Latest News

Breaking down barriers for women in health research

While gender equity in the sciences is improving, balancing an academic career with childrearing can still be a juggle according to public health researcher Dr Melina Georgousakis.

“Disseminating your research findings and nurturing international collaborations involves significant travel and work commitments, which are often difficult with young children,” said Dr Georgousakis, a Conjoint Lecturer at University of Sydney and founder of Franklin Women, a professional community for women in health and medical research careers.

“Last year Franklin Women launched a carer’s travel scholarship which provides financial support for the care of young children while a researcher attends and presents their work at an academic conference. An initiative that complements existing equity programs offered by the University.”

Learn more

Gavin Mooney essay award

Sydney GP Dr Tim Senior has won the inaugural Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition with an essay titled, “Climate change and equity, whose language is it anyway?”

The competition honours the work and memory of the late Professor Gavin Mooney, a health economist who was a tireless advocate for social justice.

Read the Croakey article | Download the press release

Simon Chapman: Australia’s biggest skeptic

Sydney School of Public Health researcher Professor Simon Chapman, has been awarded Australian Skeptic of the Year for 2013. The Skeptic of the Year award goes to the individual or group that has done the most for skepticism in Australia during the last year.

Professor Chapman earned his nomination for his recent research into so-called ‘wind-turbine syndrome’, and his initiatives to educate the public about the psychogenic aspects of the syndrome which have been clearly discounted.

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Support of the Student Experience Award for Indigenous Health Promotion Team

Congratulations to the Indigenous Health Promotion team on winning the 2013 Sydney Medical School Award for Support of the Student Experience.

"Our team - course coordinator Suzanne Plater, Michelle Dickson, Jonathan Birch and Geoffrey Angeles - provide an unsurpassed experience for the many cohorts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. It is no small feat to bring students from communities throughout Australia and create a supportive, inspiring and creative environment in which our students can learn and share their own experiences," said Professor Glenn Salkeld, Head of School.

Small-target health policy gets off to a shaky start

by Lesley Russell
Published at Inside Story
17 September 2013

Although healthcare didn’t feature strongly in the election campaign, attention is now turning to how Tony Abbott and his cabinet – and specifically his health minister, Peter Dutton – will manage this key portfolio, which consumes 16.2 per cent of the federal budget.

Show us the data on tobacco sales

By Simon Chapman. First published in ABC's The Drum.
29 July 2013

This year, for the first time, data on tobacco tax receipts and projections was missing from the budget papers, writes Simon Chapman. This data is absolutely critical to the evaluation of Australia's plain packaging law.
Australia's revolutionary plain packaging laws have governments around the world watching and waiting.
The largest impact expected is that on future teenagers who will grow up having never seen a packet of 69 known carcinogens dressed up in beautiful, market-researched packs designed to maximise their appeal to the critically important market segment of young starting smokers.

World-first WHO collaborating centre in physical activity, nutrition and obesity

26 July 2013

A new World Health Organization centre has been launched at the University of Sydney, and aims to increase the role of prevention in reducing non-communicable diseases including obesity, diabetes, chronic lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity has been established under the auspices of WHO's Head Office in Geneva to influence policy and public health work on chronic disease prevention globally.

Health Literacy Matters and Health Literacy Conference

Associate Professor Kirsten McCaffery is leading the Charles Perkins Centre’s Health Literacy project node to address how to reduce the harmful impact of low health literacy on the risk of chronic disease.
Although there have been significant advances in healthcare and a shift towards a more information-based society, many people are being left behind and are unable to experience the benefits of healthcare improvements simply due to low health literacy, that is, difficulties in reading and understanding health information and navigating the health services available to them.

Health Literacy Network Conference - 26 November 2013
The Charles Perkins Centre and Worldwide Universities Network invite you to the premier conference in Australasia for experts in the field of health literacy. Hosted by the multidisciplinary International Health Literacy Network, the conference brings together international and local researchers, consumers, practitioners and policymakers for a day of presentations and discussion of new and emerging research.
When: Tuesday 26 November, 9:00am - 5:00pm followed by a cocktail reception
Where: Law Lecture Theatre 101, New Law Building, Sydney Law School, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

Working together for South Sudan - the world's newest country

South Sudan gained independence in 2011 after decades of conflict. It is among the world’s poorest nations and has the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world. South Sudan is of particular importance to Australia because there are more than 25,000 South Sudanese living here, by far the largest group of black Africans in Australia.
Professor Aggrey Abate, Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba, and Dr. Samson Baba, Director General of Community and Public Health in South Sudan, along with speakers from the University of Sydney, AusAID and Sydney’s South Sudanese community will discuss South Sudan’s development goals and how Australia can contribute to these goals. The half-day symposium will focus primarily on maternal and child health and food security.
All are welcome to attend the symposium on 8 August and learn how leaders in Australia and South Sudan are working together to shape South Sudan’s future.

