Serving up a healthy dose of science to ‘wellness’

How a hot topic and the connections of the Inspiring Australia network can bring together an unlikely combination of mainstream media, academia and consumer advocacy to explore science and reach bigger audiences.


Image: (L-R) Natasha Mitchell, Margaret Allman-Farinelli, Sarah McKay, Christopher Zinn and Liz Graham. Credit: Joe Wallace

During National Science Week ‘Bringing Science to Wellness’ attracted an audience of 300 people. Now it’s reaching tens of thousands more online. And it’s a formula that can, and has been, adapted and replicated to reach more people still.

With the rise of the ‘wellness movement’, how do you sort the wheat from the gluten and the science from the snake oil?

ABC Radio’s Natasha Mitchell hosted ‘Bringing Science to Wellness’—a discussion of these potentially life and death issues—as part of Sydney Science Festival 2015. The event delved into the appeal of the wellness warrior, the challenges for the health sector, and the influential role of the media.

Belle Gibson infamously claimed she cured herself from brain cancer through diet and nutrition… and, off the back of this, made a best-selling app and a short-lived but lucrative career as a wellness guru, despite never having had cancer.

Why were some people more willing to trust Belle Gibson than their GP?

What would it take to encourage a more rational approach to wellness, and why don’t more evidence-based scientists participate in this growing industry?

Organised by NSW Inspiring Australia Manager Jackie Randles, this event showed how popular hot topics, such as health and wellness, can bring science to a broad mainstream audience. It also showed how well-curated science events can include panellists who aren’t scientists.

The panel of research and medical experts and communicators included:

  • consumer advocate Christopher Zinn,
  • Professor of Dietics Margaret Allman-Farinelli,
  • neuroscientist and health blogger Dr Sarah McKay, and
  • lifestyle journalist Liz Graham, acting editor at body+soul.

An associated story written for ABC The Drum brought its key messages to an even wider online audience.

Read ‘Scientists should take a leaf out of wellness bloggers’ books’ at ABC The Drum.

Listen to the event podcast at ABC Radio National Life Matters.

‘Bringing Science to Wellness’ was an initiative of Inspiring Australia, together with the Sydney Ideas, for National Science Week 2015.

Bringing science to wellness again

National Science Week 2016 saw EPA Victoria join with RMIT University to host ‘Risky Business or Worried Well?’, a panel discussion event modelled on ‘Bringing Science to Wellness’. This Melbourne event was also live-streamed to an even larger online audience, with people even watching from USA, New Zealand and Sweden. A video of the event, including Auslan signing, can be watched online – an enduring legacy from an Inspiring Australia idea.

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