Author Archives: Ian Webster

Ian Webster

About Ian Webster

Ian W Webster AO is Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine of the University of New South Wales. He has worked as a physician in public and regional hospitals in Australia and UK and in NGOs dealing with homelessness, alcohol and drug problems and mental illness.

‘Rage against the dying of the light’ in the way we treat elderly people

The alienation of elderly people from social life is abundantly evident in the impact of coronavirus on society as it exploits the vulnerable and defenceless.

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IAN WEBSTER. The UK and COVID-19; lessons for the UK and some for Australia

It is with bewilderment and concern we watch as COVID-19 overwhelms the UK’s health and social systems. There are lessons to be learnt for Australia, too.

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

IAN WEBSTER: Public health and the nanny state.

Behind our backs, public health became the poor cousin of biomedicine and was dismissed as ‘drains and sewerage’. How wrong we were!

Posted in Health, Public Policy | 2 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. Too many experts at a time of crisis.

This is a time when advice needs to be considered, balanced, respectful and well-founded.

Posted in Health | 3 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. The retreat from patients, a letter to young doctors

The idea that the pressures of patient care cause doctors to withdraw from direct clinical work has been in the background of my observations of my colleagues and their work since the 1970s.

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IAN WEBSTER.- Advocacy is hard going against the alcohol lobby.

It is a loss powerfully felt,but subdued. Not by politicians or the alcohol industry, but by doctors and nurses in the clinics and rehab. centres. The highly respected Michael Thorn has departed from the Foundation for Alcohol  Research and Education(FARE) … Continue reading

Posted in Health | 3 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. US opioid epidemic: a warning to Australia?

Two ABC documentaries – ‘Opioid America’, Foreign Correspondent, 19th March and on TV Tonight, Louis Theroux, April 2nd portrayed the cycle of addiction in damaged US communities with no hope or future. Both were in West Virginia where opioid deaths … Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. Of minds imprisoned.

Beyond the image of the vagabond and the impaired bodies and minds of homeless people there are untapped veins of intellect and potential; this is where our focus should be. “The homeless are our most important dreamers, prophets and poets … Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. It’s not mental illness, but despair

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have got it right when they frame the conditions we label as mental illness as issues of social and emotional well-being. They do not consider the endemic problems in their communities, as mental illnesses.

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

IAN WEBSTER: Preventing suicide

The 10th September is recognised as World Suicide Prevention Day. “The burden of suicide does not weigh solely on the health sector; it has multiple impacts on many sectors and on society as a whole. Thus, to start a successful … Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. Drug Reform Series- Drug policy and justice

In the final analysis, drug policy based on prohibition fails to meet the test of fairness and justice in the lives of those most directly affected.

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IAN WEBSTER. Government and the medicalisation of disabilities

Each year two thirds of applications for a Disability Support Pension are rejected; a rejection rate which has doubled in 8 years (Christopher Knaus, Guardian, 8 June 2018).

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. Welfare sanctions.

To save $204.7 million, the Government plans to impose draconian sanctions on those needing income support who miss appointments, or work interviews, or who don’t take up the jobs proposed for them. That can’t be the real reason, since the … Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

IAN WEBSTER. Policy failures in mental health

Mental health problems arising out of modern despair have to be tackled with insights gained from the day-to-day lives of society’s outcasts and the social sciences.  Matthew Fisher, (Australia’s policy failure on mental health, Pearls and Irritations, 14 December 2017) … Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. The social harm of alcohol to communities and society

The social harm of alcohol, alcohol’s ‘harm to others’, is a re-vitalised framework for national and international policies to control the marketing of alcohol.

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IAN WEBSTER. Lessons from the British National Health Scheme for Australia.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary in the UK, accused Stephen Hawking of a ‘pernicious lie’: “(he) is a brilliant physicist but wrong on lack of evidence.”  Stephen Hawking had said his survival for 75 years with motor neurone disease was due … Continue reading

Posted in Health | 3 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. Specialists versus generalists: A commentary on John Menadue and Peter Brooks

John Menadue and Peter Brooks have mounted powerful critiques of private specialist medical practice in a series in Pearls and Irritations. The nub of their positions is the high fee structure in (private out-patient) specialist practice is out of kilter … Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. The need for more balanced media reporting of alcohol and illicit drug problems.

