Research projects 2021 - Topics for Honours and MPH 24 point Dissertations - The University of Western Australia

Research projects 2021 - Topics for Honours and MPH 24 point Dissertations - The University of Western Australia
School of Population & Global Health

Research projects

Topics for Honours and
MPH 24 point Dissertations
Research projects now available in the
School of Population & Global Health (SPGH)
As a world-class research university, UWA offers research opportunities of the
highest calibre. You will work closely with an expert supervisor on a specific
research topic to produce a manuscript of significant academic scholarship.

Your initial research training can include completion of an Honours or a
postgraduate coursework Master of Public Health (MPH) with a 24 point
dissertation. This can lead to enrolment in a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

As an honours or 24 point dissertation research student with us, you will
develop, under supervision, a paper for publication in a scientific journal - this is
the first step in your research career!

               How does research training at SPGH work?
You will work with an academic researcher    Although some projects use linked data and
to investigate an important and topical      require a high degree of analytical aptitude,
area of public health. Responsible,          there are many other projects that require
conscientious students, who meet the         different skills. Given the scope of projects
eligibility criteria, with well-developed    available, a great project can be found to
interpersonal and written communication      match your own interests and skills.
skills are sought for these projects.

                             Want to know more?
If you’re interested in an Honours or a MPH 24 point dissertation
Contact our Honours & Dissertation Coordinator by email -

Research Areas & Centres at SPGH
Our research strengths include a strong evidence-based approach to services and
health program evaluation. We have a proven record of achievement in preventative,
clinical and occupational epidemiology and have been instrumental in setting world
standards in population health databases through record linkage.

Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology
Aims to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease through research into trends and
determinants of acute events, treatment, management and outcomes.

Centre for Health Services Research
Is a leader in its field through its work with linked medical and health data and the evaluation
of health services, patient safety, surgical care and pharmaco-epidemiology.

Child & Adolescent Development and Health
Early influences on child and adolescent health significantly impact on health and
development outcomes throughout life. Our research draws on the skills and experience
of our teams’ multi-disciplinary backgrounds to engage with stakeholders and deliver high
quality research with real world policy and practice implications.

Genetic Epidemiology Group
Aims to identify the genetic and environmental determinants of common human diseases,
and explore ways of using this information to improve human health.

Global Environment and Health
Investigates the relationships between ecosystems, environmental and occupational agents
and health, at local and global scales, in order to determine ways that we can improve global
human health. We research disease outcomes resulting from occupational and environmental
exposures, such as mining hazards, asbestos, air pollution, heat, noise and water. We are also
investigating the positive impact of green and blue spaces on health, and a developing area of
interest is health promotion in relation to global and environmental health

Health and Labour Economics
To improve resource allocation and decision making in the health sector through systematic
evaluation and assessment, with an economic perspective.

The Raine Study -
The Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study is one of the world’s largest successful
prospective cohorts of pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and now early adulthood. These
families have provided environmental, developmental and health information over the past 30
years offering a unique and valuable resource covering a wide range of health areas.

Neuropsychiatric Epidemiology Research Unit (NERU)
Focuses on psychiatric epidemiology, taking a cross-disciplinary approach to the study of
psychotic disorders including schizophrenia and other severe mental illness.

4 The University of Western Australia
Vulnerable Groups
Aims to improve health and social outcomes and reduce the disease burden among some of
society’s most at-risk populations.

Western Australian Centre for Road Safety Research (WACRSR)
Has been established to conduct multi-disciplinary research, using a public health approach,
into new and innovative approaches to road safety in Western Australia to reduce death and
serious injury on Western Australian roads.

Western Australian Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) -
Aims to improve rural, remote and Aboriginal health through research, education, student
support and community service activities. WACRH operates with funding from the
Commonwealth Department of Health and support from the University of Western Australia
but also works closely with numerous health organisations, on a local and national level.
Contact information for SPGH Coordinating Supervisors (listed under each project title):
Professor Angus Cook                         A/Professor Monica Moran              
Professor Tom Briffa                             Professor Vera Morgan                  
Dr Hayley Christian                              Dr Kevin Murray            
A/Professor Justin Denny                         Dr Lee Nedkoff                
Professor Colleen Fisher                         Professor David Preen              
Dr Peter Franklin                                A/Professor Rohan Rasiah
Dr Michelle Fraser
                                                 A/Professor Paul Roberts
Professor Jane Heyworth                         A/Professor Frank Sanfilippo
Dr Siobhan Hickling                      Dr Julie Saunders
A/Professor Judith Katzenellenbogen               Professor Linda Slack-Smith
Dr Matthew Legge                         A/Professor Jennifer Stone
Dr Ian Li                                Professor Sandra Thompson
Dr Karen Martin

The Busselton Health Study
The Busselton Health study is a series of     disorders, gastrointestinal, kidney and liver
internationally recognised cross-sectional    diseases, cancer, obesity, sleep disorders,
and longitudinal population health studies    cognition and genetic epidemiology.
carried out on the population of Busselton,
                                              Extensive information on demography,
Western Australia which aims to provide a
                                              lifestyle and behaviour have also been
better understanding and management of
                                              collected at each of the surveys along with
disease and illness.
                                              blood samples for biochemical measures
Research activities undertaken as part of     and genetic studies.
the Busselton Health Studies are diverse      Epidemiological data analysis driven
and encompass a wide range of health          projects are available for Honours and
conditions and measures.                      Masters students, and interested students
These have included cardiovascular disease,   should contact Dr Kevin Murray for details.
respiratory disease, diabetes and endocrine

Projects under the Cardiovascular Research Group

State-of-the-Art Cardiovascular               • Monitoring coronary artery disease
Disease (CVD) Research                        • Management of CVD in the Indigenous
Prof Tom Briffa                                   population
                                              •   Diabetes and CVD
Background: CVD is costly and prevalent       •   Peripheral arterial disease
worldwide. Monitoring and reporting trends    •   Risk Factor Prevalence Study
is a national priority health area and is a   •   Coronary artery revascularisation
driver of health policy aimed at improving    •   Chronic kidney disease and CVD
healthcare delivery and outcomes
                                              Methodology: The Cardiovascular
Outline: Various projects in specific areas   Research Group uses clinical data collected
are offered. These will involve examining     from cohorts in Western Australia together
the trends and models of care in CVD          with person linked administrative data
prevention, treatment and management and      from hospitals and registers to examine
may consider clinical epidemiology, health    influences, trends and epidemiology of CVD
outcomes, pharmacotherapy, prevention,        health outcomes.
cost-effectiveness and community
A range of topic areas include:
• Atherothrombotic disease across the
   vascular territories
• Busselton Health Study

