash-for-health for everyone? Same opportunity for access to care for everyone? Same outcome after treatment for everyone?
His challenging, clarifying, provocative style remained during the 25 years I knew him.
Gavin’s concern was always with the ethical quality of equity, which he came to summarise in relation to health, as equal access to equal care for equal need.
He developed with other health economists including Culyer the concepts of vertical (positive discrimination for those in unequal circumstances) and horizontal equity (giving equal care to those in the same socioeconomic bracket) as applied to health.
He was a strong communitarian, aligned in many respects with Amartya Sen, and a deep critic of neoliberalism, as his last book showed.
His criticism was his strongest card: in speaking with him about his final book I asked him “What now? What can we do?” This was far from clear.
But a man of action he could be – witness his interest and work in Indigenous health and citizen’s juries.
A Scot to the core, and from Glasgow to boot, I was always surprised not to see him dressed more often in kilt and sporran. His polemic and critique were modelled on tossing the caber.
This was a symbol of the way he criticised, assembling his arguments like a huge wooden pole, heaving the thing up on his shoulder, running and then letting it fly until it thudded into the ground with a mighty impact.
I have a picture of Gavin in my head, walking the Valley of the Waters in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales with us, when our son James was two.
Gavin had him on his shoulders and James, never one then or now to miss a moment for a politically correct and endearing statement (he is now 19), kept saying, as was indeed true as we passed cascade after cascade,
‘Bootiful waterfor!’ Bootiful indeed – a memory I feel fortunate to possess.
A rare breed of academic
Statement by Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek
The passing of Professor Gavin Mooney and his partner Dr Delys Weston is a tragic loss for the health community, both in Australia and internationally.
Professor Mooney was a fearless advocate for social justice, and in particular the role of citizen juries, leading debates on the importance of consumers in determining how their health resources are allocated.
A ‘rare breed’ of academic, his capacity to bridge theory and practice was evident throughout his career and semi-retirement. Not only did he write the defining book on citizen juries, but then demonstrated their application in health priority setting, juvenile justice and Indigenous health. His close engagement with a number of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations exemplified his hands-on approach.
Described as ‘one of the founding fathers of health economics’, his research was driven by real world challenges and geared towards identifying practical solutions. He was an inspiring teacher and supervisor, which when coupled with his extensive publication record, will ensure his legacy persists.
Dr Weston had recently been awarded her PhD on “The political economy of global warming” from Curtin University, and held previous academic appointments at the University of Tasmania and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.
We have lost a fearless campaigner for equity in health and advocate for human rights.
Enduring commitment to improving Aboriginal health
Statement from NACCHO
Mr Justin Mohamed, Chair of NACCHO representing over 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations throughout Australia, today paid tribute to Professor Gavin Mooney known as an international founding father of health economics.
Mr Mohammed said Gavin will be universally remembered for his passionate advocacy for equity and social justice at local and global levels, for his championing of citizen’s juries, and for his commitment to Aboriginal health.
“Gavin’s enduring commitment to improving Aboriginal health is what we will remember him for. He worked at both academic and community levels to assist in advancing Aboriginal community controlled health services.
He championed our call for the need for greater recognition in the funding of Aboriginal health services acknowledging that since Aboriginal health as a construct is holistic then so too should be the services to address Aboriginal ill health.
He further advocated that the issue of cultural security and the barriers that Aboriginal people face in using health services are important in any debate about funding Aboriginal primary health care.
“His support, passion and commitment to the principles and values of our Aboriginal community controlled movement will always be remembered,” Mr Mohamed said.
A great friend
The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT)
The AMSANT family was shocked to learn of the tragic deaths of Gavin Mooney and his partner.
Gavin was a great friend of AMSANT from our earliest days, generously giving his time and skills to us over many years.
His work as a health economist has been of enormous value to the Aboriginal Community Controlled primary health sector, bringing new insights and perspectives to the work we carry out in our health services, from urban to remote bush settings.
