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University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre

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Research highlights

  • 140+ peer-reviewed publications
  • 300+ research students
  • 90+ training and capacity building partnerships
  • Top-cited researchers Professor Adrian Bauman (Highly cited researcher list for 2018)
Research_

Prevention Research Collaboration

Collaborative research solutions for a healthier world
We're committed to expanding research in non-communicable disease prevention, as well as other aspects of primary prevention and health promotion including physical activity, nutrition, obesity and tobacco.

About us

The Prevention Research Collaboration is a specialised research group that sits within the University of Sydney School of Public Health, based at the Charles Perkins Centre.

We undertake collaborative research projects involving researchers and policy makers, to create the knowledge and evidence needed to improve policy and practice in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.


Our research

Our research applies a public health lense to physical activity, nutrition, obesity prevention, epidemiology and health promotion research, as well as other aspects of primary prevention.

By bringing together researchers with diverse areas of expertise, we aim to engage in a range of policy-relevant research studies to generate different different kinds of public health evidence, including:

Our work focuses on improving population health through high quality epidemiological, measurement and surveillance research. We ask epidemiological questions of large cross-sectional and complex longitudinal data linked to routinely-collected medical records data, biobanks, and non-health data (e.g. GPS, transport data, social media) to examine trends and changes in the relationships between chronic disease, health status, and behavioural risk factors.

Academic leaders: Professor Adrian Bauman, Associate Professor Melody Ding, Professor Manos Stamatakis

Assessing the impacts of complex interventions and policy (e.g. translational scaled-up programs, natural experiments) on the individuals and communities require innovative research methodologies and evaluation designs.

Determining if an intervention worked, why it worked, for whom and in what conditions, are critical for advancing the evidence base and for informing public health policy and practice. The PRC has distinctive skills in evaluating population- and system-level prevention and health promotion programs.

We have conducted evaluation research of major policy changes and new initiatives, including the NSW Get Healthy Information & Coaching Service, NSW Quitline, Make Healthy Normal, and Get Healthy @ Work amongst others.

Academic leaders: Professor Adrian Bauman, Dr Anne Grunseit, Dr Justin Richards, Dr Margaret Thomas, Professor Ben Smith, Dr Blythe O’Hara

We are at the forefront of developing innovative public health methods around implementation and delivery research, and frameworks for scalability of interventions to maximise impact and public health reach. This body of work has been embedded into practical research guides and tools for health professionals embarking in translational research activities.

Academic leaders: Professor Adrian Bauman, Dr Anne Grunseit, Professor Ben Smith

The PRC has made exceptional contributions through its world-leading physical activity and health research, especially to understanding the many health benefits of increasing physical activity. This is recognised in the PRC academics developing and leading the Lancet Physical Activity Publication series 2012 and 2016, and Professor Bauman named in the top 1% of Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researcher as among one of the most influential researchers.

Academic leaders: Professor Adrian Bauman, Professor Manos Stamatakis, Associate Professor Melody Ding

The Sport & Recreation Intervention & Epidemiology Research (SPRINTER)

A partnership between the Prevention Research Collaboration and the NSW Office of Sport, a division of the Department of Premier & Cabinet. The partnership aims to establish a robust evidence base to support the NSW Government’s sport and active recreation priorities. This includes:

  • investigating​ the evidence base demonstrating the economic and social value of sport and recreation;
  • mapping the participation profile to contribute to Office of Sport strategy, including participation; and
  • providing advice on the optimal data sources/surveillance systems for NSW by mapping the relevant sources and systems available.​

Academic leaders: Dr Lindsey Reece, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Professor Adrian Bauman

We conduct research that is relevant and appropriate for policy and for informing public health. The PRC has a reputation for co-creating knowledge with health practitioners and policy-makers, developing innovative evaluation research methods, and providing evidence with practical application to public health policy.

Physical Activity Nutrition Obesity Research Group (PANORG)

PANORG is funded by NSW Ministry of Health to conduct policy-relevant evidence reviews, research and evaluation to support health promotion and obesity prevention initiatives in NSW. The group works closely with the Centre for Population Health, Ministry of Health.

