Developing an engaging Facebook page for your business


With more than 10 million users in Australia alone and 500 million global users, Facebook is one of the most influential websites in the world. Increasingly, patients are researching their condition and treatment approach online and Facebook is a very useful resource to share experiences with others and to gain further insights. Here are some simple ways that you can maximise engagement on your Facebook business page.

Focus on your audience and their needs

As with any marketing and communications messaging, it’s important to focus on the outcomes and your audience. Who are you talking to and engaging with on your Facebook page, and what would they value from you? If you have a range of insights that you deliver to clients as part of your services, consider seeding some of these into your Facebook page. Be clear about who you are talking to and be sure to offer them something of ‘value’ – whether that be expert advice, topical news or an offer.

Plan your posts

Publishing valuable content on your business Facebook page is crucial to maximise the audience’s engagement. Scheduling what you want to say and when you want to say it avoids repetition and ensures you integrate different aspects of your communications plan on the Facebook page. Planning content avoids any last minute panics and translates to higher quality posts and enables consistent messaging. The most effective way to do this is to create a content calendar and set aside time each week/month to plan what you are going to say.

Good content is crucial

It seems obvious, but if you publish good quality content, people will return to your Facebook page and will share links with their friends. Here are some top tips to encourage engagement:

1)      Include links to support your message

2)      Be personal – your page is the face of your organisation or your brand

3)      Be active and update your page frequently

4)      Engage with your audience. If someone asks a question ensure you answer it

5)      Have a social media framework in place in case anyone posts defamatory content

6)      When publishing health specific content, remember it must comply must with the ASMI, MA, TGA codes and other relevant industry regulations

7)      Monitor your page – if someone publishes spam, immediately delete it

8)      Think about what would add value to the audience, e.g. a tip of the day may demonstrate your expertise as well as be of use to the audience

9)      Upload varied content, this could include videos and podcasts

Frequency of posting

It is the quality of content, not the quantity that matters. Research shows that businesses who post weekly on their Facebook page get the same result as those who post daily. Always think about the time of day you post content and when your key audience is available.

So what does this mean for the pharma industry?

Pharmaceutical companies face the challenge to host a branded Facebook page which complies with industry regulations and also acts as a forum where patients can have a two way dialogue. The FDA, ASMI, TGA and MA is yet to determine official guidelines for pharmaceutical  brands operating in digital media, so understandably, pharmaceutical companies are cautious in their decision making about how to use Facebook pages as part of their marketing strategy.

 women's confidential

Women’s Confidential Australian Facebook page

As a business, it is important to be within the digital space that your key audience is using. Many organisations are hosting successful unbranded Facebook pages – take a look at the Australian Women’s confidential page from makers of Canesten®. This site is positioned as the “modern girls survival guide offering advice fashion, beauty and health tips.”

The Can you feel my pain? page developed by Pfizer is an exemplary unbranded Facebook page raising awareness about chronic pain and working in collaboration with leading patient and citizen organisations across Europe.

 Can you feel my pain? Facebook page

Can you feel my pain? Facebook page

Evidently, there are strategies to host engaging Facebook pages that educate patients and do not contravene regulatory guidelines.

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How can we help consumers of online health information discern truth from twaddle?


Our complex e-health infrastructure is revolutionising healthcare across the globe. Bupa Health Pulse conducted a survey in 2010 that comprised of over 12,000 people from 12 countries including the UK, Australia and Germany. The internet is increasingly being used as a tool for health-related purposes with people drawn in by highly sophisticated audio and visual content now offered through computers, mobile phones and tablets, as well as opportunities for interaction via social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

In Australia, 4 in 5 people have access to the internet and nearly 45% use Facebook – the largest social networking site in the world. Australians spend more time than any other country using Facebook, averaging at 7.5 hours per month. At least 4 in 5 Australian respondents in the Bupa survey were making some use of the internet to search for advice on health, medicines or medical conditions, including searching for information to make a self-diagnosis and seeking other patients’ experiences.


