By Kaitlin Bowen and Mark Henderson

Recently, partners from around the world gathered to learn, share and connect during the 2017 GLOBALHealthPR® (GHPR) Annual General Meeting, held in Mexico City. One of the unique aspects we discussed in Mexico is the annual GHPR employee exchange program. We recently interviewed the participants of this year’s program to reflect on the highlights:

 As a part of the GLOBALHealthPR (GHPR) exchange program, Mark Henderson from VIVA! Communications in Australia and Kaitlin Bowen from Spectrum in the United States flew halfway around the world to “swap desks” and experience healthcare communications in each other’s home countries.

The exchange program, designed to enhance the connectivity of GHPR agencies, helps foster collaboration among the independent health and science communications network and enables agency employees the opportunity to gain insight into the drivers that affect health and science communications in other markets.

Kaitlin and Mark reflected recently on the major differences between the two countries and what they gained from their GLOBALHealthPR exchange experience.

What is the major difference you saw between the health industries in Australia and the United States?

Mark Henderson – VIVA! Communications, Australia: While in the States, I learned about medicines when I wasn’t even expecting to, as direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements often appeared on television and in magazines – this came as quite a surprise to me. I was enthralled by the advertising, but further to this, the amount of political discussion and conversation in the community around healthcare and medicines. That was intriguing, and I think it’s a good thing.

Living in Australia, we tend to become complacent about our access to free medicines and hospital care (well, free for the most part), and that shrinks the public conversation on healthcare in Australia somewhat. That is, unless one is championing a certain medicinal cause, working in the health industry or battling with a disease that requires difficult to access therapies.

On a slightly different note, I was shocked to see promotion of cigarettes in the U.S. I picked up a magazine at the airport, and was confronted with a discount offer for a new brand of cigarettes. Not just an advertisement, but a discount offer for cigarettes – how can this be allowed?

In Australia, we have so many regulations regarding cigarette advertising in attempts to decrease cancer rates –our laws include plain packaging, locked cabinets and no advertisements for cigarettes. So to see cigarettes advertised in the U.S. was confronting.

Kaitlin Bowen – Spectrum, United States: Due to the restrictions around direct-to-consumer advertising in Australia via the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct, healthcare companies and the PR and marketing agencies that support them must be creative to connect with stakeholders in meaningful ways. Empowering advocacy partners and patients is critical.

Due to this tightly regulated health communications environment, VIVA!’s work tends to be highly patient-centric, which is great. Most campaigns include regional or state-specific patient spokespeople who can provide first-hand commentary on what it’s like to live with a certain disease or condition. This, combined with dynamic content and a the knack for media relations creates  comprehensive patient case studies, videos and infographics (both still and animated) that are really easy for the media to reference and extract for use in their stories.

How does the working culture differ between VIVA! & Spectrum?

KB, USA:  Overall, the team is very collaborative and it’s often all hands on deck to do great work for our clients. Even the agency’s Principal is not afraid to jump in and help, lending her expertise and experience to all aspects of client service, including making pitch calls and proofing content.

Additionally, I found Australians to be quite direct with each other – no sugar coating feedback or direction – which helps keep projects moving along efficiently. I think it also helps boost camaraderie within the agency, which can go a long way for maintaining morale among employees and ultimately helps drive a better quality product for clients.

The VIVA! office had a similar vibe to our Spectrum offices with lots of open, collaborative space and cool, scientific imagery around the office.

I view my Spectrum team as family, so I think the VIVA! gang is pretty much our cousins Down Under – the people, culture and energy in the office space were surprisingly similar to our Spectrum team here in the U.S. That’s the great part about the GLOBALHealthPR network – the agencies are so like-minded not only in our office environments, but also in our values and what motivates us to do great work for our clients.   I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to live, work and play in Sydney for a few weeks and form long-lasting friendships with our GLOBALHealthPR partners in Australia.

 MH, AUS: Overall, both Spectrum and VIVA! work in the highly specialised healthcare PR arena, part of which allows us to craft and share the fascinating stories that create buzz and hype around healthcare therapies, medicines, medical research and science.

I was really privileged to meet so many American healthcare PR peers, and was impressed by the different stories and reasons for pursuing healthcare communications. Some of the Spectrum staff have Ph.D.’s and are trained scientists. The knowledge and experience that these experts can lend to the science of health is invaluable, and they are lovely people too!

How will you continue to build relationships across the GLOBALHealthPR network now that you’re back home?