When: 8 August 2013, 1:30 - 5:00pm
Where: Chemistry Building Auditorium F11, Camperdown campus, University of Sydney
Cost: free
Register here

Cultural differences in children's fight against fat

NSW primary school children from Middle-Eastern and Asian backgrounds are significantly more overweight than children from English-speaking backgrounds and have lower levels of physical activity and cardiovascular fitness, University of Sydney research has shown.
The findings are published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Paper co-author, Dr Debra Hector from the University's School of Public Health, said the study was one of the first to look at both children's ethnic background and their socioeconomic status in combination.
"Our results indicate the need for obesity prevention initiatives to target children and their families from Middle-Eastern and Asian backgrounds who live in low socioeconomic areas," she said.
"They need to reach, and be culturally appropriate for, children who are most at risk."

Is screening mammography harming the healthy?

5 June 2013
The Health Report, ABC

Around 15,000 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. About a quarter of these are identified through screening mammography. However, concerns have been raised that screening mammography might over-diagnose breast cancer; that is, subject otherwise healthy, asymptomatic women to breast cancer treatments that do more harm than good.
This year in Australia around 15,000 women and 100 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Full report including interview with Professor Kirsten McCaffery

With vaccination rates stable, 'no jab, no play' rules are beside the point

22 May 2013
By Dr Julie Leask and Dr Hal Willaby. First published in The Conversation.

A recent News Limited campaign to enable childcare centres in NSW to refuse entry to unvaccinated children is gaining momentum, with the legislation expected to be introduced to NSW parliament this week.
The proposal stems from a public outcry about vaccination rates arising from profound levels of support that most Australians have for vaccination. This support is warranted - vaccines have saved millions of lives.
But the "no jab, no play" campaign is flawed: not only would such a measure be unfair on these children, the campaign is partly based on a false assumption that vaccination rates are declining - and that could have unintended consequences.


Crash risk among young drivers linked to less sleep

21 May 2013

Young drivers who do not sleep enough are at significant risk of having a car crash, according to a new study published today in JAMA Paediatrics by University-affiliate the George Institute for Global Health.
The study - the first of its kind - found sleeping less on weekends puts young drivers at greater risk of having a car crash at night, as well as having an increased chance of run-off-road crashes.
The research examined the association between sleep and motor vehicle crashes in over 20,000 newly licensed drivers age 17 to 24 years.
Lead researcher, Associate Professor Alexandra Martiniuk, says it does not take drastic sleep deprivation to impact young driver safety.
"Sleeping six hours a night is enough to put young drivers at significant risk of having a car crash," Professor Martiniuk said.
"With work, study and social commitments, especially on weekends, it is easy to miss out on the extra hours of sleep we need.
"The findings point to the urgent need for education campaigns targeting young drivers, especially the newly licensed, around the importance of sleep and road safety."


Public Health student awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Zoe Steward, a current Master of Public Health student has been awarded Gates Cambridge Scholarships - one of four given to Australians.
The prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarships are given to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue full-time postgraduate study in any subject offered at the University of Cambridge, with the goal of building a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.
Zoe Stewart, who will conduct the world's first at-home trials of artificial pancreases in pregnant women with diabetes, Cambridge will provide unprecedented opportunities for her research.
"Going to Cambridge gives me the opportunity to make a difference in an area I really care about. Because it's a highly specialised field, I wouldn't have been able to conduct this research in Australia," she says.
Diabetes is the most common medical condition affecting pregnant women, with negative outcomes for both mother and baby including birth complications, stillbirth and miscarriage, as well as higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and cholesterol and liver problems later in life.
"At the moment treatment of pregnant women with insulin is suboptimal, with women spending up to half of their day with sugars outside the normal range. The artificial pancreas has the potential to remedy this issue."
"I'm hoping to return to Australia after my studies in Cambridge to apply what I've learned and improve women's health."
Stewart is also a board director at Family Planning Victoria, and has spoken widely on the importance of building youth sexual health literacy as Australian Youth Representative for International Planned Parenthood Federation, including at a UN Commission on Population and Development in New York.

