A biomedical research expert who has attended to numerous patients suffering from smoking-related heart and lung conditions is now a leading advocate of tobacco harm reduction in Australia.
Dr. Alex Wodak has worked as a doctor in hospitals since 1971. “Inevitably that meant seeing a lot of patients with terminal smoking-related heart or lung conditions or cancers. That sparked my interest in public health and prevention,” he says.
He was involved in biomedical research on alcoholic liver disease in London from 1980 to 1982. Since then, he has become more interested in public health approach to alcohol, tobacco, prescription and illicit drugs.\
When he returned to Australia in 1982, he was increasingly immersed in HIV prevention, especially in trying to reduce transmission among people who inject drugs. “That made me a strong supporter of harm reduction,” he says.
“As a doctor I have led a somewhat privileged life. But my work has brought me into close contact with people who were homeless, others who were billionaires, and many who were in between. The overwhelming majority of people want to lead healthier lives but many lack the means to improve. To help people lead healthier lives, it’s critical to make healthy choices attractive, easy, affordable and enjoyable,” he says.
Dr. Wodak believes that nudging people from unhealthy to healthy choices is much more effective than hitting them over the head with a baseball bat.
“Medicine is very eclectic and very pragmatic. What matters is to ‘add years to life and life to years’. That is, to increase life expectancy while also improving the quality of people’s lives. As poor people have much poorer health, harm reduction requires that we emphasize improving social and economic conditions of poor people in order to maximize gains in life expectancy and quality of life. Whether gains are achieved around the Cabinet table or around the operating table is irrelevant,” he says.
24shareupdates – 2021-04-19.