 MH, AUS: I think the amazing thing about the exchange program is that we are visiting and partnering with not just friends, but colleagues. I’m thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to continue to grow and build relationships with all of my healthcare PR peers. It’s something truly unique to GLOBALHealthPR.

I am eager to remain in touch, and to continue working alongside and collaborating with my American counterparts, and friends in the U.S.

KB, USA: In the words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Because I’ve been given the amazing privilege to participate in the GHPR exchange program, I believe it’s important as partners that we continue to support and build the GLOBALHealthPR network on behalf of each of our agencies.

The beauty of GHPR is that each of us are experts in our local healthcare marketplaces, but we have that global reach and connectivity across the world through each partner agency. What’s really special is that we’re not just professional acquaintances, but friends. I remain connected to my VIVA! colleagues on Facebook and always look forward to hearing the latest client updates and the GHPR Annual General Meeting. In the spirit of the GHPR exchange program, I will continue to work to foster collaboration and best practice sharing across the network.

Kaitlin Bowen is an Account Director at GHPR U.S. partner Spectrum. Mark Henderson is the Queensland Branch Manager at GHPR Australian partner VIVA! Communications. To check out Kaitlin’s and Mark’s experiences from the GLOBALHealthPR Professional Exchange Program and other GHPR programming, use #GHPRConnects to connect and join the conversation.


kb-sydney-bridgeI’ve been in Sydney, Australia for just over a week now as a part of the GLOBALHealthPR® Professional Exchange Program. While I’ve done “heaps” of touristy things like check out sweeping views of the city from the Sydney Tower Eye, watched surfers catch some waves at Manly Beach and hung out with koalas at the Wild Life Sydney Zoo, I’ve also gotten a taste of what it’s like to live as a local Aussie. Here are a few things about working with colleagues at our partner agency Team VIVA!  that I wanted to share:


I’ve found my work at VIVA! to be highly patient-centric, and find it surprising that a recent Pharma In Focus white paper reports that one in three Australian pharma marketers felt they failed to focus on the patient. Most campaigns include regional or State-specific patient spokespeople who can provide first-hand commentary on what it’s like to live with a certain disease or condition. VIVA! has a real knack for media relations, and develops comprehensive patient case studies, videos and infographics (both still and animated) that are really easy for the media to reference and extract for use in their stories


Under the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct, you cannot mention the names of specific pharmaceutical products or anything that might imply a specific type of treatment in communication to consumers beyond a new product launch, or when the product secures a second indication. So PR and marketing firms need to get creative and find ways to connect with consumers in meaningful ways on behalf of their pharma clients. Programs are often implemented through unrestricted grants to advocacy groups and tend to focus on disease state awareness.


VIVA! starts each week with an all-agency meeting. The team works well together, and sometimes it’s all hands on deck. Even the agency’s Principal is not afraid to jump in and help, lending her expertise and experience to all aspects of client service. I’ve also found Australians to be quite direct with each other – no sugar coating feedback or direction – which helps keep projects moving along efficiently and boosts camaraderie within the agency, resulting in the best work for clients.


The public transport in Sydney is very user-friendly. After only a few days, I was navigating the system like a local. The Opal card, like DC’s SmarTrip or New York’s MetroCard, is really simple to “top up” and each station has easy-to-read digital screens with a clear look at what stops are up next. Plus, the card works seamlessly for the train, bus and ferry systems.

From what I’ve seen, my colleagues and their fellow Sydney residents are a pretty active bunch. Most folks on Team VIVA!  take a walk midday, go for a run after work, or hit the gym a few times a week. Overall, Aussies thrive on the outdoors (who can blame them with the country’s natural beauty and proximity to the beach?), which fuels a healthy outlook on life.

Kaitlin Bowen is participating in the GLOBALHealthPR Professional Exchange Program representing exclusive U.S. partner Spectrum. The Program aims to enhance the connectivity of GLOBALHealthPR agencies through collaboration, best practice sharing, and insights into the drivers that affect health and science communications in different markets worldwide, and to build professional relationships with other GLOBALHealthPR personnel around the globe.

Kaitlin is an account director at GHPR U.S. partner Spectrum. To follow her experiences on the GLOBALHealthPR Professional Exchange Program online, use #GHPRConnects to join the conversation and see all of the 2016 exchange programming.

Watch this space for updates on our one-of-a-kind program from now through November.

Day 1 of Mark Henderson’s GLOBALHealthPR Exchange at Spectrum, Washington, D.C.

Mark Henderson (centre) joins GHPR team members Andrew Bailey (L) and Drew Wallace (R) at the Spectrum DC office.