  To those who work in the health system, ‘ICE’ is but one problem among many and pales into the background of the prevailing problems of addiction and misuse of alcohol and drugs.  

Posted in Health, Media | 2 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. A tribute to Anne Deveson – understanding the homeless mentally ill

Anne Deveson’ s media presence spearheaded the media’s involvement in public health and mental health. She contributed at so many levels – social commentaries and documentaries -which challenged our sensibilities.

Posted in Health, Human Rights, Tributes | 3 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. Protecting young people from our ‘favourite drug’ – alcohol.

Marketing of alcohol is out of control. 20% of those watching major sporting events on TV are under the age of 18 years.  

Posted in Health, Media, Sport | 2 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. Standing up for Medicare.

Fair access to health care is in the zeitgeist of European countries and Australia. The political sensitivities of this issue were demonstrated in the last election with the angst generated by the Labor Party’s “Mediscare” campaign.

Posted in Health, Politics | 1 Comment

IAN WEBSTER. Amid chaos, ethics.

Speaking particularly of the treatment people in Manus and Nauru, Professor Ian Webster argues that in this secular and chaotic world, the values and principles of the professional codes of health workers could be used to frame their future contributions … Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. Malcolm Turnbull and homelessness – reaching mentally ill people

  This week our PM, Malcolm Turnbull, was admonished when he gave $5 to a homeless man in Melbourne. He was sorry if people thought he should not have done this. He said, “I felt sorry for the guy”….”there but … Continue reading

Posted in Health, Human Rights | 1 Comment

IAN WEBSTER. Health care for aged people is increasingly complex.

  From his experience in intensive care in one of Australia’s busiest intensive care units at Liverpool Hospital in Southwest Sydney, Professor Ken Hillman describes the failure of specialised, super-specialised, medicine to deal appropriately and humanely with seriously ill aged … Continue reading

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IAN WEBSTER. Bulk-billing rates are not what they seem.

  A categorical mistake: Is bulk-billing a reliable indicator of access to GPs? Where I work in regional NSW, patients have difficulty finding a GP who is prepared to bulk-bill them for their medical care. The phone call to the … Continue reading

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Ian Webster. Is community medicine dead?

John Menadue said in the NSW Health Council Report of 2000, “Services should be based where patients and consumers live. The autonomy and dignity of each patient is best serviced by providing services wherever possible outside hospital. So a shift … Continue reading

Posted in Health, Indigenous affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

Ian Webster. Drugs and the problem of pain

At the centre of the drug problem is the problem of psychic and physical pain People with mental illness turn to alcohol and drugs to lessen their distress. When adolescents and young adults use a substance to ameliorate their social … Continue reading

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Ian Webster. Alcohol and Sport.

The facts about alcohol should stop politicians in their tracks. But they are unmoved. A quarter to a third of the work of a general hospital is alcohol-related. On Australia Day one in seven ED attendances were caused by alcohol; … Continue reading

Posted in Health, Politics | 3 Comments

Ian Webster. On thin “ICE”.

“If we wish to annihilate the junk pyramid, we must start at the bottom of the pyramid: the addict in the street, and stop tilting quixotically for the higher-ups so-called, all of whom are immediately replaceable. The addict in the … Continue reading

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Ian Webster.  Alcohol-drenched cricket.

Michael Thorn is right; the ICC Cricket World Cup was an alcohol-drenched event (SMH Tuesday, 31st March 2015). Cricketers were once models of sportsmanship. There was even altruism and some became statesmen. Recall, “That’s simply not cricket.” No longer, as … Continue reading

Posted in Health, Media, Politics, Sport | 1 Comment