The internet has the potential to empower Australians to make better, more informed choices about their health and healthcare. It may facilitate economic efficiency for our healthcare system by reducing inappropriate consultations and decreasing the costs of communication between the patient and their healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, there are a huge number of websites that provide bogus information, lacking in evidence-base. This can have serious consequences, leading to needless worry, unnecessary consultations, delay in appropriate diagnosis and use of unproven, ineffective tests and treatments. How can we expect people to decipher through the thousands of results that come up within their Google or Yahoo searches? Also, most of the top 20 healthcare websites are geared towards scientific and academic communities in the US – certainly not the average Aussie.

Of the Bupa Health Pulse survey respondents, 18% are using social networking sites to find out about healthcare issues. Twitter is used by 5% for this purpose. The extent to which individuals who post comments or write blogs are representative of the broader health population is questionable, but of course this may not always be borne in mind by the individuals who take their advice.

The full potential of the internet will only be realised if there is sufficient investment in providing the tools and skills to help people discern high quality, credible content that is jargon-free and tailored to their current knowledge and skills level. Accreditation procedures might be used to ‘badge’ trustworthy websites, but support and advice on how to search for information in the first place is also a must.

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How to develop a successful medical/health application


The functionalities and variations of medical applications (apps) are developing at a rapid pace. An iPod can now convert to a heart monitor or an Android phone can act as an electronic stethoscope by connecting to an external sensor. In relation to this, we saw a fundamental development on July 21, 2011 with the draft guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The guidelines suggest three types of apps should require the FDA’s approval: a mobile app that acts as an accessory to a regulated medical device, turns a mobile gadget into such a device or makes suggestions regarding a patient’s diagnosis or treatment. Previously, there has been very little guidance for digital health tools and this could be indicative of digital codes of practice set to emerge in Australia. This is definitely something to bear in mind when considering developing a medical/health app.

medical app

Why your app must be useful to others

It is important to know the users you are serving and/or targeting. When thinking about building an app, you need to validate your assumptions of the perceived value that the app will bring and also do your research! An app can give your business/brand(s) a competitive advantage, but importantly, you must determine its core purposes.

There are many things to consider – for example button size. Will the users predominately be male or female? If the users are men, then they will have bigger hands and the app buttons will need to reflect this in size. Will the users have good eye sight? You may need to incorporate a functionality that enlarges text.

The app development stages

Below are the key stages to consider when developing an app:

1)      The initial concept. Start with the idea and what features the app will include. This is when you map out the timeline and scope out the budget. You need to define your purpose and it is important to be clear about the ultimate use, benefit and functionality. The app functionality needs to be user friendly – it is important to ensure that features are discoverable and not hidden and it helps if the app has the ‘wow’ factor in order to engage the user.

2)      Design. Investing time in the visual design is crucial. Design is a key element to help the app stand out from others on the market and it also impacts on usability and sense of value. High quality visuals influence users’ perceptions that the app is worthwhile and going to provide a benefit. Excellent design also reinforces the business/brand(s).

3)      Development.  Key elements include building a framework, expanding the features, designing the user interface, coding the functionality of the features, and all other creative and technical components of the app. 

4)      Testing. You should look to solicit feedback from a pilot to ensure the launch of the app runs smoothly. Feedback is necessary in the development cycle and usability is critical to the success of an app. You need to think about the processes and factor in suitability testing. There is the expectation amongst users that apps will be immediately intuitive, therefore in-field testing amongst the target demographic will provide valuable insights into the appropriate build for the app. If things go wrong with the functionality, then naturally users will question the usability and rationale of the app.

5)       Release and maintenance. It is important to be mindful of marketplace guidelines to aid market acceptance for your app. Apple, for example, reviews every app featured on the App Store based on a set of technical, content, and design criteria. The Apple review criteria are available in the App Store Review Guidelines.

Other considerations

Be aware of hidden costs. Costs to consider in addition to the app build may, for example, include user experience, testing and online marketing.

Organisational engagement. You need to take the business and/or brand teams on the journey when developing an app. Get all departments on board, so they can take ownership of the app when it launches.  Everyone in the organisation should know who you’re creating the app for, what you are creating and why.

The ultimate measure of success for your app will be determined by downloads, feedback and the user response, which may translate via testimonials.