6 The University of Western Australia
Processing evaluation of the                    Developing contemporary
Healing Right Way trial                         algorithms for monitoring
A/Prof Judith Katzenellenbogen                  myocardial infarction in Australia
                                                Dr Lee Nedkoff
Background: This project is part of a
process evaluation of the NH&MRC-funded         Background: Measuring population
randomised control trial (RCT) entitled         trends in myocardial infarction (MI)
‘Enhancing rehabilitation for Aboriginal        incidence and hospitalisation rates has
Australians after brain injury: Healing Right
                                                been an important historical indicator
Way’ (HRW). This project is focused on
                                                of the effectiveness of coronary disease
providing culturally secure rehabilitation
services for Aboriginal patients with           prevention. However, the use of new
acquired brain injury. HRW uses a               diagnostic biomarkers since the 2000s has
randomised cluster step-wedge design            impacted epidemiological monitoring of
of a complex intervention (consisting           temporal trends in MI.
of culturally secure training (CST), and
the introduction of an Aboriginal Brain         Outline: The study will quantify the
Injury Coordinator (ABIC) role) in four         impact of changes in cardiac biomarkers
metropolitan and four regional Western          on trends in MI, and test the feasibility
Australian hospitals.                           of linking cardiac biomarker data to
We have designed and implemented a              population-level hospitalisation data for
mixed methods process evaluation which is       ongoing monitoring of MI in Australia.
being undertaken both prospectively and
retrospectively, enhancing the conduct and      Methodology: A linked dataset
interpretation of the parent study.             containing hospital, emergency
                                                department, mortality and pathology data
Outline: To determine processes, barriers       for all coronary heart disease presentations
and facilitators that have influenced the       in Western Australia since 2000 is available.
implementation of the trial and ongoing         Classification of MI and each coronary heart
partnerships with stakeholders during the       disease subtype will be made according to
first two years of the RHW.                     ICD-coding and cardiac biomarkers, and
Methodology: Qualitative study using            rates and trends compared across each
data collected prospectively as part of the     classification group.
process evaluation.
                                                Project Specific Requirements:
Data collected includes minutes of              Knowledge of evaluation frameworks,
meetings, interviews with project staff,        qualitative methods.
surveys with participants of cultural
security training in hospitals, review of
communication with project partners.

Project Specific Requirements:
Knowledge of evaluation frameworks,
qualitative methods.

Project Length: 24 point MPH only

The epidemiology and experience                 Examples:
of rheumatic heart disease                      • Analysis of concurrent ARF/RHD and
(End RHD in Australia: Study of                   obstetric/pregnancy hospitalisations.
Epidemiology – ERASE project)                   • Missed opportunities in the diagnosis of
A/Prof Judith Katzenellengbogen                   ARF in hospital (review administrative
                                                  records of ARF/RHD diagnosed patients
Background: Acute rheumatic fever
                                                  to identify whether ARF had not been
(ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD)
                                                  diagnosed in previous emergency
persist as significant sources of health
                                                  department and hospital encounters.
burden among Indigenous Australians. End
                                                • Collection and analysis of ARF/RHD
RHD in Australia: Study of Epidemiology
                                                  paediatric cardiology out-patient data
(ERASE) Project aims determine the
                                                  over 20 years.
baseline burden of ARF/RHD in Australia
                                                • Descriptive study of PHC data of patients
and to develop further insights into the
                                                  diagnosed with ARF/RHD in NT.
progression and outcomes of the disease
                                                • Development/evaluation of resources for
as a basis for improved monitoring. Other
                                                  dissemination of findings to Aboriginal
areas of investigation include health
                                                  communities (mixed methods).
system costs, hospital service utilisation,
                                                • Qualitative studies of aspects of the
medication adherence and factors affecting
                                                  management and experiences of ARF/
the management of these conditions in
primary care.
                                                • Development of a standardized set
Outline: A number of potential projects           of recommended data items that
associated with the ERASE project                 facilitate comparability of RHD-related
are available for students, including             information in pregnant women from
epidemiological analyses and analyses             varied sources and for various purposes
related to health systems. Translation of         (Delphi method).
findings will occur through the End RHD
Coalition as well as dissemination of results
                                                Project Specific Requirements:
to communities.
                                                • For linked data analysis, competence in
                                                    SAS; R or SPSS or preparedness to learn
Methodology: The project uses a                     quickly.
multi-jurisdictional linked database from       •   For evaluation and mixed methods
multiple sources (hospital, primary health          research, preparedness to learn
care, deaths, RHD register) as well as              qualitative methods.
qualitative data on primary care systems
to support RHD management. Midwives
data is currently being linked in as well.
An appropriate methodology will be
developed depending on the research
question, available data and the level of
skill/interest of the student.

8 The University of Western Australia
Pharmacoepidemiology studies                     Analysis will require identifying the
using the 10% PBS sample                         specific drug groups of interest, applying
A/Prof Frank Sanfilippo                          multivariable regression methods,
                                                 estimating medication adherence using the
Background: We have applied to                   proportion of days covered (PDC) method,
obtain a 10% sample of data from the             describing patient characteristics, and
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) with        simple univariate and bivariate statistics.
linkage to deaths. The dataset will provide a    There is potential to publish the findings in a
longitudinal source of records for medicines     suitable journal.
dispensed in Australian pharmacies from
2012 onwards. This will allow various            Project Specific Requirements:
analyses on use of medicines in Australia.       Knowledge of medicines and therapeutics
                                                 would be an advantage, although an
Outline: To investigate the use of specific
                                                 interest in this area would be sufficient,
groups of medicines in a 10% random
                                                 with additional training provided. Analysis
sample of patients receiving medicines
                                                 will require use of multivariable regression
through the PBS in Australia.
                                                 methods. The data are linked and some
Methodology: The PBS data contains               knowledge or understanding of how to
information on medicines dispensed               handle these data would be useful.
from Australian pharmacies, including
hospital pharmacies that are registered          Project Length: 24 point MPH only
with the PBS (ie. all private and some
public hospitals). Variables include age, sex,
name and strength of the drug, quantity
dispensed, ATC code, PBS item code, date of
supply, date prescribed, beneficiary status
(concession card, general beneficiary) and
date of death. The dataset will be supplied
on approval by the Department of Human
Services. It consists of linked data of PBS
records and matching death record from a
random 10% sample of people in Australia.
Various analyses can be completed using
these data, with specific examples including:
(i) use of psycho-active medicines in the
elderly; (ii) use of low dose vs high dose
statins by patient characteristics; (iii)
patterns of medication use before and
during the COVID-19 period (eg. supply of
hydroxycholoroquine); (iv) use of medicines
in the very old; (v) adherence of specific
drug groups (eg. anti-retroviral drugs,
statins, beta blockers, antiplatelet agents).