AMSANT extends our condolences to Gavin’s friends and colleagues. He will be greatly missed.
The loss of a champion
National Rural Health Alliance
The Australian health sector has lost a great intellect, advocate and human being.
People living with disadvantage, whoever they are and wherever they live, have lost a true champion.
Many people have lost a colleague and friend.
And the manner of Gavin’s death, and that of his partner, makes these losses all the more shocking and tragic.
The NRHA extends its heartfelt sympathy to the families involved.
All of those determined to right inequities will have to work a little harder in the absence of Gavin’s support. But hopefully they will be a little more inspired by the lasting memory of his work and the manner in which he achieved it.
Moral values informed his research
Associate Professor David Thomas, Lowitja Institute
The Lowitja Institute is saddened by the tragic deaths of Gavin Mooney and his partner Del Weston in Tasmania on Wednesday.
Gavin introduced the rigour of health economics research to debates about fairness and Aboriginal health.
Over the years he made many significant academic contributions to our understanding of health equity and inequity in Aboriginal health. His research was always informed by his clearly articulated moral values.
He never just described the problem. His research and his public health action and advocacy were forever entangled.
He was always working with others to find new solutions to improve health equity and social justice for all.
Gavin was a passionate and committed colleague, and an enthusiastic mentor to many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal colleagues.
He was also great fun to be around. In particular, I remember one night after a long meeting in Alice Springs in the 1990s. We were on the back of an old train, with Gavin telling his funny, crazy stories and the laughter spilling into the desert night.
He will be missed greatly.
A powerful voice on the social determinants of health
Statement by Dr Richard Di Natale
I wish to express my personal condolences, and those of the Australian Greens, to the family of Professor Gavin Mooney and Dr Delys Weston.
I was filled with great sorrow this morning when I learned that Professor Mooney and Dr Delys Weston had been tragically killed.
As a doctor and public health professional I followed Professor Mooney’s work with great interest and after entering the Senate I discussed with him some of the challenges facing Australia’s health system.
He was known around the world as the father of health economics but his contribution to public health did not end there.
He was a powerful voice on the social determinants of health, on Indigenous health and on the impact of doctor shortages in Australia and in developing countries.
I learned a great deal from Professor Mooney and he will be sorely missed. Fortunately the legacy of his contributions to public health will continue to guide us for years to come.
An enormous contribution to health policy
Dr Tony Hobbs, GP and primary health care reformer
Gavin Mooney has made an enormous contribution to health policy in Australia.
His unstinting support of social justice and equity issues has been critical in encouraging policy makers to think of these issues.
In particular, his support of Primary Healthcare Organisations as a vehicle to reduce health inequity in this country & his idea of citizens’ juries as a means of harnessing broad community involvement in their development has been very important.
He will be sadly missed.
A generous and prolific contributor
Graeme Lynch, CEO of the Heart Foundation Tasmania, and also as Chair of the Health in all Policies Collaboration
The members of the Health in All Policies Collaboration are jointly grieving the death of friend, mentor and international champion for health equity, Professor Gavin Mooney.
In his short time living in what had become his “beloved Tasmania”, Gavin provided great inspiration and leadership to us both individually and collectively in championing the imperative for new equitable approaches by governments … “to serve the public whose health is at stake”. Gavin’s views challenged all our thinking.
Gavin and I became good friends and he was a great “mentor” on health equity: addressing members of the Premier’s Physical Activity Council and also members of the Health and Well Being Advisory Council, the Tasmanian Health Conference (facilitated by the AMA), the TasCOSS Conference and many others. He was also advising the Tasmania Medicare Local for whom he facilitated a Citizen’s Jury on after hours service, and had advised on a range of health equity issues.
He attended both the inaugural meeting of the TML SDoH and Health Risk Factors Steering Committee (established as one aspect of the Commonwealth’s Tasmanian Health Assistance Package) and the Tasmanian SDoH Advocacy Network open forum at the Hobart Town Hall in the week before his untimely death.
