The Research Team


Simon ChapmanSimon Chapman PhD FASSA

Simon Chapman is Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia. He is a sociologist whose PhD examined the semiotics of cigarette advertising. He is author of 15 books and major government reports and over 380 papers, editorials and commentaries in peer reviewed journals. His h index is 32.

His books include The Fight for Public Health: Principles and Practice of Media Advocacy (BMJ Books 1994); Tobacco in the Third World: a resource Atlas (International Organisation of Consumers' Unions 1990) Great Expectorations: Advertising and the tobacco industry (London: Comedia, 1986);and The Lung Goodbye: tactics for counteracting the tobacco industry in the 1980s (IOCU 1983). His Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control: Making Smoking History was published by Blackwell (Oxford) in 2007. He is a regular writer on public health matters in leading Australian newspapers. His main research interests are in tobacco control, media discourses on health and illness, and risk communication. He teaches annual courses in Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control in the University of Sydney's MPH program.


In 1997 he won the World Health Organisation's World No Tobacco Day Medal; in 1999, the National Heart Foundation of Australia’s gold medal; in 2006 the Thoracic Society of Australia’s President’s Award; and in 2003 he was voted by his international peers to be awarded the American Cancer Society’s Luther Terry Award for outstanding individual leadership in tobacco control. In 2005, his research on the tobacco industry was selected by the NHMRC as being one of its “top 10” projects. In 2008, he received the NSW Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Research and the Public Health Association of Australia’s Sidney Sax Medal. He was a finalist in the 2009 Australian of the Year award. He edited the British Medical Journal's specialist journal, Tobacco Control (2008 impact factor =4.468) for 16 years (1992-2008) and is now Commissioning Editor for Low and Middle Income Countries for the journal, a role supported by a grant from Bloomberg.

He is a life member of the Australian Consumers' Association and was its chairman 1999-2002.

His current research involves examining policy for the “future of tobacco control”; examining how health and medical issues are covered in the news media through the Australian Health News Research Collaboration; the implications for tobacco control of web 2.0 technology; and the characteristics of research which influence public health policy. He hopes to work with Chinese researchers to develop a blueprint for national priorities in strategic policy research for tobacco control. Full CV here.

Jane PirkisJane Pirkis

Professor Jane Pirkis is the Director of the Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics in the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne. She has a background in psychology and epidemiology. Jane has conducted a number of studies looking at media reporting of suicide and mental health/illness. These began with the Media Monitoring Project, on which she was co-CI with Professor Warwick Blood.

This established a baseline picture of the extent, nature and quality of reporting of suicide and mental health/illness by the Australian media in 2000/01, with a view to informing future strategies intended to optimise reporting. This study was funded by the (then) Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, was the largest of its kind internationally, and has received worldwide acclaim and has been replicated in a number of countries. Further testimony to the reputation of this study is the fact that the Australian Research Council granted Jane and Warwick subsequent funding for a related study that considered journalistic, medical and health professional and lay perceptions of suicide and mental illness. Likewise, the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund awarded them a grant to conduct a study that drew on the original work to examine the relationship between media reporting of suicide and actual suicidal behaviour. The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing also provided their team with additional funding to conduct a series of systematic reviews on the nature and impact of presentations of suicide and mental health/illness in both the news and entertainment media. Jane and Warwick and their team have recently completed a follow-up study, which examined whether reporting of suicide and mental health/illness had changed between 2000/01 and 2006/07 and, if so, whether these changes were consistent with a set of media guidelines which had been introduced in the interim. Collectively, these studies have demonstrated that irresponsible reporting of suicide can lead to copycat behaviours, reporting is variable (though it has improved over time) and is influenced by a number of journalistic imperatives.

This work has led to policy and practice changes e.g., revisions to the Australian and World Health Organization guidelines on media reporting of suicide. It has also led to Jane developing an international reputation in the area e.g., she is heading the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) Task Force on Suicide and the Media, and is increasingly being asked to give invited presentations on suicide and the media at national and international conferences.