Projects with the Centre for Health Services Research
Linking for Life: Enhancing                        across government sectors; and
pathways to well-being for all                     3. Identify factors associated with
Australians                                        resilience in disadvantaged groups to
Prof David Preen; Dr Rebecca Glauert               improve intergenerational outcomes.
Background: The Linking for Life Project           Methodology: The sub-projects
will identify pathways to wellbeing and            developed under this program of work will
better social outcomes across the life-            utilise up to 40 years of whole-population,
course for high-risk/vulnerable individuals        genealogically linked data, across seven
and their families to streamline service           government departments including the
provision, improve outcomes and identify           WA Dept. of Communities, Dept. of Justice,
cost-efficiencies across government                WA Police, Dept. of Education, Dept. of
agencies. The work will expand cross-              Health, Mental Health Commission and the
sectoral data linkage capability, enhancing        Commonwealth Dept. of Education and
research capacity to generate evidence-            Training.
based policy to improve integrated service
                                                   Statistical analysis and multivariate
delivery across government.
                                                   modelling of these data will be undertaken
The project involves the analysis                  using SPSS, Stata or SAS to address the
of longitudinal, whole-population,                 above-mentioned research aims.
genealogically linked data, across seven
                                                   Project Specific Requirements:
government departments in order
                                                   • Knowledge of epidemiology and
determine pathways (across individual,
family, community and system levels) that
                                                   • Completion of PUBH5785 Introductory
reduce vulnerability to adverse outcomes
                                                   Analysis of Linked Health Data or equivalent
including social disadvantage, child
                                                   prior experience.
abuse and neglect, mental illness, poor
                                                   • Experience with writing statistical syntax
educational attainment, justice system
                                                   to complete data analyses.
involvement, and restricted access to
public services.                                   Project Length: 24 point MPH only
Outline: Research questions in this
project are categorised under three                Exploring the Mental Health and
intersecting domains: 1) Resilience and
                                                   Emotional Wellbeing of Reception
overcoming disadvantage; 2) Families and           Prisoners
Intergenerational Effects; and 3) Aboriginal       Prof David Preen; Mr Craig Cumming
Wellbeing, with the primary aims of the            Background: People who go to prison
current program being to:                          experience social disadvantage, mental
1. Determine pathways that reduce                  illness and trauma at far higher rates the
vulnerability to adverse outcomes and              general community. To investigate mental
restricted access to public services;              illness and emotional wellbeing in this
2. Identify critical transition points to target   group further 719 adults were recruited
prevention and intervention strategies

10 The University of Western Australia
and interviewed within one week of              A main project aim is to provide high
entering prison. They were asked a range of     quality data that will assist in the planning
questions on topics that included mental        and provision of mental health services to
health, life stressors, drug and alcohol use,   mentally disordered offenders both within
and unmet needs.                                the criminal justice system and in the
Outline: The project aims to describe
and quantify the nature and extent of           Methodology: Cross sectional survey
mental disorders including alcohol and          data collected within one week of reception
substance misuse disorders amongst WA           into prison.
reception prisoners, as well as their met       Project Specific Requirements:
and unmet needs.
                                                Reasonable knowledge of biostatistics

Projects under Child and Adolescent Health
Children’s Physical Activty, Health             Project Specific Requirements:
and Development                                 •   Ability to conduct quantitative research.
Dr Hayley Christian                             •   Excellent writing skills.
                                                •   Statistical analysis (SPSS and/or SAS).
Background: This research forms part            •   Ability to work as part of a team.
of the PLAYCE program of research – Places
                                                •   Good interpersonal communication
Spaces & Environments for Children’s
Physical Activity. PLAYCE examines the
longitudinal influence of the physical,
                                                Physical activity policy for early
social and policy environment on young
                                                childhood education and care-
children’s physical activity, sedentary
                                                parent engagement
behaviour, eating behaviour, weight status,
sun exposure and development: at home,          Dr Hayley Christian
around the neighbourhood and whilst             Background: Daily physical activity is
attending early childhood education and         critical during the early years of life for
care (ECEC) or school. This research will        facilitating children’s health and
provide information on how best to create       development. Only one in three Australian
healthy environments to support young           children aged 2 to 5 achieve the
children’s wellbeing and development.           recommended level of three hours of daily
                                                physical activity. Early childhood education
Outline: To determine the patterns of
                                                and care (ECEC) services are a key setting to
movement behaviours (physical activity,
                                                intervene to increase physical activity.
sedentary time and sleep) in young
children across early childhood (2-7 years)     Outline: The student will be part of a
and the impact on weight status and             multi-jurisdictional NHMRC funded project
developmental outcomes.                         and have the opportunity to work with eight
                                                partner agencies. The project will provide
Methodology: Quantitative analysis of           n-depth knowledge about parents’ barriers
existing PLAYCE cohort data.                    and enablers for improving parent-child,

and parent-educator engagement around            Methodology: Literature review;
children’s physical activity.                    Qualitative; Quantitative survey.
This will involve exploring, identifying and     Project Specific Requirements:
better understanding the factors that            • Ability to conduct quantitative/
strengthen the educator-parent                       qualitative research.
engagement process to boost children’s           •   Excellent writing skills.
physical activity in the home and ECEC           •   Statistical analysis (SPSS and/or SAS).
environment.                                     •   Ability to work as part of a team.
Methodology: Literature review;                  •   Good interpersonal communication
Qualitative.                                         skills.

