Community driven career: from public health to homelessness
Louise Miller-Frost’s expansive career is centred around the community’s wellbeing – from leading a not-for-profit organisation which houses women experiencing homelessness to providing community-driven perspective on the SA Medical Board and the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) Vaccines Committee.
This year, Louise’s vast experience in public health policy landed her an appointment to the TGA Vaccine Safety Committee.
“Vaccines have provided some of the most significant leaps forward in public health in the last century, unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about vaccine safety and underestimation about the harm some of the diseases they address can cause,” says Louise.
“The role of the Committee, and my role as a Consumer Representative on the Committee, is about public safety and improving the health of the community in the fights against infectious diseases.”
With speculation and controversy surrounding vaccinations for children, Louise believes legislation can be used as a tool for changing behaviour.
“Legislation has worked in public health policy previously, for instance the introduction of the compulsory seatbelt legislation. This is particularly important when the health of the community, specifically young children, is at risk.
“But it is also important that people have a sense of security and safety about the medicines and vaccines that are released in the Australian marketplace, otherwise they will still opt out."
With conflicting information constantly available online to read, Louise says it is more important than ever for the public to feel confident about vaccination safety and the process new vaccines undergo.
“For a vaccine to be approved by the TGA and the Minister for release in Australia is a long process, often taking several years. Scientific evidence about its safety, quality and efficacy is analysed and assessed. After a vaccine is released for use in Australia, post-market monitoring continues to ensure ongoing public safety.”
As well as her work with the TGA, Louise is the CEO of Catherine House Inc., a recovery-focussed homelessness service for women. With extensive programs available to women needing support services and accommodation, the organisation houses 48 women on a nightly basis.
“The issues that bring women to homelessness are often complex – we help them find housing, secure their income, connect with the services they need and make plans for their future.”
Since its initial inception in 1988, the organisation has grown to have a team of 50 full-time, part-time and casual employees – as well as a team of over 50 volunteers. Catherine House also offers programs such as National Affordability Housing Agreement Services programs, education programs and Mental Health Programs.
In 2016, Louise was appointed as a community member on the Medical Board of South Australia, a role that she says is critical in the board gaining another point of view from a community-driven perspective.
“The Medical Board deals with registration matters and complaints or notifications about medical practitioners. Sitting alongside medical professionals, my role is to represent a community perspective of the issues being discussed, community expectations and priorities in the way practitioners deliver health care and services to the community.
“Some of the issues we deal with are technical and clinical in nature, but others are about practitioner behaviour, communication or the way in which they practice. The overarching guiding principle is about public safety in healthcare, which is something I am passionate about.”
Before Louise was running Catherine House, she was working full-time in local government while her triplet sons were in primary school. It was at this time she decided to enrol at UniSA and study a Master of Business Administration online to help provide for her children and further her career.
“I was very time poor but knew I needed a business degree to further my career. UniSA online gave me the ability to complete subjects after the children went to bed. And I really like the intensive subject format, which fitted nicely with my busy life at the time.”
Although Louise’s academic career has been varied – she also holds a Bachelor of Applied Science, and Masters Degrees in Communication Management and Public Health – she is adamant that everything she has learned has given her a diverse and useful set of skills.
“I have found that each one has added something to my skill set. It has been years since I completed the communications degree but the principles I learned are standing me in good stead for engaging with our community of supporters at Catherine House.”