School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Student Profile

Bronnie Anderson-Smith
Master of International Public Health / Master of Public Health (Health Promotion) (Dual Degree with Specialisation)
Mode of study : 
Full-time, Internal
Country : 
Australia
Previous Education : 
Bachelor of Arts (International Development Studies), ANU

My experience working in Vanuatu designing and running nutrition training inspired me to study public health. It made me appreciate how valuable and taken for granted basic health literacy is in Australia. I reflected on how much health knowledge I had been exposed to through school programs like Happy Healthy Harold, about diseases from plotlines on TV shows (infotainment), from health promotion information such as the food pyramid. Most of the communities I was working with had not had these same experiences. While we are all bombarded with advertising from Big Food, some ni-Vanuatu people did not have the health literacy to help process this information. I hoped that studying public health would teach me the best ways to share information and resources to enable people to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. UNSW has a great reputation for their practical work in Australia and in global health, so I chose to study here.

Most important thing learned from studies

The most important thing I learned in my studies is about how important equity and social justice are to public health. This really resonated with my background in international development. Public health is much bigger than hospitals, doctors and what most people could consider the ‘health system’. Working to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities requires actions across all sectors: influencing the political system, taking a ‘health in all policies’ approach to understand how housing, water and sanitation infrastructure, clean air and safe transport options, education, employment conditions, access to healthy food and social safety nets determine health outcomes. We have to think big to make change and reduce inequality. What public health adds to my passion from development is an evidence base to show how these things matter, how we can measure them as well as a tool kit of interventions that work.

Most challenging thing

As a non-clinician I felt very intimidated, especially in my first semester. Everyone around me seemed to have a strong understanding of medicine or how the health system worked and years of experience while I felt I knew nothing! However, I came to understand that being an outsider was also an advantage. I could question things that others took for granted or see things from a different perspective. And importantly, staff and fellow students were very welcoming!

Enjoyed the most

The thing I have enjoyed the most is working with and learning from the students from all over the world. I am so grateful to them for what they taught me about health priorities and systems in their home countries and for questioning how the Australian health system works. I have loved taking friends on bush walks and other adventures to show them Sydney and look forward to more travel adventures visiting them back home in the coming years!

Message to newly commencing students

Get involved! Ask questions of the lecturers and other students. I know some students are not used to a learning environment where it is okay to interrupt the lecturer or to ask questions. I found when I asked what seemed like the most obvious question it could stimulate a really interesting discussion. As people often say, if it isn’t clear to you, it’s likely not clear to others as well, so you asking questions helps everyone.

How degree will assist in your career

My degrees have equipped me with practical skills in understanding epidemiology, being able to critically evaluate evidence, look for patterns in population data, design health promotion interventions or critique existing interventions. I completed an internship at the Sydney Sexual Health Centre as the final course of my study. I was able to apply many things to conduct a quality improvement evaluation. My internship gave me a clear picture of how I can apply my new skills to the real world of public health. I can’t wait to put more of what I have learned into practice!