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No Respite In Sight For The Pharmaceutical Industry


By Jody Fassina, Independent Political Consultant, JF Consulting 

The announcement of the Government’s new Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listing deferral policy in February this year caused a lot of anguish for stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry.

The impact of the Government’s Deferral Policy is still to play out. Twenty eight Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommendations (including five new listings) remain in limbo, between Cabinet and Deferral, which goes against the Government’s own National Medicines Policy. What this means for PBAC independence and a growing number of medicines being held back from patients in need, where the PBAC has stated they should have access; will have long term implications.  

For the Government they face the dilemma of increasing patient costs through the denial of listing new medicines now. The fiscal reality though is that a drug denied listing today is a dollar saved tomorrow, whereas future patient costs from a drug denied listing today does not even show up as a direct cost to the budget tomorrow. So for the Government it is far easier to save a dollar today which is readily quantifiable than worry about patient costs into the future.

Even with this current situation, further developments indicate drug approvals will become even more challenging.

Minister Roxon has recently introduced for the third time legislation to means test the 30% private health insurance rebate. This is budgeted to save the Government approximately $2.8billion over the budget forward estimates.

At the same time when announcing the recent listing of 13 new medications including Erbitux and Gilenya at a cost of $200million per year to the PBS, Roxon also sent an ominous message that future listings are dependent upon the passage of savings measures like the Private Health Insurance (PHI) legislation.

Roxon specifically stated on 21 June that “…we will not be able to keep doing that (list new drugs) if the Opposition keeps opposing sensible savings measures like the private health insurance.”

While the Minister has already articulated that all new drug listings need to have offsetting savings, the Minister’s recent statement is a further development. She is now seeking to place the onus well and truly on the Opposition for any future delay in new drug listings. Her message is simple, unless the Opposition ‘plays ball’ on Government savings measures, then don’t expect any new significant drug listings.

The Minister has admitted she does not yet have the numbers in the House of Representatives to pass the PHI legislation so a $2.8billion hole in the health budget means the pharmaceutical industry could be facing a very bleak future and significant further delays in gaining Cabinet approval for PBS listings despite a positive PBAC recommendation.

The other interesting development is the ascension of the Greens to holding the balance of power in the Senate. They have finally succeeded in supplanting the Australian Democrats as Senate balance of power party.

The Greens are a party that the pharmaceutical industry needs to get to know. The Greens are naturally suspicious of big pharma even going as far as wanting to ban all political parties from receiving political donations from the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries.

That said, the Greens did support a Senate Committee Inquiry into the Government’s Deferral Policy where they will be represented by new Victorian Greens Senator and Health Spokesman, Richard Di Natale, a GP and public health expert. This will be the first time for the industry to get a feel of what Senator Di Natale may think of the pharmaceutical industry. 

What is clear is that the impact on patients is so serious that almost 100 Consumer Health Organisations, supported by Health Care Professional Groups, have publically condemned the Government’s politicisation of access to medicines, which is set to play out in the upcoming Senate Committee Inquiry.

 For more information contact Jody Fassina at

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Digital Healthcare Today


Mobile phones are no longer just about making calls, they are about finding information and images, sharing insights and managing lifestyles. Mobile phone applications (apps) – whether for iPhone or Android are the latest tool to help the public access, aggregate and consolidate lifestyle related information.

Over a thousand people in Australia were interviewed in 2010 by The Mobile Industry Group and 41% said they had downloaded an application.[1] More than a third of those had downloaded at least one from the category of ‘health and fitness’.

Healthcare Apps







Example Health and Fitness Apps

Smartphone Apps and Pharmaceutical

The majority of medical apps worldwide are aimed at a broad market (such as lifestyle and health tools) but there is a growing number of apps that deliver direct support to those suffering from a particular condition and many of these are created by pharmaceutical companies for specific countries.