Project Specific Requirements:
• Ability to conduct quantitative/
   qualitative research.                         Increasing children’s physical
• Excellent writing skills.                      activity through family dog
• Ability to work as part of a team.             walking and play
• Good interpersonal communication               Dr Hayley Christian
                                                 Background: This research forms
                                                 part of the PLAYCE program of research
                                                 – Places Spaces & Environments for
Health benefits of natural
                                                 Children’s Physical Activity. The PLAYCE
outdoor environments
                                                 PAWS Study aims to trial different methods
Dr Hayley Christian
                                                 of encouraging more physical activity in
Background: Natural outdoor                      children through playing and walking with
environments including blue spaces help          the family dog.
reduce stress, promote physical activity         Outline: The aim is to see whether
and social connections, improve overall          active play and walking with the family
health and well-being, improve connection        dog facilitates improved developmental
to place and reduce urban heat effects. The      outcomes in young children.
health benefits associated with exposure to
blue space (oceans, rivers, lakes etc) likely    Methodology: Quantitative analysis of
follow similar pathways and mechanisms to        existing pilot study data.
those identified for green space.                Project Specific Requirements:
                                                 •   Ability to conduct quantitative research.
Outline: This research will determine the        •   Excellent writing skills.
health benefits of blue space. It will involve   •   Statistical analysis (SPSS and/or SAS).
stakeholder interviews and or intercept          •   Ability to work as part of a team.
surveys to investigate how Western               •   Good interpersonal communication
Australians access and use different types
of blue spaces in their community and what
the health and wellbeing benefits are (and
potential negative effects)?

12 The University of Western Australia
Testing the capacity of an                     We now have a dataset from these pilot
online tool to promote safe sun                studies that needs to be analyzed.
behaviours in teenagers                        Project Aim: To pilot test a prototype
Dr Hayley Christian; Shelley Gorman            app that aims to improve the knowledge
(Telethon Kids Institute - shelley.gorman@     and behaviours that young adolescents                           have around safe sun protection and
                                               exposure practices for vitamin D.
Background: In this project, we have
developed and are testing a prototype app      Methodology:         In school- and
that aims to improve the knowledge and         community-based pilot studies, we
behaviours that young adolescents have         will test end-user responses (‘process’:
around safe sun practices for vitamin D. Our   engagement, functionality, aesthetics and
rationale for developing this app, was that:   information quality) to using the app, as
- A fun, educational online tool, when         well as its capacity to improve their safe sun
developed with adolescent ‘co-researchers’     knowledge and behaviours.
would be useful and relevant;
- It would more likely be accepted by          Specific methodological approaches:
adolescents than currently available tools;    1. Assess responses to questionnaires on
and,                                           ‘process’ outcomes related to using the
- It would help them make better decisions     developed app;
about their health needs for protection        2. Assess the knowledge gain related to sun
from excessive sun exposure and for            health outcomes in response to using the
sufficient vitamin D.                          app, compared with placebo control; and
                                               3. Measure skin type, sun sensitivity
We first recruited young adolescent co-        and normal sun exposure patterns of
researchers for their input into the design    participants and sun exposure behaviours.
of the app, along with other stakeholders,
including those from Cancer Council            Project Specific Requirements:
WA, academics and eHealth technology           The student will help the research team to:
developers. We then co-developed a digital     construct databases of survey data; collate
wireframe which was first tested in a series   and clean datasets; perform statistical
of workshops with young people. We used        analyses; perform qualitative analyses
feedback from these workshops, design
                                               of feedback; critically analyze findings;
guidelines of the wireframe (including
                                               and, write a manuscript that describes
basic information, format, strategy and
language), and ongoing input from co-          and critically discusses study findings
researchers and the research team to           for publication. Essential skills for this
develop the prototype app. Finally, we         project include excellent written and oral
conducted pilot studies to obtain end-user     communication, very good organisation,
responses (engagement, functionality,          motivation and dedication. If accepted
aesthetics and information quality) on         for the project, the student will need to
the developed app, testing its capacity        complete police and working with children
to improve the sunhealth knowledge and         checks, which will be funded by the study.
behaviours in an independent cohort of
young adolescents (aged 12-13) via blinded     Project Length: 24 point MPH only
placebo-controlled interventions.

Reducing and preventing energy                  Project Specific Requirements:
drink intake in children                        • Excellent interpersonal, written and oral
Dr Siobhan Hickling; Dr Gina Trapp                 communication skills.
                                                • Working with Children Check.
Background: Energy drinks have
                                                • Police Clearance.
catapulted to popularity among young
people. Whilst they are marketed to
improve the body’s performance, they
pose a significant health risk due to the       Influence of the food environment
high levels of caffeine, sugar, sodium and      near schools on children’s dietary
herbal stimulants they contain. In Australia,   intake
energy drinks are required by law to carry      Dr Siobhan Hickling; Dr Gina Trapp
a warning statement that they are ‘not
                                                Background: Many WA schools,
recommended for children’, however
                                                especially in socio-economically
no restrictions are placed on who can
                                                disadvantaged areas, are surrounded by
purchase these drinks and they are widely
                                                unhealthy food-outlets. Recent calls from
available and accessible to children. More
                                                the WA community for a ban on fast-food
than half of energy drink consumers aged
                                                outlets near schools, further highlight the
12-17 years have reported experiencing
                                                need for regulation addressing the location
adverse health outcomes following
                                                of unhealthy food-outlets, yet little is known
consumption, some serious enough to
                                                about how often school children patronise
warrant seeking medical help. Despite
                                                food-outlets near schools, when and what
growing community concern and evidence
                                                they purchase. This lack of evidence means
of health risks, Australian governments
                                                policies to manage food-environments near
have not enforced age-specific restrictions
                                                WA schools are currently non-existent and
on these drinks. Thus, there is a critical
                                                difficult to advocate for.
need to identify other ways to minimise
harm to children.                               Outline: Several multidisciplinary and
                                                innovative research projects are available.
Outline: The overall aim of this                These are aimed at:
research is to develop knowledge-based          • Longitudinally mapping, measuring
interventions that could be effective              and monitoring the food environment
in reducing and preventing children’s              surrounding Perth schools.
energy drink intake. Two student projects       • Investigating students’ patronage of
can be offered; (i) the development of             food outlets near their school, including
a child-focused intervention and (ii)              which food outlets they use, how often,
the development of a parent-based                  when and what they purchase.
intervention.                                   • Identifying differences in the dietary
                                                   intake of students attending schools
Methodology: Focus groups with
                                                   located in ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’
parents/children and development of
                                                   food environments.
intervention resources.
                                                • Undertaking natural experiments
                                                   (before and after studies) to investigate
                                                   how new food outlets opening near a

