Paul Corben is director of the North Coast Public Health Unit [NCPHU], a position he has held in a variety of health organisations on the NSW north coast since 2000. We asked Paul what it’s like to practice public health in a rural area.
In the current configuration of health administrative areas, the NCPHU covers both the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health Districts and has offices in Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Lismore. The Public Health team comprises 25 people working across the usual pillars of public health (communicable disease control & surveillance, immunisation, environmental health and epidemiology), as well as a small Tuberculosis Prevention & Control team and the Coffs Harbour Refugee Clinic. We also run the school-based vaccination program which employs a “seasonal” team of about 30 nurse immunisers. As is often the case in smaller rural health organisations, the Director is also responsible for other portfolios which in my case include the HIV & Related Programs teams (55 staff) and the recently established Mid North Coast Research unit (1 staff member).