Australia's Health MVPs
Meet the people that are striving to make Australia a healthier place.
Good health is easy to take for granted. But all around Australia, there are people experiencing significant health challenges and fighting daily to achieve a better quality of life.
Luckily there are other Australians helping them to do just that. Throughout the country, Aussies are working tirelessly to provide relief, support and inspiration to the people who need it most.
So we decided to scour the country and identify people that we think deserve recognition for their commitment to the cause.
We ended up with 16 people that we’ve named as Australia's Health MVPs (Most Valuable People) for 2018. These MVPs work in many different areas of health including physical fitness, nutrition, medicine, cancer research and mental health.
Here they are (in no particular order) – the Health MVPs that are making the world a healthier place, one person at a time.
Name: Glenn McGrath
President of the McGrath Foundation
Glenn McGrath is more than just an Aussie cricketing legend; he’s the president of the McGrath Foundation, an organisation that has supported 60,000 families dealing with breast cancer since it was established in 2005.
The charity was founded by his late wife Jane, whose vision for the charity was that one day every breast cancer patient in Australia would have access to a care nurse, regardless of their financial situation.
Glenn works tirelessly to achieve this vision by promoting the foundation through major initiatives and raising awareness in the broader community.
Name: Donna Meads-Barlow
Founder of the DANII Foundation
Donna Meads-Barlow and her husband Brian started the DANII Foundation in 2011 following the death of their 17-year-old daughter Danii, who had type 1 diabetes.
Her death from a rare complication called Dead in Bed Syndrome could have been prevented with an expensive technology called Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM).
The DANII Foundation’s mission is to make this technology freely available to all Australians with type 1 diabetes. As of April 2017, every person under 21 with type 1 diabetes can freely access CGM thanks to the DANII foundation and its supporters.
Name: Travis Garone and Luke Slattery
Founders of Movember
What started in 2003 as a friendly bet between friends Travis Garone and Luke Slattery has grown into an international movement that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for men’s health issues: Movember.
When it started, the challenge was simple: who could grow the best moustache in one month. In year one, it was just Travis, Luke and 30 of their mates. However, they enjoyed the challenge so much that they decided to do it again the next year, but this time to raise awareness for men’s health issues. The group raised $54,000 and cut cheques to a number of men’s health charities including the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
And it has only grown from there. Since 2003, more than five million people have taken part in the challenge, and now there are official Movember events in more than 12 countries. They continue to support men’s health initiatives around the world.
Name: Dr Charlie Teo
Founder of the Charlie Teo Foundation
World-renowned neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo is on a mission to rid the world of brain cancer.
He founded the charity Cure Brain Cancer in 2003, but left in 2017. His new charity, The Charlie Teo Foundation, is set to launch in March 2018. He hopes the new charity will reduce overhead costs so that a higher percentage of donations is spent on research rather than administrative costs.
Teo’s dedication to health doesn’t just stop at humans. He is also heavily involved in the Australian animal welfare group Voiceless.
Dr Teo is currently the director of the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.
Name: Annie Crawford
Founder of the Can Too Foundation
Annie Crawford is an avid runner whose father died from bowel cancer at the age of 51. Combining her passion for physical fitness with her desire to wipe out cancer, she founded the Can Too Foundation.
The foundation helps people with physical challenges train for events like marathons, triathlons and ocean swims. Those beneficiaries pay it forward by using the event to raise money for cancer research.
Crawford has been awarded the Member of the Order of Australia and has been nominated twice for Australian of the Year. She tells her story in her memoir The Annie Effect.
Name: Matthew Cooke
Chair of Native Title PBC, AMS CEO and PHN director
Matthew Cooke is an Aboriginal and South Sea Islander person from the Bailai people in Gladstone. He has been a champion of Indigenous health since 2006, when he was appointed chief executive officer of Gladstone’s Nhulundu Wooribah Indigenous Health Organisation.
He has since broadened his scope and has been the CEO of the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and the chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
His goal is to not only improve the health of Indigenous Australians, but also to give them autonomy over their own health.
Name: Ian Thorpe
Advocate for ReachOut.com
Ian Thorpe is a legendary Australian swimmer with five Olympic gold medals to his name. Having battled with depression himself, he has used his influence to help spread awareness of mental health issues.
Thorpe is a patron of ReachOut.com, a charity aimed at helping young people take control of their mental health and wellbeing. He has also presented an ABC mini-series on bullying.
Thorpe has been involved in multiple health causes, including serving as the eye health ambassador for Specsavers. He has also done charity work to prevent and control illness in children, particularly those of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, for which he won the Australian Human Rights Medal in 2012.
Name: Kurt Fearnley
Paralympian and Disability Advocate
Kurt Fearnley is a passionate philanthropist and advocate for people with disabilities. Born without the use of his legs, he took up wheelchair racing at age 14 and has since won numerous medals over the course of five Paralympic games and other competitions.
