MEMBER (AM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
Associate Professor Kenneth John HARVEY, Melbourne VIC 3004
For significant service to community health and the pharmaceutical industry through roles in developing guidelines for the ethical use of antibiotics. See also:
- https://www.australiandoctor.com.au/news/latest-news/the-doctors-recognised-in-the-queen-s-birthday-hon (appended)
Associate Professor Ken Harvey (AM)
Public health campaigner Associate Professor Ken Harvey has been honoured for his leading role in improving antibiotic prescribing in Australia.
In the late 1970s, he was among a group of doctors working in Melbourne’s teaching hospitals increasingly concerned about the incidence of antibiotic-resistant micro-organisms and inappropriate prescribing.
It led to the creation of a working party, which produced what Professor Harvey describes as a “slim booklet” running to 30 pages.
“It was designed to fit into a hospital doctor’s white coat pocket”.
With the help of a small grant, it was handed out free of charge to resident medical officers working in Victoria.
Nearly 40 years later, the guidelines have been through 15 editions running to 30 chapters, with antibiotics and their continuing misuse recognised across medical profession as a global concern.
“I’m pleased and honoured. It is good to know you have made a difference,” says Professor Harvey.
“The guidelines were for the first time providing independent information about these drugs. [Given how far we have evolved], it has been hugely important. It also influence other areas of medical practice so that we have guidelines that go right across medicine.”
The honours citation for Professor Harvey refers to his “significant service” to the pharmaceutical industry.
And this reference — because of his reputation as a vociferous critic of the industry’s excesses — makes him chuckle.
“It’s a touch unusual I guess. I think quite a few of my colleagues would be surprised to hear that I had made a contribution.”
The industry itself has described him as an “agitator”, a tag that he is happy to accept.
“It’s what public health is all about. You make your analysis. You find out what is wrong and then you have to jump up and down to get change.”
Yes, the pharmaceutical industry has improved. “Transparency and openness has got much better.”
But he says scrutiny of all those companies who make their dollars from advertising therapeutic goods — particularly those that make up the booming complementary medicine industry — has to continue.
He is now 73 and recovering from a recent hip replacement. But Professor Harvey doesn’t seem the retiring type. His work will continue, he says.
Part of his work involves inspiring a new generation of “agitators”.
Each year, he gets his public health students at Monash University to investigate the rich and strange variety of bogus health products marketed to the public.
Ostensibly, it’s to help these students understand how the regulatory system works in Australia.
But Professor Harvey puts it more eloquently: “They are about to embark on a ‘wack a mole’ project. There are still plenty of moles to wack.”