Gavin was behind the development of the SDoH Advocacy Network and also volunteered at the Menzies Research Institute.
He was also a regular contributor to public debate through the Tasmanian press, Croakey and his writings and commentary more widely. His contributions to the Tasmanian Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on Preventative Health Care (including SDoH), that was established in November, were eagerly anticipated.
The Heart Foundation in Tasmania is taking a national lead in the equity theme in our latest five year strategic plan For all Hearts, and Gavin gave very generously of his time to assist our Health Director, Gillian Mangan and me in developing our thinking, and in providing us with stimulating discussion and referral to international research and thinking.
He was always talking of his concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples and the fact that land and culture are the most important social determinants in Closing the Gap.
His views on the need to tackle the entrenched vested interests he identifies in the Introduction to his most recent book “The Health of Nations”, provide a challenging construct based on his perception of the inequities, most importantly power, that act as barriers to obtaining the best health and well being outcomes in all societies including Tasmania.
He challenged the neoliberal philosophies espoused by Prime Minister Thatcher and President Regan and questioned the limitations of laissez-faire economics and structures – all of which can work well if the “Spirit Level” is even.
Most importantly, and what I learned personally from him, was his ability to listen and understand the local context and then impart his views in a non-prescriptive way.
Nonetheless, I did hear him on few occasions challenge some very tall poppies very effectively and without fear!
Whilst providing a donation support to me last month in a charity bike ride from one end of the State to the other, he wrote: “Good luck on the ride! I ran a marathon 2 years ago with financial backing from friends to support refugees in South Africa. I know that I would not have finished without that backing. You’ll do it. ”
It is so sad that we lost Gavin when he still had a few more “marathons”, both physically and intellectually, ahead of him.
So many qualities to love and admire
Siobhan Harpur, Director Population Health Operations/Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania
Gavin Mooney and Del Weston were only with us in Tasmania for a brief time, but they leave a legacy that I hope will challenge us all personally and professionally.
They were convinced that a fair and better world was possible and he and Del lived passionately by example, treating everyone they met on a level playing field.
Gavin provided advice to the Ministerial Council for Health and Wellbeing and Population Health staff in our work to improve health and Wellbeing for all Tasmanians.
He was instrumental in establishing the network for the social determinants of health, and in assisting the Tasmania Medicare Local with its funding for the determinants.
He would remind us all so often, in his quiet yet persistent way, that we needed to listen to citizens and not just think we know what people wanted without asking them first.
He had championed citizens’ juries, but this was only an example of a much stronger personal conviction to give people more control in their own lives. He described himself as a communitarian and there were so many qualities to love and admire of these fiercely gentle folk.
Let me find the courage and strength for their lives to continue to speak through my own humble commitment to tolerance, justice and equity.
Passion for a more equal society
Miriam Herzfeld, Convenor, Social Determinants of Health Advocacy Network (Tasmania)
Gavin told me to “trust in yourself and in your principles”. It was these principles that brought us together to advance action on the social determinants of health in Tasmania for a short period of time.
Gavin was passionate about creating a more equal society – a society in which we all have the opportunity to lead healthy lives filled with opportunities regardless of who we are or where we live. We shared this passion.
Gavin also told me that, “It is at times a really shitty world… but that there are some truly wonderful inspiring people”. And dear Gavin, you are one of those inspiring people.
I am blessed to have known you. Thank you for your mentorship, your friendship, sharing your passion and igniting a movement in Tasmania that will go on in your honour.
To the lovely Del, thank you for your contribution to the Social Determinants of Health Advocacy Network too, and for your generosity and friendship.
Important work must be carried forward
Carole Owen, Deputy Director, Population Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania
What a tragedy. Even though Gavin had only been in Tasmania for a relatively short while, he had already made so much different to the way we think about improving health and wellbeing for all.
His ability to bring people together and inspire us all made us feel that we could make a difference, and that the world could be a fairer and better place.
We have lost a creative thinker, a passionate advocate, a great friend and a gentle man in the true sense of the word.
