The School of Public Health & Community Medicine

Research is a fundamental part of the work of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, addressing a number of key local, national and global public health issues. We have a vibrant and active research culture, evidenced in the activities of our many research students (currently over 130 enrolled) and academic staff, our track record of high impact publications, our successful history of research grants, and the trans-disciplinary backgrounds and experience of our academic, research and conjoint staff.

We have methodological expertise across a range of research approaches, including epidemiology, clinical trials, social sciences, ethnographic and participatory methods, and many more. Our research is funded from both competitive (NHMRC and ARC) and other sources and we are particularly proud of the strong partnerships we have built with government, the community, health authorities and non-government agencies.

The School has five flagship research areas, each of which has a large critical mass of staff and students:

  • Global Health
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Primary Health Care
  • Indigenous Health

Other significant areas of expertise include:

  • Ageing, centenarian health and geriatric medicine
  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Health economics
  • Health promotion
  • Health services and systems
  • Health service management and human resources
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Mental health
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Qualitative research
  • Refugee health
  • Research methods
  • Scholarship of learning and teaching
  • Smoking cessation interventions
  • Sexual health
  • Social determinants of health


Our strengths

Global Health

Within the School we have a number of researchers, teachers, development workers and practitioners who are leaders in global health and development research. Our expertise in this area includes: health policy, planning and strategy development; human resources management and development; knowledge management to improve capability, quality and the evidence base for decision-making; priority health problems: health promotion, HIV/AIDS, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, tobacco control, managing alcohol and drugs problems; environmental health and health impact assessment; health, human rights and development; culture and gender issues; and public health emergencies. The Aus-AID funded Human Resources for Health Knowledge Hub is part of SPHCM and engages many key stakeholders from the Asia-Pacific, and works across themes of health leadership, health worker mobility, public health emergencies and maternal and child health related to human resources.


International Collaborations

SPHCM has key current partnerships and collaborations in the Asia-Pacific region (China, India, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Cook Islands), South East Asia and the Mekong (Lao, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand) and growing partnerships in Africa and in fragile states (Timor-Leste, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and parts of Indonesia).

Infectious Diseases

The School has a large critical mass of multidisciplinary expertise in epidemiology, mathematical modelling, health economic modelling, special risk populations, social research and clinical research in infectious diseases. Areas of research include vaccines, influenza, hospital infection control, health economics of vaccine preventable diseases, and travel health. Clinical research includes individual and cluster randomised, controlled trials of drugs, vaccines and non-pharmaceutical interventions in the treatment and prevention of infections.Our research includes use of face masks in the community and in health workers to prevent transmission of respiratory infections, including studies in China and Vietnam. Travel and emerging infections, hospital infection control, health worker research and refugee health are other areas of research strength. Our modeling, data linkage and economic groups has links with the National Centre for Immunisation Research and conducts a range of studies to inform policy on vaccine preventable diseases. UNSW SPHCM also leads a NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Immunisation in Special Risk and Under-researched Populations. Our research strength is underpinned by a MPH specialisation in Infectious Epidemiology and Control, which is currently the most popular MPH specialisation at UNSW.

Primary Health Care

Research within this Flagship Area falls under the following four themes:

1)      Behavioural risk factor management and chronic disease prevention;

2)       Understanding and intervening to address health inequalities;

3)      Management of chronic disease;

4)      Primary health care policy. 


Much of the work on these themes takes place within the UNSW Research Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity and also in collaboration with other staff in the Faculty of Medicine and with other universities both nationally and internationally.

The focus of the work in the School is on: management of chronic disease; and prevention, including intervention on risk factors for chronic illness such as tobacco smoking. A current major project is an NHMRC funded study examining different methods of supporting smoking cessation in primary care. A practice nurse led intervention is being compared to Quitline referral and usual care in a study involving more than 2300 participants. The Primary Health Care group is also active in research capacity building and has established a Primary Health Care Research network and a practice-based research network.


Indigenous Health

Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit is a dedicated Indigenous health research unit, which resides wholly within the School of Public Health and Community Medicine. Launched in 2004, Muru Marri is a visible, active contributor to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through research, evaluation and intervention projects – particularly for urban-dwelling populations – as well as in the area of teaching, community service, publication, representation on peak bodies, and advocacy.
Examples of the contribution of the Muru Marri Unit is seen in the NHMRC-funded Gudaga Project (CHETRE/MMIHU), the Koori Growing Old Well Study (POWMRI/MMIHU), the Review of Social and

Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services of the Many River Alliance (MMIHU) and a Review of Evidence for Policy and Practice in promoting Social and Emotional Well Being among Indigenous Youth. These and other current Muru Marri research initiatives fill crucial gaps in our understanding of and capacity to measure outcomes of policies, programs and services that seek to enhance the health, social and cultural wellbeing  and empowerment of Aboriginal people and communities. UNSW is also an essential partner of the CRC in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, with key engagement with the Lowitja Institute.