Since arriving in Washington, DC as part of the GLOBALHealthPR Professional Exchange Program, I’ve been privileged to witness a lot of American history, from Capitol Hill (the seat of the United States Congress and legislative branch of the US Federal Government), to The White House (the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the US, also dubbed “The Nation’s Most Famous Address”).

Warmly welcomed by Andrew Bailey, and the Spectrum team at its Washington DC offices today (Monday, September 19, 2016), I’ve been given a tour of the office and met many staff. I’ve also been privy to an orientation from Spectrum’s HR lead, Julian, who documented the company’s 20 year-long history, founded on the idea of “transforming complicated science into compelling stories,” to its dramatic growth in the past four years, which has seen the company double in size to upwards of 60 staff members across three offices (DC, New York and Atlanta), and those who work remotely.

Further to this introduction, I’ve been privileged to participate in several brainstorm sessions, and teleconferences that have offered me an opportunity to begin to understand the way in which business gets done at Spectrum. I’ve been truly impressed by all that I’ve learned since arriving here.

New koalas took up residence in Washington thanks to Mark’s arrival from VIVA in Australia.

I was privileged to speak with Tim Goddard, Senior Vice President of GlOBALHealthPR, who provided me a warm welcome to the company, and outlined many of the different opportunities I will experience in the United States during my two week tenure here. Notably, I will be meeting with each of the four Functional Group Leads for Spectrum, including those representing the BioPharma, BioTech, Consumer Science and Public Affairs divisions, along with a host of other senior staff, such as the business managers who work within each of these groups.
It’s only day one, but I already feel like I’ve learned so much about Spectrum, its rich and vibrant history, and plans for the future, and I very much look forward to what the coming weeks have in store, both Washington DC, and in New York City.

Mark is participating in the GLOBALHealthPR Professional Exchange Program representing exclusive Australian partner, VIVA! Communications. The Program aims to enhance the connectivity of GLOBALHealthPR agencies through collaboration, best practice sharing, and insights into the drivers that affect health and science communications in different markets worldwide, and to build professional relationships with other GLOBALHealthPR personnel around the globe.

About Mark: Mark Henderson is Queensland Branch Manager at GHPR Australia partner, VIVA! Communications. To follow his experiences on the GLOBALHealthPR Professional Exchange Program online, use #GHPRConnects to join the conversation and follow all of the 2016 exchange programming.

This post comes to us courtesy of our Australian partners, VIVA! Communications. 


At the height of the AIDS crisis in the early 1990’s, approximately 1,000 Australians died from the disease each year. Since the mid-1990s and the advent of anti-retroviral medication, Australia has witnessed a dramatic reduction in AIDS cases. On July 10, 2016, prominent researchers from the Kirby and Peter Doherty Institutes and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) announced the end of AIDS as a public health issue.

Australia joins a handful of countries that have successfully fought the epidemic. Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program at the Kirby Institute, UNSW, Sydney, said the number of AIDS cases were so low that they were no longer monitored.

“These days we don’t even monitor it. It’s a transitory thing for most people; people have AIDS, then they go on treatment, and they don’t have AIDS anymore,” Professor Grulich told ABC News.



What is AIDS and how is it treated?

AIDS is an advanced stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system can no longer fight off infections and illnesses. The syndrome leads to a severe decline in the body’s cellular immunity, which in turn, lowers resistance to infection and malignancy.

Since 1982, more than 35,000 Australians have been diagnosed with HIV, 10,000 of whom have died from AIDS-related illnesses. However, since the introduction of modern antiretroviral treatment (ART), the majority of individuals living with HIV, are unlikely to ever develop AIDS. ART is a life-long treatment regimen used to supress HIV within a person’s body. If ART is stopped, HIV can multiply and damage the immune system, heightening the risk of infections and cancer, and increasing the likelihood of virus transmission.

Of the estimated 88 per cent of Australians living with HIV who were diagnosed at the end of 2014, approximately 73 per cent were receiving ART, with therapy successfully managing the infection in 92 per cent of cases. The end of AIDS as a public health issue in Australia is testimony to the vigorous efforts and combined actions of communities of gay men, sex workers, people living with HIV, clinicians, public health professionals and researchers. Since the 1980’s, Australia has embarked on a series of elaborate, community-driven and clinical responses to the prevention and treatment of HIV AIDS.

HIV remains a public health issue

Researchers however, have been quick to reiterate, that in spite of the nation’s achievements, HIV remains a substantial public health problem in Australia. Currently, there are more than 27,000 Australians living with HIV, with 1,000 new cases of HIV recorded locally each year.