It is up to all of us to carry on his important work.
There are no words to say how much we will miss him.
Tribute from the marathon running community
Dr Jo Clarkson, Director, Health Promotion, The Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation
My personal memory of Gavin and Del is perhaps a little different from all the many tributes that will no doubt come in from professional colleagues.
Although I too was inspired by their energy and enormous commitment to health equality and social justice, I came to know them in recent years through the marathon running community in WA. This is a dedicated bunch of people from all sections of society, united by their love of running.
Out on the road with fellow runners and shared stories of the last marathon or the latest injury, no-one cares if you are beggar or a millionaire, and academic qualifications count for zero. There is a great camaraderie among distance runners and the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening club runs are regular social gatherings.
Five or so years ago while marshalling at the finish line of one of our Sunday morning club races I found myself talking to Del, who said she was waiting for her partner to finish the race. She started to tell me about her PhD on the politics of climate change and I was intrigued by her work.
We hit it off straight away and I had no idea who she was or that her partner was Gavin Mooney until, completely engrossed in our conversation, we almost missed Gavin’s moment of triumph as he crossed the finish line! Of course I recognised him as soon as I saw him.
From then on, every time I saw Gavin he would report on how his training was going and tell me about his plans to run another marathon following his so-called ‘retirement’. Their tragic and untimely passing is a huge loss.
So few thinkers of his calibre
Ian McAuley, Fellow, Centre for Policy Development
Of course we are left deeply shocked. As senseless as the Newtown massacre, as the murder of public health workers in Pakistan, as the rape of a 23 year old student who should have a whole exciting world ahead of her.
There are so few thinkers on health policy who combine independence, perspective and a clear logical framework – be that neoliberal, Marxist, distributionist, socialist or whatever other political-economic framework is competing for our attention.
We need such thinkers, and there are so few of them. In those qualities Mooney stood head and shoulders above all of us.
Below is an extract from an E-mail I have just this morning (Friday, 21 Dec) sent to Cathy Alexander (Crikey’s deputy editor):
“….you would have heard about the senseless murder of Gavin Mooney. I hope you can publish a few words about him. I have just had published, in Dissent, a review of his latest book The health of nations: towards a new political economy. It’s a challenging work, critical of the way we tend to tinker at the edges of what he saw as a flawed system. Before coming to our country he grew up in the misery of Glasgow in the years following Europe’s 1939-45 war – that experience was certainly formative.”
I don’t know if he saw the review before he died. Dissent came out only on Wednesday.
My final words in that review were:
“Perhaps the sort of social transformation Mooney seeks will eventuate, but none of us will be around to see it occur. There are many Marxists who believe that capitalism has some way to run before it collapses on its own contradictions – the revolution of 1917 was a few hundred years too early and in any case Russia was still feudal rather than capitalist.
In the meantime, while we await the revolution, his work is a stimulating contribution to our thinking on health policy. In its obituary column in early October The Economist referred to the historian and philosopher Eric Hobsbawn as “the last interesting Marxist”. It appears they were not aware of Gavin Mooney’s work.”
A deeply felt loss
ACOSS and the COSS network have been deeply shocked and saddened by the deaths of Gavin Mooney and Delys Weston.
Gavin Mooney was a Health Policy Advisor to ACOSS from 2008-09 and an incredibly important contributor to our policy work in health.
Gavin lent his standing as a world-recognised figure in health equity and economics to the work of ACOSS and was a staunch supporter of all ACOSS stood for.
His reforming work in the areas of Aboriginal health, citizen engagement and on the social determinants of health; and both Gavin and Delys’ contribution on the important intersections between health and climate change are particularly well-remembered across our network.
This is a loss felt deeply by current and former staff, Policy Advisors and members of the network of Councils of Social Service in Australia.
A champion of equity
On behalf of community service organisations throughout WA, committed to a vision of an inclusive, just and equitable society, the WA Council of Social Service expresses its profound shock and sadness at the terrible death of Professor Gavin Mooney, together with his partner Del Weston.