14 The University of Western Australia
school impacts on the eating behaviours    The Youth Mental Health team at Telethon
    of children attending that school.         Kids Institute is working on improving
•   Investigating student, school staff, the   the mental health and wellbeing of
    community and food business owners’        LGTBIQA+ young people. We have several
    attitudes towards (a) unhealthy food       opportunities to conduct research and
    environments near schools; and (b)         translation projects on the mental health
    potential policy and practice changes      of LGBTIQA+ young people and suicide
    to improve food environments near          prevention initiatives with LGBTIQA+ young
    schools.                                   people and their families.
•   Co-developing a research translation
    tool for Local Governments to better       Outline: The project can focus on a
    manage food provision near schools.        specific subgroup of LGBTIQA+ young
                                               people (e.g. trans young people), or
Methodology: Depending on the                  LGBTIQA+ young people broadly. Students
project chosen, methodologies could
                                               are able to work on one of the projects
include use of Geographical Information
                                               already underway in our team, or create
System (GIS) technology, direct
                                               a new project, depending on the specific
observation, survey development (including
                                               degree requirements. The specific project
an in-built interactive mapping activity),
                                               will depend on the interest and skills of the
focus groups and interviews.
                                               student and our projects are flexible based
Project Specific Requirements:                 on the student’s time frame.
• Excellent interpersonal, written and oral
                                               Potential new projects are:
    communication skills.
                                               • Creating an intervention or enhancing
•   Working with Children Check.
                                               understandings on how to decrease suicide
•   Police Clearance.
                                               risk in LGBTIQA+ young people
•   Data analysis and qualitative research
                                               • Translating research to the real world
    skills (depending on the project chosen)   through advocacy and policy change: for
                                               example, creating and piloting translational
                                               resources enhancing understandings of
Improving the mental health of                 LGBTIQA+ young people, e.g. resources
LGBTIQA+ young people                          targeted towards peers, families or
Prof Angus Cook (in partnership with           clinicians, or creating co-designed
Penelope Strauss and Ashleigh Lin from the     resources with trans young people on
Telethon Kids Institute)                       navigating health services
                                               • Projects with parents or families of
Background: LGBTIQA+ young people              LGBTIQA+ young people, or clinicians who
experience poorer mental health outcomes       work with LGBTIQA+ young people
and higher rates of suicidality compared to    • A project within a broader longitudinal
their non-LGBTIQA+ peers. It is also known     project underway that is looking at the
that LGBTIQA+ young people experience          mental health and wellbeing outcomes of
barriers in accessing health services          trans people undergoing top surgery
inclusive of LGBTIQA+ identities.

Methodology: To be discussed based             • Appreciation and acceptance of diversity
on the specific student and their interests        and equality of all people, regardless of
and needs. Our team conducts quantitative,         age, gender, sexuality, race or religion.
qualitative and mixed methods research.        •   Excellent written and verbal
                                                   communication skills.
Project Specific Requirements:
                                               •   Demonstrated ability to work both
• Requires a Working with Children Check           independently and as a member of a
• Undergraduate degree in health                   team.
• Ability to work with young people and
   passion for the mental health of young

Projects under the Genetic Epidemiology Group

The Genetic Epidemiology Group (GEG)           Projects with a genetic focus will use
is home to a highly-skilled team of            statistical methods of genetic and genomic
genetic epidemiologists, statisticians and     analysis, utilizing bioinformatics and
epidemiologists who are committed to           high throughput ‘omics’ technologies to
identifying the genetic, epigenetic and        unravel the genetic and environmental
environmental determinants of common           contributions to human disease.
human diseases, and exploring ways of
using such information to improve human        Other projects involve high-level statistical
health.                                        analysis of “big data” from large data
                                               linkage projects or population-based
The GEG team undertake research into a         databases that focus more on (non-genetic)
wide spectrum of human trait and disease       clinical outcomes, integral to primary
areas, as well as methodological research      prevention as well as early detection of
into the techniques required to conduct        chronic human disease.
successful projects. We work closely with
clinical and academic collaborators locally,   Projects are available for both Honours
nationally and internationally.                and Masters level projects. Previous
                                               biostatistics training is preferred.
Research topics include:
                                               Interested students should contact A/Prof
• Breast cancer
                                               Jennifer Stone for details and to be put in
• Melanoma
                                               touch with relevant GEG team members
• Mesothelioma
                                               and project supervisors.
• Cardiovascular disease
• Sleep disorders
• Burns and scarring
• Autism
• Lipidomics
• Statistical research methods

16 The University of Western Australia
Projects under Global Health

In addition to the projects listed there may also be opportunities to get involved with
research projects in northern Thailand. One potential topic is a SinLek rice project which is a
placebo-controlled cross-over trial of a heritage black rice vs a white rice in a primary school
in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Any students interested in undertaking a project in this area please
contact A/Prof Justin Denny.