With apps, pharmaceutical companies in particular are creating a portfolio of services and support around their products that they can offer to patients and non-patients alike. The benefits for patients are clear – they can receive immediate information, which is personalized and shareable in order to better manage their condition. Patient apps can be broadly classified as:-

1) Dosage Calculators & Medicine Management: Includes personal medical record storage applications, tracking medicine history, appropriate compliance and encouraging patients to take medication correctly

2) Discovery Tools: Applications on symptom management: support group, healthcare professional and resource locators

3) Education Aggregators: General information on weight loss, specific diseases, or broad grouping of information about symptoms and conditions

Examples of benchmark applications to support patients include:-

1) iManage Migraine by Merck & Co. enables patients to learn about migraines, potential triggers and understand the treatment options. The patient can track information in an interactive migraine journal, which can be used to aid discussions between the patient and healthcare provider to help reach an effective action plan for managing migraines.

2) Novartis’ VaxTrack provides parents with one convenient place to store information about their family’s vaccination records. The built-in locater can source local pharmacies for flu jabs and record insurance information.

What Are The Benefits?

Much of the discussion around apps is around potential – they are not currently heavily downloaded and reviewed, but with the growth of tablets and more smartphones this is likely to change. Companies wishing to build deeper relationships with patients and healthcare professionals can add value to their product offering and deliver real support in disease and lifestyle management:-

1) Support specific outreach and healthcare campaigns – For instance to patients suffering from a specific clinical condition, those wanting to improve their health or increase their activity levels

2) Provide a practical support for patients and healthcare professionals – In gauging dose levels and tracking dose history (patient compliance)

3) Deliver insight and education for the broader community – Offering deep and relevant information or access to specialists

Applications – whether free or paid for will become a lasting engagement tool. They are useful, not heavily branded and empower the patient.


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The Federal Budget and Pharma – the pain continues


By Jody Fassina, Independent Political Consultant, JF Consulting 

The Federal Budget has done nothing to allay fears of further PBS deferrals for the pharmaceutical industry, or indeed if there is any chance at all that the Government would reconsider these listings.  The deferment of PBS listings has become a key Government management tool to contain PBS costs and the absence of any budget guidance basically confirms this, now and into the future.

The Budget provides the following forward estimate costs for the PBS.

• 2010/11 – $10,337m
• 2011/12 – $10,794m
• 2012/13 – $11,245m
• 2013/14 – $12,070m
• 2014/15 – $12,882m

Year-on-year this results in percentage increases of 4.4%, 4.2%, 7.3% and 6.7%.  This enables the Government to perpetuate the myth, for as long as possible, that the PBS is growing faster than the rate of inflation and hence maintain pressure on industry in terms of PBS expenditure. Most importantly, it allows the Minister for Health to dismiss industry claims, supported by Medicare data, that the PBS is in fact growing at a rate less than inflation and therefore allow for new approved medicines to be placed on the PBS.

What this also demonstrates is that, with the year-on-year increases being greater than inflation, the February deferrals have not resulted in major savings over the forward estimates; however, the policy of deferrals has certainly become a fiscal management tool for Government to wheel out when required to prevent future PBS listings. The precedent is now firmly in place.

These costs also fail to take into account the impending patent cliff, which could result in savings to the PBS of anywhere up to $2 billion.  The Government clearly and strategically has decided not to factor in the patent cliff so it can maintain its political rhetoric that PBS costs are still growing at an unsustainable rate.

This is a key challenge for the pharma industry – convincing Government and the community at large that the PBS is in fact a sustainable, vital public health program supported by $1.9 billion in savings offered up in the MoU, and the impending patent cliff which will see savings of up to $2 billion. 

It is clear that funds exist to support the ongoing listing of new and innovative medicines for the Australian community; however, as it stands the Government has been relatively successful in demonstrating the need for PBS costs to continue to be reined in.

This Budget confirms by its silence that Government will maintain a tough political stance on the PBS.

The ‘fight’ is most definitely on and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as professional medical groups and patient advocacy, will need to convince the public and the media that Government has got its estimates wrong! This will be vital if there are to be any substantive PBS subsidies in the next few years.


Jody Fassina specialises in providing strategic counsel to both corporate and non-profit organisations requiring high level advice on public policy issues of paramount importance to their organisation. Jody has worked as a senior public affairs manager in the corporate sector with Macquarie Bank, a political consultant with a boutique Sydney firm and as a senior policy advisor to federal MPs. He is currently an independent political consultant, having established JF Consulting.

