Wicked answers to wicked problems

PANEL: Professor Sabina Knight opened the forum and addressed the topics for the year. Photo: Melissa North
PANEL: Professor Sabina Knight opened the forum and addressed the topics for the year. Photo: Melissa North

Everything from diabetes to exercise and health facilities was discussed at the first Wicked Problems Q&A evening.

Professor Sabina Knight from the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health (MICRRH) conducted the Wicked Problems Q&A forum on Monday evening at the Tjirtamai Hall and said their mission is to predominantly address health workforce issues but also be involved in health services research.

“We are very, very interested in public health problems,” she said.

“Our collective purpose is to improve and contribute to the improvement of health services, so we are here to make a difference,” Prof Knight said.

The panel of experts included Prof Sabina Knight, Prof Timothy Skinner, Prof Richard Hays, Shaun Solomon and Prof Isabelle Skinner.

We are very, very interested in public health problems.

Professor Sabina Knight

Guest expert panelist included Councillor Phil Barwick and Ruth McKenzie and Kaye Smith

The Wicked Problems Q&A forum was formed when a need arose from within the community.

“After conversations with people from the community and others we’ve identified that we currently don't have an informal or formal forum for discussing these problems,” Prof Knight said.

“So the forum was formed to help engage the community in research, to identify research priorities, to work with the community as a partner in research and inform the community about relevant research results.” 

By definition a wicked problem is usually a mix of social and cultural problems that are difficult or impossible to solve for many reasons.

“Some people have incomplete or contradictory knowledge as to how to handle the problem or what to do,” Prof Knight said.

She said some of the problems could also be of an interconnected nature which means that addressing them in one area isn't going to solve the problem, it’s more complex.

The issues to be addressed at the Wicked Problem Q&A forums this year are:

  • Chronic Disease and Diabetes
  • Accident and Injury Prevention
  • Sexual Health and STIs
  • Kids - Our Future
  • Women’s Wellness
  • Preventing Cancer and Chronic Illness
  • Mental Health and Well-being

“We might not be able to research every topic encountered here this year but we can lead with conversations,” she said.

On the topic of Chronic Disease and Diabetes Professor Timothy Skinner said there were three things we need to think about regarding obesity, weight gain and chronic illnesses.

“Basically I think we have to shift our mindset, from a big problem because it's actually problems with small things.

“The difference between being your ideal weight or obese is just one pat of butter, which is 36 calories, by eating only that much more than what you need each day over ten years adds up to 30kg – that’s what will make the difference,” Prof Skinner said.

“One of the most interesting things I’ve found as a Psychologist is, the best predictor for you being heavier one year from today than you are now – is being on a diet.”

“My advice is look at the small changes you can make and the impact they have, simple things like using a smaller plate, moving the food in your fridge so the stuff that is less healthy is hidden and the healthier things are seen,” he said.

Move the cookies out of site and the fruits out to see.

Professor of Psychology Timothy Skinner

“The other really interesting thing we’ve learnt in the last five years is related to sleep quality,” Prof Skinner said.

“Poor or short sleep quality has a direct effect on consistent weight gain.”

The Wicked Problems Q&A is held every second Monday of the month with the next forum scheduled on April Monday 9 at the Tjirtamai Hall at 4.30pm for a 5pm start.