This was a fascinating, illuminating, and enraging conversation with Dr Richard Denniss, Executive Director of The Australia Institute, and Professor Margaret Hellard, Deputy Director of the Burnet Institute, about why we’re not collecting covid data, and why it matters. This one is really important, so please listen, and share.
MH: “People and their communities are at the centre of this, and one of the things that I think we did really poorly all the way through, and continue to do poorly, is speak to people, about what their wants and needs, and their communities’ wants and needs are. It’s just really important to keep people and community at the centre of it, so that when we’re collecting data, we are actually collecting data that addresses the critical wants and needs of those communities. So that we go back and ask communities: “How has this impacted on you?” So that we keep that at the centre of our thinking.”
RD: “Don’t get me wrong. This is really important, and we really should be collecting a lot more data, and encouraging people to do the simple things that the data we do have says would work, but this is not the only big public policy problem that our policy makers are wilfully blind to. It would be wrong to think this is a covid conspiracy. This is a well worn path. You know, we have terrible data on greenhouse gas emissions by industry in Australia, because hey! Maybe we don’t want to embarrass anybody. We have terrible data on lots of big problems and we have really really good data on some things that powerful groups are really interested in. So unfortunately the map of what we have data on is as interesting as the maps within data. A lot of people think that these things are just accidents. I have a very simple predictor for what we have data on, it’s groups that were powerful ten years ago, because there’s a long lag on data.”
RD:”Why aren’t we collecting the data? Because they don’t want to admit failure. They don’t want to make it easy for me to tell you what the cost to GDP of this heroic approach to covid has been.”
MH: “The story of vaccination, and getting those levels up, is really important, because that’s what’s going to protect us into the future, from really yucky outcomes of covid into the future, as we have waves continue to come through. So this is why it’s really important that we understand what happened. So that people don’t think it was all a waste of time. It wasn’t a waste of time, we saved a lot of lives, but good public health measures remain important into the future.”