We provide evidence advice, support evidence-based policy, conduct applied research and evaluation, and build workforce capacity in the promotion of physical activity, health eating and prevention of overweight and obesity in NSW.

Academic leaders: Dr Margaret Thomas, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Associate Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Professor Adrian Bauman

Our research in mass media and social media as health communications tools provides crucial evidence to support strategic use of these approaches in prevention work.

The PRC has worked with research and government partners to develop evaluation frameworks and provide advice to research bodies, community organisations and government groups on how to use mass media and social media effectively in their interventions and communications.

Academic leaders: Dr James Kite, Dr Blythe O’Hara, Dr Becky Freeman, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Associate Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Dr Margaret Thomas, Professor Adrian Bauman

We research how people interact with their social and physical environment, specifically how the social, economic, and built environment influence physical activity behaviour, food choices and obesity.

We undertake studies using a diverse range of representative cross-sectional and longitudinal data to examine retirement and health behaviour, psychological health, social connections, cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Our research includes evaluating natural experiments, in particular whether renewal of public spaces lead to changes in residents’ physical activity behaviour, their sense of community connection and safety.

Academic leaders: Associate Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Associate Professor Melody Ding, Dr Blythe O’Hara

The Centre of Research Excellence in the Early Prevention of Obesity in Childhood (EPOCH CRE)

EPOCHE CRE aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related behaviours in the first five years of life, and their future impact. There is a diverse team of experts from around Australia and the world to bridge the current gaps in research, practice and policy and help improve the health outcomes for children as they grow into adulthood.

The EPOCH CRE’s research work is organised as four inter-related research Streams:

  • Analysing interventions to prevent obesity in early childhood;
  • Advancing assessment of obesity-related behaviours;
  • Economic evaluation of early childhood obesity prevention
  • Translation of evidence into policy and practice

For more details: www.earlychildhoodobesity.com

Academic leaders: Professor Louise Baur, Dr Seema Mihrshahi


Policy advice

The Prevention Research Collaboration is involved in providing technical and research-based advice to inform public health policy and programs. This occurs in a variety of ways, including:

  • policy consultancy (commissioned work);
  • submissions to policy inquiries and formal consultation processes;
  • rapid advice to NSW Ministry of Health on specific issues;
  • review of monitoring and other documents for NSW Ministry of Health;
  • and technical assistance for evaluation and program development with staff from NSW Ministry of Health and health services.

Policy consultancy

The purpose of this review was to outline what additional evidence had become available on childhood obesity prevention strategies. There was a particular focus on strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness for intervening at a population level in NSW.

The review states that no single solution creates sufficient impact to reverse the obesity epidemic. Only a systemic, sustained, comprehensive portfolio of cumulative initiatives, delivered at scale, is likely to be effective in tackling overweight and obesity.

Government leadership and policy action are key elements that enable and support the population behaviour change necessary to impact on child obesity. All policy options identified in this report are highly cost-effective from a societal perspective, and some policy options would generate revenue as well as delivering health gains.

The authors suggest that all recommended policy actions identified in this report should be considered for inclusion in the intervention portfolio for the comprehensive approach required to achieve the NSW Premier’s 2025 target.

Download the summary report (pdf, 690kb) and full technical report (pdf, 2.6kb).

This work was conducted at the request of the Centre for Population Health at the NSW Ministry of Health, to inform implementation of the relevant strategic direction of the NSW Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Strategy 2013–2018.

It is not intended to be an exhaustive review but rather to provide an indication of the rationale for intervening and the potential effectiveness of a broad range of policy options. It is also intended to inform ongoing stakeholder consultation regarding action with respect to the food environment.

This consultation will necessarily take account of other evidence of effectiveness including likely reach and population impact, as well as implementation issues such as sustainability of effects, feasibility, acceptability, equity, and other factors affecting planning and investment decisions. It is noted that no single action contained within this evidence synthesis will in itself be sufficient to affect weight status substantially at the population level.

A portfolio of interventions within the food environment, alongside action to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviours, is required to halt the progress of obesity and prevent chronic disease.

Download the report (pdf, 1.2mb).

Current reports

The NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survery (SPANS) is a representative cross-sectional, school-based health behaviour surveillance survey of school children age 5 to 16 year. The survey is conducted by the Prevention Research Collaboration and lead by Dr Louise Hardy.