Professor Mooney was well known and regarded by the community services sector as a champion of equity.
His contribution to social policy debate was courageous and immense, driven by a deep felt commitment to social justice.
Long recognised as one of Australia’s leading health economists, Professor Mooney placed equality, human rights and the legitimacy of community expectations at the centre of public policy.
Professor Mooney’s personal passion for Indigenous health and justice will be long remembered.
His work will live on
Dr Rachael Morton, Senior Research Fellow – Health Economics, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney
I first met Gavin when he became a mentor to our new team of health economists at the University of Sydney in 2008.
I had read many of his texts and was drawn to his focus on the causes of health inequity including power, gender and social class, and the use of citizen’s juries for resource allocation.
At times he seemed more of a philosopher or sociologist then an economist. His lectures were well researched and forthright. He pushed the boundaries of conventional economic thinking. He was tireless in his campaign for social justice and grass roots ‘community’ decision-making.
At the last International Health Economics Association (IHEA) meeting in Toronto in 2011, he reminded us to pursue health economic research that would help the disadvantaged not the advantaged, particularly those in low and middle income countries.
Gavin’s energy, passion and leadership will be sorely missed – but his message will not be lost on a new generation of health economists.
An enduring impact
Dr Raquiba Jahan Khan, mental health promotion officer, NSW
It is a great loss. Gavin was the Post Graduate Course Coordinator while I applied for PhD (1996, supervised by Don Nutbeam) and for the scholarship.
I received his support in the process of both applications. The following five years I had opportunity of discussing with him about issues and concerns, I sought his advice every now and then. I am grateful to him and I will be remember him for whole of my life. May God grant him and his partner Delys Weston eternal peace.
Not one for lazy convention
Joel Negin, senior lecturer in international public health at the University of Sydney
I didn’t know Gavin all that well but the times that we did meet, he made a very strong impression on me.
I first met him 3 or 4 years ago and he was serving as a mentor to a group of health economists at Sydney Uni. Having someone there who shared my international interests was special and, more importantly, it was amazing to have someone there so committed to social justice, to strengthening communities, to ignoring lazy convention.
He knew that health economics was part of a larger whole of equity and wasn’t just a narrow technical science. I had a few long conversations with him and learned a great deal from him in a short time.
He made sure I knew that pursuing a career in global social justice from Australia was not just possible but necessary.
Other tributes and reports:
• At the Green Left:
“Del and Gavin were as kind and loving in their personal dealings with everyone they met as they were committed to the liberation and freedom of all humanity. They were strong supporters of Green Left Weekly; making regular donations, hosting fund-raisers and recently making a significant contribution to the new Green Left TV project.
Gavin and Del were also keen to share their areas of professional academic expertise with activists. We remember their presentations at our 2010 Socialist Ideas seminar; Gavin on the campaign for properly funded and managed public health care, and Del on the impact of global warming on the poor in Africa…”
“Before semi-retiring in 2008 and moving to Tasmania, Professor Mooney, 69, had been Director of the Social and Public Health Economics Research Group and Professor of Health Economics at Curtin University in Perth. He was a very active member of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) from 2003-2009.
Jan Sinclair-Jones, NTEU Curtin Branch President, said that Professor Mooney was very highly regarded both as a scholar and person.
“Professor Mooney was Australia’s leading health economist and a ‘founding father’ in this newish field internationally – an achievement recognised by the University of Cape Town which awarded him an Honorary Degree in Social Sciences in 2009,” she said.
“He was passionately interested in the impact of poverty and inequality on health and worked at both the university and community level to foster Aboriginal control of Aboriginal health services. Gavin was active in establishing the WA Social Justice Network. Since moving to Tasmania last year, he’s contributed to The Mercury’s coverage of health issues.”
Sinclair-Jones said that Professor Mooney had been a good friend and she was personally shattered by the tragic news.
“Gavin was a lovely person – funny, engaging and a great colleague. He was a fearless champion of justice and totally brave when it came to speaking out to the media. He was much admired by those who worked around him and could always be relied upon to be on the picket line. We will miss him profoundly,” she said.