Chronic kidney disease in Sri                     Outline:
Lanka                                             • Is drinking harvest rainwater associated
Prof Jane Heyworth in collaboration with             with a reduced risk of CKD?
Dr Tanuja Ariyananda (Lanka Rain Water            • Are the symptoms of CKDu improved
Havesting Forum) and Dr Gayan Bowatte                among patients drinking rain water?
(University of Peradeniya)
                                                  • What factors in drinking water sources
Background:                                          might lead to differences in risk?
There are approximately 70,000 estimated          • What are other potential risk factors for
CKD/CKDu patients in 6 of the 9 provinces in         CKDu?
Sri Lanka. Despite many studies conducted         Methodology:
in this area, the risk factors for this disease   Establish/undertake a case control study of
are still uncertain (thus “u” in CKDu).           CKD in Sir Lanka.
According to studies carried out to date,         1. Identify methods for selecting cases and
CKDu maybe a result of drinking water             control .
contamination.                                    2. Develop survey instruments for
In the Northern province, a preliminary           assessing exposure to water and other risk
survey conducted of CKDu patients in              factors.
households with rain water harvesting             3. Monitor water quality of different water
system installed in the northern province         sources ( RW, RO, well)
indicated that the patients “feel healthier”      Project Specific Requirements:
after drinking rain water and that their          Good performance in epidemiology and
condition remain stable. However, further         biostatistics units.
research is needed to confirm these
findings and to identify differences in the
constituents of harvested rainwater and
other drinking water.
The Lanka Rain Water Harvesting Forum
(LRWHF) has installed over 500 RWH
systems in households Northern & Uva

Migration widows: The impact                  Methodology:
of the international migration                We have undertaken qualitative research
of workers on those who stay                  with women whose partners have
behind                                        migrated for work and the current study
Dr Julie Saunders; Prof Jane Heyworth         will build upon those findings to develop a
Background: Nepal has a long history
of labour migration with an estimated         A quantitative survey of 100 women
3.5 million Nepalese working abroad           who have a child aged under 5 will be
(Simkhada et al 2017). Labour migrants        undertaken. The sample will be stratified
from Nepal are predominantly males; 15%       on the basis of whether a partner has
of all economically active males (aged        migrated for work in the past 12 months. A
15 years and older) compared with 2% of       sub-sample of 50 women will participate in
Nepali females (Maharajan, Bauer, Kner,       a test-retest reliability study completing the
2012). The majority of these males are from   questionnaire on two separate occasions,
agricultural backgrounds.                     two to three weeks apart.

Despite research into the health risks         The student will be supported by a local
for those who migrate for work, there         research assistant to recruit the sample and
is little research on the health and          administer the questionnaire. The student
wellbeing impacts for those who stay          will analyse and interpret the data and write
behind. However, an understanding the         up these findings. The student will prepare
contextualised impact on women and            a report the findings to be provided to the
families left behind is important.            NGOs, prepare a video of the key messages
                                              of this research and a conference abstract.
Outline: To estimate the extent of
social, health and gender impacts of the      The student will analyse the transcribed
international migration of male workers       interviews, undertake thematic analyses,
from Nepal on the women and families left     and interpret and write up these findings.
behind.                                       The student will prepare a report the
                                              findings to be provided to the NGOs,
Specific objectives are to:                   prepare a video of the key messages of this
• Develop a questionnaire based upon the      research and a conference abstract.
  results of recent qualitative research.
• Pilot the questionnaire with 100 women      Project Specific Requirements:
  in the Central (Kathmandu) and Western      UG: Completed PUBH2203 and PUBH3305
  (Pokhara) Development Regions in            (or their equivalent) with a Distinction or
  Nepal.                                      High Distinction grade.
• Undertake a reliability study with a sub-   PG: Completed PUBH4401 and PUBH4403
  sample of this population.                  (or their equivalent) with a Distinction or
• Estimate and compare the prevalence         High Distinction grade.
  of key impacts among those left behind
  with those whose partner has not
  migrated for work

18 The University of Western Australia
Developing an mHealth                          Methodology:
intervention to promote                        The student will work with DPHO and
antenatal health and                           Kanchan Nepal to determine the schedule
immunisation                                   for delivery of health messages and seek
Dr Julie Saunders; Prof Jane Heyworth          their input into the appropriate style
                                               of message. The project may include
Background: mHealth initiatives are            interviews with staff of the DPHO and
becoming more prominent in low and             community health posts as well as focus
middle income countries as a means             groups with rural community members.
of engaging residents in public health         The student will prepare a project plan for
activities. The Kaski District Public Health   the mHealth intervention that includes
Office (DPHO), located in Pokhara, Nepal       recruitment, access, messages and ongoing
wish to develop more effective ways            or longer-term evaluation.
of delivering health reminders around
antenatal care and vaccinations to persons     Project Specific Requirements:
living in rural Nepal. Mobile phones are       UG: Completed PUBH2216 or PUBH3302 (or
commonly used in Nepal, thus mHealth           their equivalent) with a Distinction or High
initiatives may be an efficient method         Distinction grade.
of reaching families living in rural areas.    PG: Completed PUBH5754 or PUBH5805 (or
DPHO and Kanchan Nepal, our partner            their equivalent) with a Distinction or High
organization, will provide advice on the       Distinction grade.
local context, including antenatal care and
immunisation schedules.

Outline: To develop a culturally relevant
mHealth intervention to convey specific
health messages to rural Nepalese women.
Specific objectives are to:
• Review the literature on the use of
  mHealth interventions for health
• Determine the messages that might
  be most effectively conveyed by this
• Develop culturally appropriate and
  engaging messages with input from the
  local community.
• Pilot and evaluate the health messages
  for the app among the local community.

Projects under Global Environment and Health

Health risk assessment of                       3. Investigate the changes in hazards and
artisanal brick kilns in low-and                exposure levels with the implementation of
middle-income countries                         ‘improved’ kiln technologies; and
Prof Jane Heyworth                              4. Investigate the implementation of
                                                ‘improved’ kiln technologies in the
Background: The artisanal brick kiln            Kathmandu Valley since the Nepal
industry is an important source of air
                                                earthquake of April 25, 2015.
pollution in low to middle income countries.
In addition brick workers are among the         Methodology:
most marginalized of unskilled workers          The project will require you to:
and the industry is in need of urgent           • develop, prepare and submit a research
environmental, occupational health and            proposal;
safety interventions. There are over            • review the literature on artisanal brick
300,000 highly polluting brick kilns              kilns in low-middle income countries;
throughout low- and middle-income               • conduct a qualitative health risk
countries, emitting over 890 million tonnes       assessments based on analysis of the
of CO2 each year as well as high levels of PM     available literature;
2.5, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and        • obtain and compile available
black carbon. These emissions are                 information on brick kiln reconstruction
responsible for serious impacts on human          in the Kathmandu valley since April 2015;
health in workers and residents of              • prepare manuscripts for publication.
surrounding areas.                              Project Specific Requirements:
This project will involve describing the        Well-developed literature searching and
global artisanal brick industry and the         reviewing skills.
associated risks to human health, and
estimating the potential reduction in health
risks with the implementation of ‘improved’
kilns that have been developed to reduce
adverse environmental emissions. A
case study of post-earthquake brick kiln
reconstruction in Kathmandu valley will be
1. Describe the artisanal brick kiln industry
from a global perspective;
2a. Identify the hazards associated with
artisanal brick kilns and the associated
health and environmental outcomes for
particular levels of exposure;
2b. Identify the exposed population and the
potential for prevention;