“One of the problems we still have in Australia is people not getting tested, not knowing they’re infected with HIV, and turning up for their first test when they already have AIDS, or already have significant immune damage,” Prof Sharon Lewin, Director of the Peter Doherty Institute, Melbourne, told ABC News.

The majority of HIV infections continue to occur in homosexual men, in addition to an increased incidence of HIV among Indigenous Australians and migrant communities. It is imperative Australia takes full advantage of the latest developments in the HIV prevention space, namely, the introduction of new, bio-medical prevention technologies, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis. Historically, HIV has been tarred by a lack of public understanding and stigma, largely due to the negative imagery and connotations associated with AIDS and AIDS-related illnesses.

Global battle to beat AIDS is far from over

Image from the World Health Organization:

Globally, more than 35 million people are living with HIV, the majority of whom reside in countries where ART is neither easily accessible, nor affordable

Researchers at the Kirby and Peter Doherty institutes, along with the AFAO, utilised the recent announcement to call upon the Australian government to increase funds into the Global Fund to beat HIV in the Asia-Pacific, a region where more than 200,000 people die from AIDS-related illnesses each year.

Australia has previously committed $200 million to the Global Fund, an initiative established to channel funds and resources into countries most susceptible to HIV and AIDS. Don Baxter, an international officer at the AFAO, has stated that in spite of the recent victory, it is imperative that Australia continues to assist countries which have not yet tackled the AIDS epidemic.

“We are seeing very few countries actually reducing that rate of infection at this stage, and we don’t see the political will of those governments as we’ve had in Australia,” Don Baxter told ABC News.

Ultimately, Australia’s success in combating the AIDS epidemic signals to international leaders, that a world without AIDS is possible.

Photo from NIAID

The Zika virus has been all over worldwide news recently, with U.S. researchers urging the World Health Organisation (WHO) to take action against the virus. Transmitted by the mosquito Aedes albopictus, Zika has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, and continues to spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.1 But what about the effect of Zika outside the Americas? Out partners at VIVA! shared their thoughts on the potential for the virus to spread to Australia.

What about Australia?

There is genuine potential for the Zika virus to spread to Australia through travellers returning from the Americas. Fortunately, however, there is a plan of action should the outbreak occur here. Dr Cameron Webb, a clinical lecturer at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research at the University of Sydney said, “If there was an outbreak, local health authorities would try to kill the mosquitoes and their eggs in the affected area quickly, while infected people would be isolated to limit the spread of their blood by other mosquitoes.”2

Dr Webb noted the Brazil outbreak highlighted the importance of Australia’s efforts to keep exotic mosquitoes out of the country, particularly Aedes albopictus or the Asian tiger mosquito, which is also capable of transmitting Zika.2 As the climate changes and becomes warmer, there is greater potential for the Asian tiger mosquito to establish itself in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Associate Professor Nigel Beebe from the University of Queensland has recently been quoted as saying “to prevent this species and others from entering Australia, there were traps designed to catch them within 400 metres of every Australian port.” When foreign species are caught in these traps, scientists are typically able to examine the species and their eggs, and determine their origin.2 Scientists can then use this information to inform health, agriculture and travel authorities 2

The Department of Foreign Trade and Affairs is advising pregnant women to avoid travel in areas where Zika is active. The Federal Government is also requesting Australian doctors to look out for signs of Zika infection in travellers returning from affected areas. A government spokeswoman said Australian laboratories could diagnose the virus if required. Sydney Morning Herald, January 29, 2016.2 

What actions are being taken in your country to protect against Zika? Post a comment or tweet at us to let us know.

Want a more in depth analysis of the Zika situation in Australia? Take a look at the VIVA! blog.


  1. Caught off-guard by Zika, Brazil struggles with deformed babies. Reuters, 28, January, 2016. Available at:
  2. Australia, the Zika virus and why we need to keep exotic mosquitoes out. The Sydney Morning Herald, 29, January, 2016. Available at:

VIVA awards

We are excited to share that our Australian partner, VIVA! Communications, was awarded first place in the Health Organisations category at the prestigious PRIA Golden Target awards last Wednesday, 7 October, in Sydney.  VIVA! was responsible for three of the 11 shortlisted finalists for the Health Organisations award and their winning campaign, “Plea for Life” saw them partner with the aHUS patient support group to help secure Federal funding for lifesaving treatments for aHUS, a fatal, ultra-rare blood disorder. We look forward to their continued excellence and are proud to call VIVA! Communications a partner at GLOBALHealthPR.

Head to VIVA’s blog for full coverage for full coverage of their success at the Golden Target Awards!