Warwick BloodWarwick Blood

Warwick Blood is Professor of Communication, News Research Group at the University of Canberra. His research interests are in the reporting and portrayal of health issues, and risk communication theory and practice. Currently, with AHNRC colleagues Professors Simon Chapman (Sydney) and Jane Pirkis (Melbourne) he is completing an NHMRC project investigating public and media understandings of the global H1N1 viral outbreak. He is also researching media representations and the lived experiences of people who are overweight and obese. This ARC project is led by Professor Paul Komesaroff, Dr Samantha Thomas and colleagues at Monash University.

He has completed a number of studies on the reporting and portrayal of suicide, and mental health and illness, with colleague Professor Jane Pirkis at the University of Melbourne. He worked on the original baseline study of Australian news coverage of suicide and mental illness (2000-01) and the follow up study in 2006-07. He was responsible for the qualitative analyses of selected news items in both studies both of which were funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. These studies, and similar research with Professor Pirkis, have informed government communication strategies both nationally and internationally, especially in the provision of resources for media professionals aimed at promoting accurate, responsible and ethical journalistic practice.

He has also completed research for the Australian National Council on Drugs and for the National Depression Initiative, beyondblue.

He has taught at Charles Sturt University, where he was Foundation Head of the School of Communication, at Ohio State University's School of Journalism, and in Macquarie University's mass communication program. Previously, he was a reporter and producer, Radio Current Affairs, for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and was a New York Correspondent in the 1970s.

Melissa SweetMelissa Sweet

Melissa Sweet is one of Australia's most experienced health journalists. She has been writing about health and medical issues since the late 1980s, and has worked at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Bulletin magazine and Australian Associated Press. She is now freelancing, and her work appears in many professional and general publications.

Melissa has had a long interest in how the media covers health issues and the implications of this for the general public, as well as for health practice and policy. She has written widely about these issues, for both the mainstream press and professional publications.

Together with Professor Simon Chapman and Ray Moynihan, Melissa set up an innovative project with the internet news service,, which aims to promote a broader and deeper public debate about health. She coordinates health coverage for Crikey and its health blog, Croakey. Melissa has also helped establish a not-for-profit foundation that aims to support quality journalism and to develop innovative models for funding and organising journalism in the new media age. The Foundation for Public Interest Journalism is based at Swinburne University and more details can be found here ()

She has written or co-authored four books that deal with important public health issues, and these also examine issues related to media coverage:

Ten Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor (Allen & Unwin, 2008), co-authored with Ray Moynihan.

The Big Fat Conspiracy: How to Protect Your Family's Health (ABC Books, 2007)

Inside Madness (Pan Macmillan, 2006) In recognition of her work on this book, Melissa was awarded an Ochberg Fellowship from the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

Smart Health Choices: Making Sense of Health Advice (Hammersmith Press, 2008). The first edition, released in Australia by Allen and Unwin in 1999, has been updated by Dr Lyndal Trevena. Other co-authors are Professor Les Irwig and Judy Irwig

The University of Sydney has awarded Melissa an honorary position as Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health. She also holds an honorary appointment as Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine at Notre Dame University, Sydney campus. Melissa has a particular interest in public health, mental health, rural health, media coverage of health, Indigenous health, consumer participation in decision-making, evidence-based care, and quality and safety issues. More information

Mark RaggMark Ragg

Dr Mark Ragg is a writer, editor, publisher and medical practitioner who has worked with organisations such as the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, various state and territory governments and a broad range of NGOs.He has been a reporter and columnist with The Australian, and a senior writer and editorial writer at the Sydney Morning Herald.

He has worked as a doctor in a variety of NSW public hospital emergency departments, and as a volunteer in East Timor. He has written 15 books, including a novel (The Dickinson Papers) and two books he co-authored for the National Health and Medical Research Council on communication.

