Case study public health

Case study public health 

The second assessment task for this unit is a case study. This is an INDIVIDUAL assignment (1500 words). You will take on the role of a systems expert providing advice on a public health scenario. The topic and scenario will be posted in a separate file on this page. The scenario contains questions that the client needs to be addressed so that it can formulate policy. Your answer must make use of systems principles but be accessible to a general audience without any specific expertise. Add references and citations.

PBHL20002 Assessment 2 Scenario

You are a public health and systems expert who has been consulted by a local council government in the outer suburbs of a major Australian city. In recent years, the council has observed an increase in the volumes of medical waste that needs to be handled, causing ongoing problems. They have decided to seek outside advice about the problems’ source and possible courses of action.

Under state law, medical waste (anything containing human tissue, blood, medical cultures, biopsy specimens, and similar materials) must be disposed of by incineration, autoclaving, microwaving, or shredding. This requires specialised equipment and processes and takes place at a facility licensed by the state government. Depending on the nature of the waste and the procedure, it may leave remains which can be deposited in landfills, which obviously increases the volume added to landfills and accelerates the point at which more space is required. Incineration avoids this problem but generates air pollution. The more waste needs to be transported, processed, and possibly landfilled, the higher the costs for the council and local medical facilities, as these require interaction with private firms located in the city.

The increase in medical waste volume has been linked to the aging population. At the last time it was surveyed, this particular council had a median age of 41.3 years (note: the median age of Australia’s population in 2020 was 37.9 years). It is considered to be on the lower side of middle-income suburbs; the major supermarket chains are well-represented, but there is no large mall-style shopping centre and several small businesses have closed in the last five years. As a result of this, some older people who have lived in the area for a long time have stated that things feel “depressed” compared to when they were younger. There are two privately-run aged care homes within the council’s jurisdiction, with a third under construction, and two hospitals. One of the hospitals has a specialised cancer ward which is known nationally, attracting staff engaged in cutting-edge treatment and research, as well as patients from across Australia.

Over the past three months, issues related to medical waste have become more and more prominent. There has been a range of discussion about the issue in the community, and within the council, including both anecdotal evidence and data-based content. This discussion culminated in a call for submissions to the council, and its members have summarised five of the key points as questions for you to address.

You may respond to them with any position you want to take – but remember that you are a professional and should conduct yourself accordingly. Make use of your knowledge about systems theory and public health to provide advice to the council. If any of your responses recommend interventions or policies, you do not need to address specific monetary costs or Australian building standards – you can assume that the details of this will be worked out by the council once they make a decision, so you can make general comments (“relatively cheap” vs “relatively expensive”, etc). If you make use of any outside sources or articles, you must use in text references and include a bibliography at the end of your responses.

1. Before presenting any of the specific issues raised, some of the council members have a more general question they wish to have addressed. These members are unsure why the issue of medical waste received very little attention previously. They point out that the issues of aging populations, transport costs, and air pollution resulting from incineration have existed for a long time, but nobody thought they were such a problem until recently. What might have made people reluctant to talk about medical waste in the past? What might have changed in the public’s perception? (10 points)

2. One local resident describes attending a town hall meeting and asking why the council approved the construction of a new aged care facility, given that there were already problems with handling medical waste before. They say that they were “shouted down” by other locals, and that the council is “listening to the wrong people”. Assume that this person’s account is accurate. Why do you think the locals who shouted this person down took exception to the question? (Hint: what are some socio-cultural ideas about aging and older people?) In your opinion, do the reasons the other locals took exception help or hinder dealing with the medical waste situation? (10 points)

3. A business located in the city has submitted a proposal to build a new facility in the council which specialises in the treatment and disposal of medical waste. This proposal met with major opposition from local residents, including from social groups representing older people and a local environmental health professional. However, the company itself claims that constructing the facility will provide employment and stimulate economic activity. Which of these positions do you more agree with? Which of these positions do you think is better for the council in its current situation? (10 points)

4. One submission comes from a nurse at the hospital, who wished to remain anonymous. This person states that in the past five years, they have witnessed a major increase in patients requiring treatment for chronic diseases, notably heart disease and diabetes. Some of these patients are owners of small businesses that closed, or family members of such people. The nurse’s submission said that they have “never felt so much like the area was falling apart” because of both these events. Is there any pathway that connects these events, and the medical waste issue? Is there any way the council could address these via some other field or pathway? (10 points)

5. The council received an unexpected submission from a population scientist who is best known for arguing that Australia is actually underpopulated. The scientist claims that the root of all the council’s problems is demographics, and that it requires more young people and a higher birth rate. If the council were to pursue this, would it affect the medical waste situation? Would it have any effects on other areas, which might lead back to the medical waste problem? (10 points)

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