 For more information contact Jody Fassina at

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Pre Budget Overview and the Pharma Industry


By Jody Fassina, Independent Political Consultant, JF Consulting

Against the backdrop of recently released treasury documents under FOI and subsequent media reports claiming they demonstrated Treasurer Wayne Swan had no idea how to implement the mining resource rent tax, next Tuesday will be the Treasurers’ 4th and most difficult Budget – with the pharmaceutical industry at the forefront of the Government’s near manic commitment to bring the Federal Budget back into surplus by 2012/13.

The $1.9b in savings Government secured from industry via the MoU was followed by the announcement in February, by Minister Nicola Roxon, that Cabinet had decided to defer listing of six new drugs that had received positive recommendation by the PBAC. And that in future all PBAC recommendations would be decided by Cabinet.  This has established a totally new political environment for the pharma industry.

The Budget next week is unlikely to offer any joy for the industry.  There is no sign of a reversal in regards to the Government deferring future drug approvals or providing guidance on when past deferrals will be reconsidered, other than the Minister’s statements that they will be reconsidered when ‘fiscal circumstances allow’.

What the Budget will provide however, is the Government’s estimate over the next four years of what it believes the cost of the PBS will be to Australian taxpayers.  This will be interesting as only last Friday, at a gathering of industry and consumer health groups, the Health Minister claimed the PBS was continuing to grow at an unsustainable 6% per annum, and was totally dismissive of industry claims, derived from Medicare data, that the PBS was in fact growing at less than the inflation rate of 3.3.

Given the concern and uncertainty created by Cabinet’s decision to defer the listing of new drugs, it will be interesting to see whether the Budget forward estimates for PBS expenditure provide some insight into the savings this decision is meant to have delivered for Government. 

Will there be more pain for the pharma industry in the Budget?  While crystal ball gazing is always fraught with difficulty, the Government has belatedly ruled out any change to the patient co-payment, but would look at other measures such as expanding pre-existing therapeutic groups.  Given the Government’s actions to date, nothing can be ruled out.

Who would have thought that under the MoU with the Government committing to use best endeavours to consider PBAC recommendations within six months that its response would be to do just that, and indeed announce the deferral of multiple drugs to a time not yet committed to!!

Jody Fassina specialises in providing strategic counsel to both corporate and non-profit organisations requiring high level advice on public policy issues of paramount importance to their organisation. Jody has worked as a senior public affairs manager in the corporate sector with Macquarie Bank, a political consultant with a boutique Sydney firm and as a senior policy advisor to federal MPs . He is currently an independent political consultant, having established JF Consulting.

 For more information contact Jody Fassina at 

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Meeting the challenge of true PR measurement – we’re getting closer!


By: Rachael Randal

Within the toolbox of PR research and measurement, there is a no more contentious utensil than the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE). Its use has long been condemned by the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and countless PR societies worldwide. By definition, it places media space or time purchased as advertising in parity with that earned through PR, but even if the cost and quantity of the space or time is equivalent, control over content and placement, as well as credibility and influence, are most certainly not.

Despite its significant flaws, the AVE still gets a substantial amount of air time within serious conversation on PR measurement, disproportionate to its value. According to a UK PR Consultants Association survey in May this year, over a third of respondents admitted to continuing to use this evaluation model. It is relatively inexpensive and simple to calculate, and many argue that there is no accessible alternative.

The Valid Metrics Matrix

But now, we are decidedly moving along the path toward another option – a new validated metrics matrix that is the result of a five-month review by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). This new approach, which was previewed recently at a conference in London, is not just another industry fad that over simplifies the contribution of PR by implying instant results. It takes into account not only OUTPUTS – how the messages are distributed through a third party in a way that could impact the target audiences – but also OUTTAKES and OUTCOMES – how the messages are consumed by the target audiences and the impact they have on awareness, understanding, interest, support and action. A complex web of parameters can be used depending on the type and objective of PR activity being evaluated– from number, frequency and prominence of media articles, to key message alignment and accuracy of fact, to expressed opinions online, to Likes/retweets and Linkbacks to progress against initial outcome targets. The key underlying principles for best practice in evaluation remain the same as always: plan fro

m the outset what measurements you will do and conduct baseline research so you have clear benchmark data against which you can assess change.