He is an adjunct senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney and director of the health and communications consultancy RaggAhmed.

Andrew DareAndrew Dare

Andrew Dare (B.A.Hons, M.Phil. [Cantab.]) is a Research Fellow currently researching representations of suicide, mental health, and mental illness in both traditional and online news media. He has a background in social policy research, in both the community and public sectors. Andrew is currently studying for his PhD at the University of Melbourne.

Andrea FogartyAndrea Fogarty

Andrea Fogarty is an AHNRC researcher and PhD candidate based at the Sydney School of Public Health. Her current research interests include the framing of alcohol policy developments in Australian news media and her PhD will examine public understanding of alcohol-related harm as portrayed by the media and the role of interest groups in shaping public debate regarding alcohol policies to improve health.

She has completed a Masters in International Public Health and an honours degree in Psychology and has worked for 7 years in public health research, involving HIV/AIDS and affective disorders in mental health. This has included quantitative and qualitative analyses of behavioural surveillance and interview data, surveys of mental health literacy and improving the understanding of barriers to care. She has participated in the design and development of community awareness activities to encourage early intervention among young people with mental health problems and to improve knowledge of, and access to, appropriate health services. In 2005 she was awarded a prize for the best social research poster at the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine's Annual Conference, dealing with employment issues facing people living with HIV/AIDS in Australia.

Kate HollandKate Holland

Dr Kate Holland is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Canberra. She graduated in 2008 with a PhD in Communication and over the past six years has worked as a researcher on a range of projects in the area of media and communication studies. Her doctoral research examined newly emerging ideas from 'postpsychiatry' and their potential implications for how we understand a range of practices in the mental health field, including the reporting of mental health issues in the media.

She has been involved, both as a senior research assistant and co-author, in two major media monitoring reports for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, which involved qualitative analyses of selected Australian news media coverage of suicide, mental health and mental illness. She has experience in qualitative research approaches, particularly textual analyses, and has researched the media's reporting of a range of health issues, including suicide, mental health, mental illness and, most recently, overweight and obesity. She has presented papers in some of these areas at national and international conferences and has published in national and international journals. Her primary research interests are in media representations of health, health communication, social movements, disability studies and critical social theories. She has also published work on research ethics and written research reports for Carers Australia.

In 2009 she won the Christopher Newell Award for Best Paper dealing with Disability/Equity/Social Justice and Communication at the Australian & New Zealand Communication Association conference, "Communication, Creativity and Global Citizenship", Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane 8-10 July.

Michelle ImisonMichelle Imison

Michelle Imison BA (Hons) MIPH is an AHNRC Research Officer at the Sydney School of Public Health. Her academic background is in the humanities and international public health, and she has also worked on several development projects in Bangladesh. She is currently working on a PhD about the coverage of health from low- and middle-income countries in the Australian media.

Michelle is also a Board member of Oxfam Australia.

Michelle ImisonSally Dunlop

Dr Sally Dunlop is a researcher in the School of Public Health, the University of Sydney. Sally's broad research interest lies in the influences and determinants of health-related behaviours, with a particular focus on the role of media in informing and influencing health decisions.

She completed her PhD in Psychology at the University of Melbourne in 2008, where her research focused on the use of mass media campaigns to promote healthy behaviours such as smoking cessation and skin cancer prevention. During this time, she was supported by an APAI scholarship which allowed her to work closely with researchers and practitioners in the Center for Behavioural Research at the Cancer Council Victoria. Sally's PhD research was recognised by the International Communication Association as the 'Dissertation of the Year'; in the health communication division in 2009. After her PhD, Sally took up a post-doctoral research position at the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Her work in Philadelphia focused on the influence of news and entertainment media on adolescent risk behaviours. Currently, Sally is working on a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the Cancer Institute NSW to conduct research on media effects on tobacco-related behaviours and attitudes.