Lower vaccine rates put wealthy areas at risk of disease

11 April 2013
by Amy Corderoy
Published in the Sydney Morning Herald

Mosman and some of Sydney's wealthiest areas have such low immunisation rates experts fear children could be at risk from deadly but preventable diseases. The prestigious northern and
eastern suburbs, Manly and inner Sydney are four of the nine NSW local areas listed by the National Health Performance authority as being "at risk" of outbreaks because of low vaccination rates.....
An associate professor in the school of public health at the University of Sydney, Julie Leask, said parents should not assume that unvaccinated children were safe.
"I think this is a warning to the community that we can't rely on having herd immunity .. so it's even more important that these kids are up to date and parents who have hesitance about immunisation reconsider their decision," she said.


Quad bike fatalities costly but manufacturers fail to act

4 April

Two University of Sydney papers published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health have highlighted the costs associated with fatal quad bike incidents and compared the behavior of the quads industry in opposing safety improvements to that of tobacco companies.
The papers from the University of Sydney's Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS), indicate that the costs for fatal incidents between 2001 and 2010 were $288 million.
"This conservative estimate draws on deaths data from the National Coroners Information System and includes projected losses in future earnings, impacts on household contributions, insurance payments, investigation and hospital costs," ACAHS Director, Dr Tony Lower said.
"The average cost was $2.3 million, with the highest average being in those aged 25 to 34 years at $4.2 million.

Flu prevention campaign needs updating

3 April 2013

The NSW Department of Health's influenza public health poster campaign should be updated to reflect current best practice in flu prevention, according to a University of Sydney epidemiology expert.
Associate Professor Guy Eslick, from the University's Whiteley-Martin Research Centre, has had a letter calling for flu prevention information to be updated published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.
He said NSW Health posters highlighting the practice of covering the nose and mouth with the hands when sneezing and coughing were more likely to help rather than prevent spread of the flu.

Study finds soft drinks present in the home drive up consumption in school children

Primary and secondary school students are five times as likely to be high consumers of sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soft drinks, if these drinks are available in their homes, according to a University of Sydney study published in the journal Preventive Medicine.
The study, which used data from the 2010 New South Wales Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS), found alarming levels of soft drink consumption in school aged children, especially those with easy access to these drinks.
Half (52 percent) of the 8058 students surveyed were boys and 59 percent were high school students. The authors of the study found students were more likely to be high consumers of soft drinks if they were from a lower socio-economic background or were boys.

Sydney ranked number 25 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings' Clinical, Pre-Clinical and Health list

In the 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings' Clinical, Pre-Clinical and Health table the University of Sydney is ranked number 25.
The rankings judges world class universities across all of their core missions - teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The ranking of the world's top 50 universities for clinical and health subjects employs 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available.


EPA welcomes asbestos expert's findings

Published by the Environmental Protection Authority
14 March

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has today welcomed the report from independent health expert, Dr Tim Driscoll, which looks at the management of asbestos on the Barangaroo site in Sydney.
EPA Chair and CEO, Barry Buffier, said the report, The use of asbestos-contaminated soils on Barangaroo, outlined a number of recommendations about the most appropriate approach to managing asbestos fibro on the site and that the EPA accepts all of the findings in the report and its recommendations.
“The EPA engaged Dr Tim Driscoll, Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Occupational Medicine from the University of Sydney late last year to review the Barangaroo Delivery Authority’s (BDA) work plans and practices and assess whether or not material impacted by asbestos could be safely reused on the site.


Cervical cancer screening shouldn't start until 25

By Kirsten McCaffery, Alexandra Barratt and Jane Williams.
First published in The Conversation.
20 February 2013

Women in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will all soon be advised to start screening for cervical cancer at 25 years, and those aged between 50 and 64 years to screen every five years rather than every three. And a review of the Australian National Cervical Screening Program is considering whether it should make the same recommendations.