His partner, Dr Weston, 62, wrote her PhD on the political economy of global warming at Curtin University. She had been a visiting Scholar at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Tasmania in the School of Geography and Environmental Science.”
• Medical Observer quotes the AMA and RACGP.
• Previously at Croakey: Vale Gavin Mooney and Delys Weston
My sincere condolences to family members, friends and colleagues.
A generous spirit
Statement by Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
The Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA) expressed its shock and deep sadness at the death of Professor Gavin Mooney and his partner Delys Weston.
The Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association represents Australia’s largest group of health care providers in public hospitals, community and primary health sectors and advocates for universal high quality healthcare to benefit the whole community.
“Gavin was one of Australia’s leading health economists who used his knowledge and skills to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in Australia and around the world,” Ms Prue Power AM, CEO of the AHHA, said today.
“Gavin was a health economist who saw beyond the dollars and cents to the real life impact of illness and disability on both individuals and our society as a whole. He had a particular passion for Indigenous health and worked with governments and Indigenous communities to improve health outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by addressing the social, cultural and economic determinants of health.
“He was a strong advocate for consumer-driven health reforms and had particular expertise in Citizens’ Juries, a process for enabling consumers to determine priorities for health funding. Gavin had written extensively on Citizens’ Juries and personally conducted a number of these around Australia and overseas. His commitment to this issue and his generous spirit prompted him to make his book on this subject available without cost, to ensure that it was accessible to everyone in the health sector.
“AHHA’s Just Health Consultants had been working with Gavin on a project and will greatly miss his insightful and knowledgeable input. In countries as diverse as South Africa and Finland, as well as in Australia, his contribution to improving the health and well-being of our communities will be sadly missed.
“AHHA would like to extend our sympathies to Gavin’s and Delys’s families at this tragic time,” Ms Power said.
Passionate concern for the health of South Africans
Ginny Stein, ABC Africa correspondent
Gavin contacted me earlier this year saying there was one issue he felt strongly about and would I be interested in following it up.
We talked about wealthy nations like Australia poaching doctors from poorer nations and the impact it was having. Through his wealth of contacts in South Africa I was put in touch with people who were willing to speak about an issue that is having a devastating impact on the lives of many South Africans.
I met and interviewed Gavin when he came to Johannesburg. It was both a pleasure and a joy.
After the story went to air, he had stayed in touch discussing this issue and others, his passion and conviction unwavering.
Here is the link to what is very much a story of his making and an issue he cared about greatly.
Update, 12 January, 2013
Passionate about priority setting
Gai Moore, Manager, Knowledge Transfer in the Knowledge Exchange Program at the Sax Institute
Gavin had just completed work with us on one of the topics he was passionate about – priority setting in health. It is a rapid review of the evidence on priority setting methods that support the key design principle of ‘Efficient and appropriate allocation of resources where they can do most good on the basis of models of best practice which deliver best health outcomes’.
As part of writing the review, Gavin interviewed leading health economists from around the world (Australia, The Netherlands, Sweden, United States, Scotland, England, Denmark, Wales, and Canada). They and others might like to know he finished the work and that their contribution was included in his report (available here).
Gavin was my first economics lecturer in the early 90s at Sydney Uni and he put us through several priority setting exercises – keen that we both understood his values and recognised our own – and that we understood how these influence decision making.
Equity was his driving passion. In his own words: “How else would you spend your life?”
Below are links to some of obituaries by colleagues and friends
By Stephen Birch
“Gavin challenged assumptions about the economics of healthcare by focusing on what communities wanted, as opposed to the preferences of providers, managers and researchers.
Gavin was one of the first in his field to argue that equity and efficiency are not opposite sides of the performance coin, but intrinsically linked.“
“(He) was one of the founding fathers of health economics and a truly global academic, holding university positions from the most northerly to southerly universities and in between, Aberdeen and Australia and playing significant roles. Through these positions, he drew many people into health economics (and stopped them leaving); many now work in professorial positions at leading universities, including LSE and Oxford.