This is an important milestone in the evolution of communications and so

mething agencies and in-house PR teams have been aiming towards for a long time. The new set of metrics provides the reassurance we all need to continue our commitment to demonstrating the true value of PR for achieving business results.

The PR industry needs to move away from measurement as a media analysis tool to something more, as business decision support. - Report International’s director Mike Daniels argued at the AMEC conference

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Nursing Australians back to health


This week marks a landmark moment in Australia’s healthcare system when a key item in the Government’s health reform plans is fully realised.  In a major change that will affect nurses – but also GPs, patients and the pharmaceutical industry – nurse practitioners and midwives will now have the power to access specific Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items and prescribe certain medicines subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The change in legislation recognises the highly-skilled and capable Australian nursing and midwifery workforce, providing a new framework to enhance and expand their role in providing quality healthcare.

Nurse prescribing is common practice overseas. The UK has seen a significant shift in the last two decades in nurse prescribing – which started in the 1990s when community based nurses were able to prescribe independently from a limited formulary. Since May 2006 independent nurse prescribers have been given the ability to “prescribe any licensed medicine for any medical condition within their competence.”

With this local shift in prescribing power now happening in Australia’s healthcare system, divisions in opinion and the murmur of a ‘turf war’ were always going to be inevitable. Great effort has been made to ensure the change in legislation preserved the requirement for nurse practitioners and midwives to work in collaboration with medical practitioners to access the MBS and PBS – essentially ensuring GPs are ‘kept in the loop’.  The AMA has gone to considerable lengths to help GPs prepare for the changes asking them to ‘embrace the changes’ or risk the possibility of jeopardising the mandated collaborative arrangements.

Importantly everyday Aussies are reportedly supportive of the Government’s move. Research just released by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) has shown Australians know the difference between being sick and needing a doctor and those “everyday health concerns” when a nurse practitioner would suffice.

Responses to the ongoing APHCRI survey has stated nurses are “good listeners” and could cater for “everyday health concerns, such as repeat prescriptions and minor illnesses, to free up GPs to manage more complex conditions.”  Shorter waiting times and better access to primary care has been identified as important advantages.

There is no doubt this represents a major milestone in Australia’s healthcare system. Ensuring this significant move enhances the delivery of best possible healthcare to Australians will be critical.  Time will tell whether or not we can indeed reach the levels of contribution nurse practitioners are making in the UK.

Big changes for Aussie nurses...

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Will Gillard get health?


Last week’s departure of former PM Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard’s ascent into leadership broke Australian news site traffic records. And with every other media outlet in the country still running red hot with Gillard news, it would seem almost unfair not to mention our new PM’s impact on health policy.
As a start, Julia Gillard has proficient experience in the area, serving for three years as the Opposition health spokeswoman during Abbott’s tenure as Federal Health Minister. She has also been involved in Rudd’s own ‘health revolution’.
A recent Galaxy poll shows nearly a quarter of us want to see a fast-track of the health reforms as a first priority. But what do the various industry bodies have to say about whether or not health policy will be given the red light by the new leadership?
The doctors
The AMA says that a leadership change is not likely to change the track of health policy. The group is also of the belief that Rudd’s National Health and Hospitals Network will remain in place.
The nurses
The ANF believes Gillard has what it takes to win the election – ‘Australians want a hospital, aged care and primary health care system that works and Labor has demonstrated a keen understanding of this’. The group also welcomes the first female PM into the fold.

The e-health experts
…say Gillard gets it and they look forward to see how the e-health agenda progresses.

The mental health advocates
Mental health experts are hopeful that our new leader will put mental health higher on the agenda. A great deal of momentum developed in the lead up to the leadership shake up, with over 60 organisations delivering nearly 100,000 signatories calling for an urgent focus on mental health – but this was unfortunately delivered to the wrong PM.

Professor Patrick McGorry sees this momentum as an incredible opportunity for the Gillard Government to take action and score some ‘brownie points’ in the lead up to the election.

But watch out Julia – Tony Abbott just pledged $1.5b to improve front-line mental health services if the Coalition is elected.
Health got a mention in Julia Gillard’s acceptance speech (video below, in case you missed it). Will this enthusiasm translate into action?

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