For health's sake, time to take on food giants

By Professor Bruce Neal. First published in The Sydney Morning Herald.
14 February 2013

A woman dies from a 10-litre a day Coke habit. Children's clothing sports advertisements for Jim Beam bourbon. These are extreme examples, but just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the alcohol and processed food companies using the same tactics as Big Tobacco to increase profits at the same time as increasing sugar and salt in our diets.
This ''let them eat cake and drink Coke'' attitude provides a strong argument for a review of how we control the excesses of industries producing unhealthy commodities.
Most health issues in Australia are caused by lifestyle problems - poor diets, insufficient physical activity, tobacco and alcohol. Issues not usually serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor but with potentially deadly consequences nonetheless. Sudden death caused by undiagnosed heart disease remains the first sign of a problem for thousands in this country.

Gun reform book reprinted due to popular demand

Over Our Dead Bodies

Over Our Dead Bodies: Port Arthur and Australia's Fight for Gun Control has been reprinted due to popular demand. Written by Professor Simon Chapman and originally published in 2009, the book provides a record of events leading up to gun reform laws in Australia and the reaction to them.
The devastating firearm massacre at a primary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on 14 December 2012 has led to unprecedented interest in gun law reform in the US. Sydney University Press has reprinted Professor Chapman's book (with an additional foreward) to provide a resource for those wishing to reflect on Australia's experience since Port Arthur; a time when there have been no mass shootings.
Notably, a related report on Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms by Professor Chapman and the School's Adjunt Associate Professor Philip Alpers and colleagues, published in the British Medical Journal’s specialist journal Injury Prevention, has been opened online 14,742 times since it was published six years ago. In the month of December 2012, it was opened a remarkable 84,542 times, quite easily the most opened paper Professor Chapman has published on any subject in 35 years of public health research.

Over Our Dead Bodies: Port Arthur and Australia's Fight for Gun Control can be viewed online here.

Australian shooters restock private arsenal to pre-Port Arthur numbers

14 January 2013

New research from the University of Sydney shows that Australians destroyed more than a million guns in response to shooting massacres but imports have restored the stockpile to the level it was at before the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

"Since 1988, when the first of several mass shootings took place, 38 state and federal gun amnesties ran for well over 3000 weeks," said Adjunct Associate Professor Philip Alpers, from the University's School of Public Health.

"If we include all the gun owners who sent their weapons to the smelter without asking for money, the real total is a million firearms destroyed, or a third of the national private arsenal. That's many more than we usually talk about."

"By mid-2012, following a steady 10-year upward trend in gun buying, Australians had restocked the national stockpile of private guns to pre-Port Arthur levels. They did this by importing 1,055,082 firearms, an average of 43,961 each year since destruction programs began."

(This total excludes 52,608 handguns imported for law enforcement and other official use, along with firearms for the military, airguns, muzzle-loaders and the customs import category 'Other'.)


Whiff of desperation as tobacco lobby loses its puff over packaging

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald 8 January 2013

Australia's historic plain packaging became law on December 1, with the quinella seeing us graduate to also have the world's largest graphic health warnings. Sixty-four nations have now made the unforgettable pictures law and six (New Zealand, Britain, France, Norway, Turkey and India) are already showing strong interest in following our lead on plain packs.


Public Health at Sydney equal first in rankings in the 2012 ARC's Excellence in Research Report

ERA Report

Public Health at Sydney has ranked equal first in the 2012 ARC's Excellence in Research for Australia report.
The Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative assesses research quality within Australia's higher education institutions using a combination of indicators and expert review by committees comprising experienced, internationally-recognised experts.

Below are the top ranking Australian universities for Public Health and Health Services from Section 4 Table 11 (page 14) of the report.
View the full list of rankings on page 14 of the ARC's Excellence in Research for Australia Report here.

Institution Public Health & Health Services Ranking
University of Sydney 5
Australian National University 5
Bond University 4
Deakin University 4
Monash University 4
Melbourne University 4
University of Queensland 4
University of Western Australia 4
University of Wollongong 4
Charles Darwin University 3
Flinders University 3
Queensland University of Technology 3
RMIT University 3
University of Adelaide 3
University of New South Wales 3
University of Newcastle 3
University of South Australia 3

Rating Scale
5 The Unit of Evaluation profile is characterised by evidence of outstanding performance well above world standard presented by the suite of indicators used for evaluation.
4 The Unit of Evaluation profile is characterised by evidence of performance above world standard presented by the suite of indicators used for evaluation.
3 The Unit of Evaluation profile is characterised by evidence of average performance at world standard presented by the suite of indicators used for evaluation.

Full Ranking List
View the full list of rankings on page 14 of the ARC's Excellence in Research for Australia Report here.