Throughout the years, Fearnley has held leadership and/or ambassadorship roles with the Independent Advisory Council of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Australian Volunteers International, the NSW Australia Day Council, the Day of Difference Foundation and International Day of People with a Disability.
Fearnley regularly raises money for charity by taking on difficult physical challenges like hiking the Kokoda trail to raise money for the men’s health charity Movember. He also takes his message on the road as a travelling physical education teacher, inspiring high school students throughout NSW to test the limits of their abilities.
Name: Dr Jessica Dean
Board member for beyondblue
Dr Jessica Dean is a crusader for mental and sexual health. She is the co-founder of The Nookie Project, which facilitates workshops and seminars on the delivery of sexual health education to young people.
Dean is also the former president of the Australian Medical Students’ Association where she helped launch a national campaign aiming to decrease the stigma around mental health and to empower young people to look out for one another.
In 2015, she joined the board of directors of beyondblue in order to bring a young person’s perspective on mental health advocacy. She also serves as an advisor to the Doctors’ Mental Health Program and the National Suicide Prevention Campaign and Strategy. In 2017, Dean was nominated for the Victorian Young Australian of the Year award.
Name: Susan Alberti, AC
Founder of the Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation
Susan Alberti’s only child Danielle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in the 1980s and tragically died of complications from the disease.
Determined to stamp out T1D forever, Alberti set up the Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation to fund the prevention, treatment and cure for T1D. Over the years, the focus has broadened to include funding for medical research more generally.
Alberti has received numerous accolades and awards for her philanthropic work, including Member of the Order of Australia, Officer of the Order of Australia, Melburnian of the Year and two-time finalist for Australian of the Year. In 2016, she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in recognition for her contributions to the community, particularly through her philanthropic and fundraising support for medical research and as an advocate for improved healthcare services for disadvantaged Australians.
Name: Joe Williams
Mental health advocate
Joe Williams is a proud Wiradjuri First Nations Aboriginal person whose sporting achievements are only surpassed by his winning the battle for his own mental health.
Williams played in the National Rugby League before turning his attention to boxing in 2009, where he became a two-time WBF World Junior Welterweight champion.
Williams’ biggest fight came in 2012 when a history of bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts finally caught up to him, and he attempted to take his own life. Williams is now an advocate for suicide prevention, offering workshops on mental health education with the theme The Enemy Within. He has worked with drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and jails as well as with disengaged youth in schools. His work has saved countless Australian lives.
Name: Sam Webb
Co-founder of LIVIN
Sam Webb is an actor and speaker who you may recognise as one of the top six contestants on Australian Survivor 2016. What you may not know is that he is also a champion for mental health.
Webb co-founded the charity LIVIN in 2013 after losing a good friend to suicide. LIVIN is dedicated to reversing the stigma around mental health by encouraging people to speak up and talk about their feelings, issues and challenges.
Webb spreads this message far and wide through motivational speaking and as a contributor to the Mental Health News Radio Network.
Name: Kelly Cartwright
Ambassador for START Foundation
Kelly Cartwright was only 15 when doctors gave her a choice: to either have her leg amputated or undergo surgery and risk the cancer spreading beyond the knee. She chose the former.
Cartwright’s first prosthetic leg was built for walking, but she took up competitive running nonetheless. After being selected to the Emerging Talent squad for the London Paralympics in 2005, Cartwright raised enough money for an expensive purpose-built running leg and went on to win numerous medals including two medals at the 2012 London Paralympics.
As ambassador for the START Foundation, Cartwright is giving other amputees the same opportunity she had. The charity enables amputees to participate in sport by raising money for new limbs, limb modification and equipment modification.
Name: Ellyse Perry
Ambassador for the LBW Trust and the McGrath Foundation
Ellyse Perry is a force of nature when it comes to sport. She competes professionally in both cricket and soccer, becoming the first Australian to appear in the World Cups of each of those sports.
Over the years, Perry has lent her renown to several noteworthy causes. As an ambassador to the McGrath Foundation, she has been the face of several campaigns to raise breast cancer awareness.
She is also an ambassador for the LBW Trust, which promotes education in developing cricket-playing countries, and Ability First, which provides work and lifestyle opportunities to people with disabilities.
Name: Lyndi Cohen
Nutritionist and dietician
Lyndi Cohen teaches Australians how to eat healthy and to lose weight in a way that promotes a positive self-image.
Adopting the moniker The Nude Nutritionist, Cohen is an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which aims to improve the health and happiness of everyday people through the food they eat.
She is a passionate advocate for body positivity and maintains a strict no-Photoshop policy in her appearances. She maintains that eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated and shares her message about healthy eating on her regular media appearances.