Research themes

The research will be undertaken in collaboration with Australian policy makers and practitioners covering planning, urban design, transport planning and health. Policy-relevant research themes will emerge from their input, as will ideas about effectively disseminating research findings to meet their needs.

The Centre will include the five themes below:

Theme leads

Part of the mandate of this NHMRC-funded centre is to build research capacity in the complex fields of health and the built environment and the translation of evidence in these areas into policy and practice. As a result, the centre supports an exceptional team of postdoctoral research fellows who lead each of the five themes, under the guidance of the Chief Investigators and in collaboration with other senior and associate investigators on the grant. The centre is also building capacity in early career researchers by supporting a team of PhD students who oversee the work undertaken under each of the five themes.

Theme 1

Aim: To create and validate 'second generation' Geographic Information System (GIS) measures of the built environment associated with health and wellbeing outcomes that are aligned with state and national health and urban planning policies.

Lead: Dr Hannah Badland

Dr Hannah Badland is a Senior Research Fellow at The McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit, University of Melbourne. Dr Badland's research focuses on examining and evaluating associations between health behaviours and outcomes, the physical urban environment, and transport at the neighbourhood level, in both children and adults. She is also developing and testing theoretical frameworks to identify ecological associations with social determinants of health, wellbeing, and inequalities over time. Currently she is working with Professor Billie Giles-Corti to develop a Health, Place and Liveability Program at The McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit, which seeks to inform both methodology and policy to develop healthy communities.

PhD student: Maureen Murphy

Theme 2

Aim: To establish whether, and to what extent, the built environment is causally related to health and wellbeing outcomes.

Lead: Dr Jerome Rachele

Dr Jerome Rachele is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Institute for Health and Ageing, Australian Catholic University and the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Healthy, Liveable Communities. His research centres on investigating causal relationships between built environment and health and wellbeing outcomes using data from longitudinal studies and natural experiments.

PhD students: Fatima Ghani & Venurs (Hui Yee) Loh

Theme 3

Aim: To identify the quantity and mix of built environment interventions required to optimise health and wellbeing outcomes.

Lead: Dr Lucy Gunn

Dr Lucy Gunn is a Research Fellow at The McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit, University of Melbourne. Her research examines the role of the built environment on health and wellbeing outcomes using statistical models.  Her research examines whether there is a threshold or minimum amount of built environment factors that support health and wellbeing, and following from this work she is developing and conducting economic analyses of built environment interventions aimed at increasing levels of physical activity and reducing chronic disease outcomes.  She is also investigating the correlation of pollution with vulnerable communities using community indicator data in partnership with the Environment Protection Agency Victoria.  As part of the Community Indicators Victoria team she provides analytical support and consulting experience helping government and private organizations in their health and wellbeing planning.

Theme 4

Aim: To develop methods to determine the economic merit of built environment interventions, including their effect on health and wellbeing outcomes and health care expenditure, and to evaluate the merits of specific interventions in existing and new built environments.

Lead: Dr Lucy Gunn

PhD students: Belen Zapata & King Wa Tam

Theme 5

Aim: To work with the health sector, as well as sectors and agencies that shape built environments impacting on health (e.g., urban planners and designers, transport planners, engineers, the land development industry) to inform and influence decision-making, regulations, legislation policy and current urban design practice, and the integration and uptake of relevant evidence.

Lead: Dr Paula Hooper

PhD student: Haes Houweling