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The Western Public Health Unit (WPHU) is a local public health unit that sits within Western Health. We work within a network of LPHUs across Victoria and with the Department of Health to deliver public health interventions to the people of eight local government areas in central and west Melbourne.

WPHU aims to protect health, create healthy environments, address health inequities and promote wellbeing for our catchment. We do this by developing an in-depth understanding of health in our region – in collaboration with partner organisations and community – that informs high-quality, evidence-based public health interventions.

COVID response

The Victorian Government established WPHU in 2021, along with eight other local public health units across the state, to strengthen the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, WPHU employed intensive contact tracing and case management as well as outbreak responses across a range of settings including education, health and aged care. WPHU’s epidemiological analysis helped direct response, testing requirements and vaccination efforts.

In 2022, with high COVID-19 vaccine coverage population wide, WPHU’s focus shifted to COVID-19 preparedness and response in high-risk settings like residential aged care.

Health protection

In collaboration with the Department of Health, WPHU has expanded its health protection role to other communicable diseases including those requiring urgent responses like mpox and Japanese encephalitis virus. We provide local specialist support to prevent and reduce the impact of these communicable diseases. This involves surveillance and monitoring of communicable diseases, strategic health protection work and outbreak planning as well as education and training for healthcare professionals and communities.

Health promotion

WPHU aims to improve the health and wellbeing of our community.  To achieve this, we collaborate with our local partners to co-design and deliver public health programs, as well as create healthier environments where people live, work, study and play.  Guided by state-wide public health and wellbeing priorities, WPHU works with other LPHUs, partner organisations, local government and diverse community groups to increase local engagement with health promotion programs.  Our commitment is to reduce health inequities and improve population health in our community.

Our People

WPHU comprises a multidisciplinary team with expertise in medicine and public health, data and epidemiology, infection prevention, health promotion, community engagement and bi-cultural work, communications, operations and administration. Several members of the team are registered health professionals such as nurses, doctors and allied health professionals, and many have specialist qualifications in public health. 

Our Directors

Kate Cranwell, Divisional Director, Western Public Health Unit

Kate Cranwell, Divisional Director, Western Public Health Unit

Kate Cranwell is an experienced senior leader with over 25 years experience working in Health Service Delivery. As the Divisional Director, Kate oversees the operations, performance and establishment of the Western Public Health Unit.

With a background in occupational therapy, Kate has worked in a number of senior clinical and leadership positions in Australia and internationally including as Director COVID Response for Western Health where she led implementation of the COVID Response plan and the establishment of Western Health operated testing sites. Kate has successfully led a number of health workforce innovation and reform projects and is the recipient of a research grant awarded by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute which explored the use of Experience Based Co-Design to improve patient experience of mental health transition across health sector interfaces.

Kate has completed a Masters of Health Sciences, Diploma of Project Management and Graduate Certificate in Health Management.

Dr Finn Romanes, Director, Western Public Health Unit (on leave)  

Dr Finn Romanes, Director, Western Public Health Unit 

Dr Finn Romanes is an experienced public health physician. He oversees the management and response to key public health issues for the Western Metropolitan region. Before leading WPHU, Finn was a Senior Medical Advisor at the Department of Health where he provided advice and leadership on communicable disease control and environmental public health.

This included roles as Victoria’s representative on the Communicable Diseases Network Australia and as a past Chief Human Biosecurity Officer. Finn has acted as Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, and has led the investigation and management of many public health incidents including an outbreak of hepatitis A virus linked to consumption of frozen berries, an outbreak of multi-drug resistant bacteria in Victoria and the investigation of unregistered dentists in Victoria.

Finn is a graduate of the University of Melbourne. After working in hospitals across Victoria and the Northern Territory, Finn trained in public health medicine in the Scottish National Health Service before working as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine.

Dr Charles Alpren, Acting Director, Western Public Health Unit

Dr Charles Alpren, Deputy Director, Western Public Health Unit

Dr Charles Alpren is a doctor and epidemiologist with a diverse public health background. He leads the medical and epidemiology teams at WPHU. In 2020, Charles formed and led the COVID-19 Intelligence/Epidemiology Team at the Department of Health. This role involved systems and team development within the COVID response, outbreak investigation, and data analysis.

He joined the department in June 2019 after completing the Epidemic Intelligence Service fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in USA. Charles also worked in Sierra Leone for 2 years in the Ebola response.

Charles has over 20 years of medical experience as a GP, and has worked with local, state, and federal public health agencies in Australia, the USA, and around the world. In addition to medical qualifications, Charles has completed a Master of Public Health and Master of Business Administration.

What areas of Melbourne do we serve?

WPHU’s catchment extends 1419km2 from local government areas (LGAs) in the western suburbs like Wyndham and Melton to inner Melbourne LGAs like Moreland and Melbourne. The catchment includes: 

– 1.34 million people with 33 per cent overseas born and 200 languages spoken 

– 8 local government areas including Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Moonee Valley, Merri-bek and Wyndham

– 6 public health services, one Aboriginal Health Service and one primary healthcare network

– 93 aged-care facilities  

– 2 ports of entry to Australia.