This is the fifth SPANS of NSW school students and provides valuable prevalence and trend information on the weight status and health behaviours of a representative sample of 7,556 school students in Kindergarten and Years 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, conducted in Term 1, 2015. In 2015, new indicators of children’s health were included: oral health, sleep, and muscular fitness.

Download the summary report (pdf, 476kb) and full technical report (pdf, 15.1mb).

This review was conducted between January and March 2016 to inform ongoing implementation of the NSW Fast Choices Menu Labelling legislation. This legislation was passed by NSW Parliament in November 2010 requiring certain food outlets particularly in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) setting to display nutrition information in the form of numeric kilojoule (kJ) amounts for food and beverage items at the point-of-sale, on menu boards.

Requirements came into effect on 1 February 2011, with a 12-month period for QSRs to comply before 1 February 2012.The primary audience for this review is the Working Group of the Fast Choices Labelling Reference Group within NSW.

Download the report (pdf, 4.9mb).

Trends in active travel over the period 2000-2015 were investigated using questions from three representative adult population surveys: Household Travel Survey (Transport for NSW), NSW Population Health Survey (NSW Ministry of Health), and the Australian Health Survey (Australian Bureau of Statistics; NSW data).

The previously noted decline in active travel by adults seen in Australia in the 30 years since 1976 appears to have stabilised, and by some measures there has been some increase overall in active transport in NSW. These increases are of statistical more than they are of health significance – any observed increases are very modest at best. Baldwin and her colleagues conclude that much more needs to done to increase the rates of active travel in NSW.

Download the full report (pdf, 1MB).

Other projects

This research program is funded through an ARC Linkage Grant, in collaboration with Cancer Council NSW. In 2010, the research program involved structured interviews with sports officials, parents and children which were conducted at selected junior sports events or training sessions.

The program provides sound information on the health promotion practices of junior sports clubs, including their policies and practices in relation to sun protection, tobacco control, healthy eating and sports participation, as well as the range and extent of food and beverage company sponsorship of junior sports.

The research has identified a number of ways in which sports clubs could promote health more consistently, including changes to sports canteens and through adopting healthy sponsorship policies. The information collected is provided back to sports clubs and regional sporting associations, as well as sport and recreation government agencies in NSW and the ACT.

Download the report (pdf, 658.7kb).


Teaching and workforce development

PRC staff members contribute to a range of teaching and capacity building activities, including a range of Sydney School of Public Health public health postgraduate courses and research-informed workforce development activities.

Our researchers and PhD students teach core and elective subjects in public health and non-communicable diseases in the Master of Public Health program, a prestigious postgraduate degree offered by the Sydney School of Public Health – ranked first in the Asia-Pacific region and 18th globally.

PRC experts contributed to the development and launch of the Mass Open Online Course in chronic disease prevention. This course showcases the Centre’s expertise in prevention and health promotion, including in areas such as nutrition, physical activity and obesity.

PRC also conducts training and capacity workshops for a diverse range of policymakers, researchers and practitioners. With the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre. PRC ran several online and face-to-face workshops on 'Complex program evaluation for public health'.

In addition to this, PRC conducts several program evaluation workshops for NSW Ministry of Health staff and for public health and Aboriginal health trainees. Through our work with the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity, we conducted online training workshops for international prevention practitioners and reached participants in over 40 countries.


Our people

  • Dr Jo Gale
  • Dr Katherine Owen
  • Dr Leah Shepherd
  • Dr Seema Mihrshahi
  • Dr Stephanie Partridge
  • Dr Binh Nguyen-Duy
  • Dr Joanna Sweeting
  • Dr Justin Richards
  • Dr Pablo Rey Lopez
  • Barbaros Eroglu
  • Bridget Foley
  • Bronwyn McGill
  • Emily Duve
  • Erika Goldbaum
  • Fiona Halar
  • Karen Lee
  • Lucy Corbett
  • Tracy Nau

Director

Associate Professor Philayrath (‘PH’) Phongsavan
Associate Professor Philayrath (‘PH’) Phongsavan
View academic profile

Contact us

Address
  • Level 6, The Hub Charles Perkins Centre D17

Our location