As well as being an outstanding researcher, Professor Mooney was one of the best health economics educators and mentors. In 2001, the Health Foundation decided to hold a UK-wide competition for £3m of funding for a new chair in health economics. Universities had to apply with named candidates. Out of the five finalists, three had been Aberdeen University PhD students of Prof Mooney.
Professor Mooney made major contributions to health economics – in methods of priority setting, economic evaluation and valuation of life and health. But his time in Australia would be notable for his work on health equity, especially on Aboriginal health, for which cause he became a strong advocate.
One of his proudest moments was his invitation to speak at the Garma Festival of Traditional Culture held in Australia’s Northern Territory in 2008. Health economics, and health equity in particular, were great outlets for his feisty and direct nature.”
“Thousands of economists, doctors, statisticians and health service managers around the world have learnt the meaning of terms like “efficiency” and “health equity” from Mooney. So engaging a teacher was he that they can only think of these concepts with his Glaswegian brogue in their heads.
If English is the universal language of flight controllers, then Mooney’s Scottish accent is the universal voice of health economics. For this, he was widely loved and deeply admired. His passion for his field, and his dedication to serving others through it, had no bounds. It was infectious.
And he was fearless. In a society where doctors expected to be revered and seen to be ”beyond self-interest”, Mooney would conduct research asking why the number and types of procedures that doctors implement vary according to factors unrelated to patient need or treatment effectiveness. Why, for example, do rates of surgery vary according to whether the surgeon is paid by salary or fee-for-service?
He was “disgusted” by the Australian Medical Association’s plans to offer financial incentives to induce doctors in developing countries to practise in Australia, leaving the homeland infant mortality rates to soar for lack of personnel. He was “astonished” at Kevin Rudd’s lack of understanding of clinical power plays.
On the day he died, his letter in The Age questioned why federal Labor claimed to be proud of Australia’s contribution to international development given that data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows us to be in the bottom third of countries in terms of spend as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Not surprisingly, Mooney’s advice was not always welcomed by senior bureaucrats and ministers. Other academics – with more guile and stealth – can perhaps lay claim to more direct impact on particular policies at particular times. But his influence was far more pervasive. He influenced the criteria that define good policy and he pricked the conscience of those who would seek to hide the evidence.
Mooney, who personally trained many of Australia’s leading health economists, was no gentle nurturer. No temperate priest. He demanded excellence of his students. They must eschew the simple and tackle the complicated instead.”
“Gavin Mooney believed passionately in social justice and taught thousands of students in the ”caring discipline” of health economics. The real power of health economics, he said, was to be found in asking the right questions: ”What does the community want from their health system?”, ”How can we improve health unless we achieve greater equity?” and ”What does equity mean anyway?”
Not one for convention, Mooney instilled in all of his many PhD students the obligation to question the status quo and to propel new ideas and methods into the discipline of health economics.
In 1977, despite not having a PhD, Mooney was appointed Professor of Health Economics at the University of Aberdeen and founded the Health Economics Research Unit (HERU). To this day HERU remains one of the leading health economics teaching and research centres in the world.
During his time at Curtin (University), Mooney trained five Aboriginal health economists – a remarkable achievement and a reflection of his commitment to Aboriginal health.
His life was run in the pursuit of social justice for people everywhere. He forged an enduring relationship with the health economics group at Capetown University and was a regular visitor to South Africa. At 67, he ran a marathon to raise money to support education for orphaned African kids.”
Update on 14 Jan: Details of Memorial Service
A memorial service will be held in Tasmania for Professor Gavin Mooney and Dr Del Weston on Sunday 20 January 2013 at 2.30pm in the Mountain River Hall.
This hall is about 52 km and 45 minutes driving time from Hobart airport, through Hobart Town and then along Highway A6.
For map and directions see here.
(Thanks to Dr Elizabeth Haworth for providing these details).