UQ is a global leader in improving the health of populations in a changing and inequitable world, with research outcomes in Nursing and Public Health and Health Services recently ranked by the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise as well above or above world standard. Our research focuses on enhancing quality of life and preventing morbidity and premature mortality in local, national and global settings. It is closely linked to Health Services research to optimise the ways in which health workers are supported to promote, maintain and restore health and well being.

UQ hosts world-leading researchers from a wide variety of health backgrounds with broad multidisciplinary experience. Several have held senior posts in the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank or other UN agencies, the Australian Government and the private sector. Current researchers include National Health and Medicine Research Council (NHMRC), Australian Research Council (ARC), Fulbright, and Churchill Fellows and Scholars. We collaborate with colleagues internationally and nationally in health and other disciplines across the academic, clinical and wider industrial sectors.

As well as our proud track record in research funding received, several philanthropists and strong industry partnerships have supported key areas of work, especially translational research.

Key values include a strong sense of social justice and a shared commitment to making a difference in health, particularly for those who fall in the lowest quintiles and communities with the worst health outcomes. UQ research also touches people indirectly everyday through informing education and by providing quality education for the aged care health workforce. 

Research occurs at:

  • Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
  • Faculty of Health
  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Institute for Social Science Research
  • Queensland Brain Institute

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of:

  • Public health
  • Nursing
  • Translational research

Public Health and Health Services in brief

  • More than 125 full-time equivalent researchers
  • More than 220 PhD and MPhil students in 2014
  • More than 2370 publications since 2008
  • More than $145 million in research funding since 2008
  • Nursing research rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise. Public Health and Health Services research rated above world standard.

Highlights of UQ Public Health and Health Services

Population health

Hard data for informed decision making are the foundation of Public Health. UQ’s School of Population Health has a global reputation for generating the numbers and evidence needed – in particular the definitive 2010 Global Burden of Disease survey – to provide information on the many different causes of ill health in different regions and countries of the world. The survey highlights particular health needs and enables scarce resources to be targeted to the most important and common causes of disability and premature death.

UQ also has a long tradition of excellence in long-term (30 year) studies of women and their children, with both Australian and global cohorts.

Health services

  • Nurses and midwives are the largest group of health professionals and are the backbone of any country’s health system, and yet there is a global health workforce crisis. UQ has set out to understand the complex issues around developing a sustainable quality nursing and midwifery workforce for the future. Our researchers have established world first e-cohort studies (www.e-cohort.net) to investigate shortages in the global health workforce of nurses and midwives, demonstrating our ability to attract funding and collaborations nationally and across the globe including New Zealand, Canada, the UK, USA and Ireland.
  • UQ also has several research programs dedicated to improving health services based on evidence. Researchers conduct detailed economic evaluations of the cost-effectiveness of health interventions and the adequacy of health services in terms of access and effectiveness. Researchers can then present an investment case to planners and policy makers to incorporate evidence-based interventions in national plans and policies; for example, in Indonesia, in maternal, newborn and child health.
  • UQ has substantial capacity in using large databases on hospitalisation, primary care and medication use at a population level to identify inequities and inefficiencies in health services and to evaluate the effects of changes.

Targeted interventions to improve health in specific groups 

  • Researchers at UQ are targeting areas for intervention, such as nutrition and obesity, and chronic as well as infectious diseases. We have particular strengths in areas that are often seen as a low priority, such as mental health or alcohol and substance use. Large-scale population-based research over many years describes the natural history, life-course predictors and treatment outcomes associated with alcohol and a wide range of illicit drugs and substances.
  • In mental health studies, one area of research involves large-scale surveys and administrative data to investigate trends and inequalities in populations. A second area seeks to inform and influence how governments and the private sector design and implement programs in mental health. Research includes policy analysis and developing measures of service performance and the impact of mental health on productivity. 

Disease prevention and management

  • UQ has large research groups undertaking national and international public health studies in cancer, diabetes, obesity and environmental health, leading to significant contributions to the improvement of the quality of the Australian health care system.
  • With a long tradition in tropical and infectious diseases, major efforts to eliminate Malaria in Asia and the Pacific are coordinated at UQ with AusAID support. Innovative ways to reduce the burden of disease are being designed and evaluated. One recent example that received global attention was the use of cartoons in primary schools in China to reduce worm infestations. Infectious disease mappers and disease modellers help to answer key questions regarding optimal disease control programs. With several veterinarians involved, UQ has a particular strength in zoonotic diseases like Nipah and leptospirosis, which cross over into humans from animal reservoirs.

Quality of life

Through innovative research, UQ is enhancing the quality of people’s lives. Our achievements include:

  • The development of a set of research-based strategies for caregivers of dementia patients to encourage the reminiscence of pleasurable experiences. The team involved clinicians, researchers and educators in neuropsychology, psychogeriatrics, nursing, speech pathology, and communication, and sought input from experienced professional and informal caregivers.
  • The promotion of the well-being of mothers who have had gestational diabetes to avoid developing diabetes in later life.
  • Changes in clinical practice such as providing evidence about safely placing preterm infants into open cots and their mother’s arms sooner than ever before, minimising ventilator lung trauma, and managing children with respiratory issues in ward rather than intensive care environments.