Staff profile: Judy Nean, health promotion’s heart

Meet Judy Nean, Director Health Promotion at Health and Wellbeing Queensland. Judy is proud Mum to two grown boys, The Cat (less known as Jem) and a sourdough culture called Hope.

For anyone who knows Judy, it’s immediately apparent she is on this mission mind, heart and soul. A lifelong learner and do-er, Judy’s interest in nutrition was ignited by her high school home economics teacher, and the rest as they say is history. Except, Judy works to create history every day.

Tell us about the work you do with HWQld?

I lead our diverse team of health promotion staff and investigate opportunities to develop, deliver and promote health promotion initiatives focused on improving the health and wellbeing of the Queensland population. The team supports the integration of prevention within the health system and across sectors, influences broader structures to create healthy environments, and oversees delivery and management of a suite of programs to support health and wellbeing of children, families and communities. It’s an honour and a privilege to lead such a talented, committed and hardworking team who do amazing work every day.

How has your background brought you here?

Judy says her whole career has led to this point. With more than 30 years in the health sector across state, regional and local government she has lived and breathed this work her entire career. A country girl, she grew up among a gaggle of five siblings, with Judy and her twin sister the first in the family to go to university.Judy first studied Bachelor of Applied Science (Home Economics), then a Graduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics, followed by a Master of Medical Science (Research) and coursework in a Master of Public Health.

I knew I didn’t want to work in a hospital, Judy said. Instead she sought out a position in the community. One where she could help people before they needed a hospital. Ahead of her time, what she sought was a path in preventive health: a discipline that despite its early roots with medicine’s greats, has only really gained traction since the 1980s.
What did your early career teach you that you apply today?

My first role as a Program Evaluator in Dalby was a place-based initiative called Health 2000: as much a vision as a name. It was a University of Queensland initiative, funded by Queensland Health and it sought to address the specific health issues impacting the Dalby community.

I developed the Lighten Up program in Dalby, which was the basis for my master’s thesis. I then went on to train community health staff in its delivery and oversaw the implementation and evaluation of the program statewide.
These roles had early aspects of what we’re seeking to do here at Health and Wellbeing Queensland—implement a multi-strategy, community-led, population approach to address obesity.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

While her boys are grown, they continue to occupy a big focus in her life: she just sees them less, which she says has taken some adjustment. As well as baking her own sourdough each week, Judy enjoys pilates and yoga.

Judy had her own health scare a few years back and says it reminds her to appreciate every day, everyone, everything. And that appreciation radiates far and wide in all she does at the helm of our health promotion team.

Speaking of boating metaphors, Judy is an avid water lover. On weekends and when ever she can, you will find her happily on or near water.