20 The University of Western Australia
Health effects of air pollution                 What is the impact of vegetation
Prof Jane Heyworth                              on air quality?
                                                Prof Jane Heyworth; Ania Stasinska; Dr
Background: Air pollution (AP) patterns         Natasha Pauli (School of Agriculture and
have changed as technological advances          Environment UWA)
and pollution controls have led to
reductions in concentrations of pollutants      Background: There is emerging
such as lead and sulfur dioxide (SO2).          evidence that green space is associated
However, urbanisation with its associated       with health and wellbeing. Some of the
increase in motor vehicles, industrial          mechanisms by which this might occur
processes and energy requirements, are          include: increased physical activity,
overtaking the advances made in AP control      reduced stress, improving air quality and
over the past two decades. The AP health        reducing urban heat effects. Vegetation
burden is substantial; there is evidence        may be both beneficial and harmful for air
from Europe that ~50% of adult mortality        quality as trees can filter out particulates
resulting from AP is attributable to traffic    in air, but some may also produce volatile
emissions. Significant sources of AP in         organic compounds or pollens. In order to
the Perth metropolitan area are motor           plan greening in urban areas to improve
vehicles and domestic wood heaters (25%         health more in-depth knowledge is needed
of households have wood heaters). The aim       regarding the specific settings and greening
of this study is to investigate the long-term   characteristics that will maximize benefits.
effects of air pollution, specifically PM10,    Outline: To understand the relationship
PM2.5, NO2, CO and ozone, on cancer             between green space and air pollution in
outcomes in a cohort of older men in Perth.     Australian urban environments.
Outline: Does exposure to air pollution         Methodology: Literature review.
at the concentrations observed in Perth
lead an increased risk of cancer.               Project Specific Requirements:
                                                Good analytical and writing skills
Quantitative methods.
AP exposure metrics have been developed
and linked each participant in the Health
in Men Study (HIMS), a cohort of 12,201
men aged 65 years and above. These men
were recruited in 1996 and were followed
up to 2016. Using cox proportional hazard
regression models, the hazard ratios and
95% confidence intervals for the impact of
different pollutants and cancer outcomes
will be estimated.

Project Length: 24 point MPH only

Health and well-being impacts                   Project Specific Requirements:
of interactions with green space:               Good analytical and writing skills. Ability
Does perception of biodiversity                 and willingness to interact with members of
influence outcomes?                             the public and/or key external stakeholders.
Prof Jane Heyworth; Dr Natasha Pauli
(School of Agriculture & Environment UWA)
                                                Modelling 20 years of noise in WA
Background: Perth is within a global            mines: have noise levels reduced?
biodiversity hotspot, with a high proportion    Dr Peter Franklin; Prof Jane Heyworth
of endemic species coupled with a dramatic
reduction in total area covered in native       Background: Prolonged exposure to
vegetation. There exists a broad body of        high levels of noise can result in permanent
literature detailing the links between green    and irreversible damage to hearing (noise
space and impacts on physical and mental        induced hearing loss – NIHL). Noise
health and wellbeing. However, there is         exposure is prevalent in mining and is a
a relative lack of information on how the       generic hazard, to a greater or lesser extent,
biodiversity of green spaces is a) perceived    to all operations within mining. The mining
by the general public and b) is linked with     industry has long been known to have one
health and well-being.                          of the highest rates of occupational NIHL.
                                                A 2004 SafeWork Australia report used
Emerging research has shown some
potential correlations between access to        compensation claims (1998/99 to 2001/02
areas with higher biodiversity, respiratory     data) for NIHL to determine incidence of
health and allergic conditions. However,        claims for different industries. Mining had
the degree to which people’s perception         the highest incidence of deafness claims
of biodiversity influences their use and        (343/100,000 employees in 2001/02). In
opinion of green spaces with varying            Western Australia (WA) there is a regulatory
levels of native biodiversity has been little   requirement for specific action to be taken
explored in the Australian context.             when people are exposed to either an
                                                average noise level of more than 85 dB(A)
This research project will use a mixed
                                                for an eight-hour working day (LAeq,8h) or a
methods approach to explore perceptions
                                                peak noise level in excess of 140 dB(lin).
of a cross-section of the community to a
spectrum of green spaces that could be          The WA Department of Mines, Industry
used for recreation, highlighting the likely    Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) have a
impacts on wellbeing and physical activity.     guideline for the management of noise in
                                                WA mining operations.
Outline: To understand variation in the
perception of biodiversity; and to assess       Despite this, noise measurements above
whether people’s views on biodiversity are      the exposure standard were recorded for
linked with differential impacts on health      93% of underground production
and well-being.                                 employees, 73% of surface production
                                                employees, and 68% of ore treatment
Methodology: Literature review,                 employees in mines between 1996 and
questionnaires, focus groups, qualitative
and/or quantitative data analysis.

22 The University of Western Australia
Outline: The aim of this study is to            exposures. The cohort has been linked
investigate noise levels in WA mines            with administrative health records allowing
between 1996 and 2016 to determine; 1)          assessment of various health outcomes.
the main contributing factors to elevated       The overall aim of this study is to investigate
level and 2) if there have been reductions in   the short- and long-term health effects of
noise over that 20 year period                  modern-day mining exposures, specifically
                                                silica and diesel.
Methodology: Noise data has been
collected by DMIRS since 1996. We will          Outline: Are current mining emission
                                                regulations sufficient to preserve miners’
initially model the determinants of
exceedance of the full-shift workplace noise
exposure limit (LAeq,8h≥85 dBA) using           This project offers potential students the
logistic regression analyses. Models will       opportunity to choose from a variety of
include the type of mine, place of collection   health outcomes (e.g. cancer, pulmonary,
(eg surface or underground), and activities     cardiovascular, renal, etc.). The scope
conducted during collection. Trends over        of a project will be tailored to suit the
time will then be calculated                    candidate’s goals.

