Senior Public Health Consultant Caroline Fuentes has been part of the Healthy Environs team since 2014. When she joined the consultancy, she was studying a Masters in Public Health at Flinders University, having spent 11 years as an environmental health professional in New Caledonia.
While in New Caledonia, Caroline managed a team which aimed to prevent any adverse effect of environmental factors on public health. This meant working with communities on a range of important issues including drinking water, recreational water, waste management, asbestos exposure, and vector borne disease control to reduce the risk of an epidemic in the country.
"It was really interesting, especially with the different stakeholders at the community level," Caroline said. "I liked working with the community to identify the risks, and help them to identify actions to reduce these risks – actions aligned with their resources, and what they could realistically achieve. I am very passionate about that."
Once Caroline moved to Australia and began studying further, she became more focused on the social determinants of public health aspects. "It was so fascinating to discover this area and how it can impact health and wellbeing," she said. "For me, it was a new exciting chapter of my professional life."
As part of her work with Healthy Environs, Caroline has provided some expertise in local nuisance and litter control as well as water supply. She has also developed public health plans and environmental plans for local governments.
"I really enjoy working on public health plans with local councils," Caroline said. "Especially with rural communities. It’s great to work with people on the ground, in their field, to identify with them, their strengths as well as some areas of improvement to achieve.
"This approach is very comprehensive, it takes into account the social, cultural, economic, environmental aspect of the community. We start from their current health and wellbeing status and work with them to achieve a better one."
Caroline has also pursued an interest in aged care, and has worked on aged community projects with indigenous communities in Queensland.
"It’s a new fascinating world for me," she said. "I really enjoy helping them in terms of living well. Sometimes the aged are forgotten. It’s important to focus on how to improve their fragile health and to maintain their wellbeing, because they’re much more vulnerable."
In her spare time, Caroline enjoys spending time with her family doing things like hiking in national parks. She places Deep Creek Conservation Park and Mount Remarkable amongst her favourite places.