Project Specific Requirements:                  Candidates will gain hands-on experience
                                                of applying core epidemiological concepts
Statistical competency (ideally biostats II)
                                                and understand how epidemiological
                                                evidence is generated and used to inform
                                                policy and planning of occupational health
Health effects of mining                        standards and guidelines.
exposures?                                      Methodology: Students will undertake
Dr Peter Franklin                               a comprehensive literature review on their
Background: Mining activities are               chosen research question and develop a
associated with exposure to harmful dusts       research proposal, followed by quantitative
and gases. Studies on mining cohorts have       analyses of large linked datasets including
advanced scientific knowledge on causal         the cohort’s occupational and health
relationships between these exposures           histories. Analyses will include generation
and chronic respiratory diseases (e.g.          of disease frequencies, general population
pneumoconiosis and lung cancer). This has       comparisons, time trends, estimation of
influenced regulatory changes over the past     risks and dose-response relationships, etc.
decades with improved respiratory health        Scientific manuscripts for peer-reviewed
outcomes. However, ongoing assessment is        publication will be prepared.
required to determine if these changes are      Project Specific Requirements:
sufficient in protecting miners’ health.        Good literature reviewing skills and
The WA miners’ cohort includes over             statistical knowledge, e.g. Biostatistics II
150,000 miners who worked and lived in WA
between 1996 and 2012. Their occupational       Project Length: 24 point MPH only
histories have been decoded to assign
quantitative exposure metrics for diesel
and silica, two of the most common mining

Projects in Health and Labour Economics

Building a robust Nursing                         1. To examine the unemployment
workforce                                         and underemployment rate of nursing
Dr Ian Li; Mr Rory Watts                          graduates, and the transition from
                                                  unemployment to employment in the
Background: The nursing workforce                 longer term
is an important component of the health           2. To examine employment contract and
workforce. However, research into the             permanency for nursing graduates
nursing workforce has been hampered by            3. To examine earnings of nursing
a lack of rich, representative data. At the       graduates in the short and long term, as
same time, prior literature indicates that        well as the distribution of earnings.
Australia is likely to face a lack of nurses to   4. To examine whether employment
meet demands for the future. More recently,       outcomes differ for nursing graduates
media reports suggest that newly qualified        with an undergraduate qualification, as
nurses are unable to secure appropriate           opposed to a Masters entry-to-practice
employment within Australia, and have             type qualification
had to pursue nursing careers overseas.
Shortages in the nursing workforce and the
                                                  Methodology: The analyses for this
inability to secure appropriate employment,       study will be primarily quantitative in
has come to be known as the ‘nursing              nature. The analyses will utilise a national
workforce paradox’.                               survey of Australia graduates available from
                                                  2010-2017, which also includes longitudinal
It is thus imperative that more research          follow-up of the survey respondents.
is conducted into the education-work
transition of nurses, from universities into      Project Specific Requirements:
the workplace.                                    Essential
                                                  • Excellent report writing skills and
Prior research looking at underemployment            proficiency in English.
of nursing graduates over 2008-2015 has           • Biostatistics I or equivalent.
tackled some of these issues, however, this
research has only focussed on short-term          Desirable
outcomes post-university completion. The          • Biostatistics II or equivalent .
proposed program of study will examine            • Competent in SPSS, Stata or equivalent.
longer term outcomes.
Outline: The aim of the study is to
examine labour market outcomes for
nursing graduates from Australian
universities. A time-series of data is
available, and hence trends in the following
research objectives can also be explored.
These outcomes include unemployment,
earnings, underemployment, and contract

24 The University of Western Australia
How do unhealthy behaviours                       The undergraduate public health
influence employment outcomes                     student: Where do they come
Dr Ian Li                                         from? Where will they go?
                                                  Dr Ian Li; Mr Rory Watts
Background: Unhealthy behaviours and
lifestyle factors are areas of focus for health   Background: Historically, the public
policy. Thus far, most studies looking at         health degree in Australia has been a
these factors have focussed on their              Master of Public Health (MPH). However,
impacts on diseases and health outcomes.          much of the public health education taught
It has also been hypothesised that                is now at an undergraduate level, either
unhealthy lifestyles could also have              through specific public health degrees, or
further reaching impacts on employment            through majors and units in other degrees
outcomes. Consideration of the costs              (e.g. health science).
of adverse employment consequences
would lend further policy weight in tackling      Similarly, most research about public health
unhealthy behaviours and lifestyles.              students is focussed on the MPH, leaving
                                                  an important research gap about the
Outline: The aim of this study will be            outcomes that undergraduate public health
to look at several unhealthy behaviours           students attain, and the value they add to
derived from the literature and examine
                                                  the workforce.
the causal impact of these behaviours with
several measure of employment outcomes            Outline: The research project aims
                                                  to answer the following questions about
Methodology: This study will use                  undergraduates of public health:
data from a nationally representative,
                                                  1. What are the employment rates in terms
longitudinal dataset called the Household
                                                  of underemployment, unemployment, part-
Income and Labour Dynamics Australia
                                                  time and full-time work, hours worked and
(HILDA) study. The HILDA study commenced
in 2001 and has an annual follow up, with         contract type
the 17th wave of data being made available        2. In which jobs and industries do public
recently. Longitudinal analytical regression      health graduates work and do they feel this
techniques will be used for this study.           is a good-fit?
                                                  3. If undergraduates go on to further study,
Project Specific Requirements:                    what do they study?
Essential                                         4. How have these changed over time?
• Excellent report writing skills and
   proficiency in English.                        Methodology: The analyses for this
• Biostatistics I or equivalent                   study will be primarily quantitative in
                                                  nature. The analyses will utilise a national
                                                  survey of Australia graduates available from
• Biostatistics II or equivalent .
                                                  2007-2018, which also includes longitudinal
• Competent in SPSS, Stata or equivalent.
                                                  follow-up of the survey respondents. Linear
                                                  and binary outcome regression techniques
                                                  will be used in the analysis of the data.

                                                  Project Specific Requirements:
                                                  • Excellent report writing skills and
                                                     proficiency in English.

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