School of Population Health

Remarkable efforts from the School of Population Health as part of the global COVID response

Person working with mask

Over 70 people from the School of Population Health, including staff and at least 30 students, have contributed their time and skills to the COVID response in Sydney, across NSW, nationally and internationally. Some took on support staff roles, assisting with vaccine delivery and contact tracing, while others gave their time and expertise, providing vaccine communication training and delivering information in the classroom and in the newsroom.

Head of School, Professor Rebecca Ivers said:

“Despite the challenges of COVID, including rigorous lockdowns, our staff and students have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. They have remained motivated and engaged and have made impacts locally and globally. I am particularly proud of the high-level of involvement our School has had in the response to COVID.”

Responses have included data modelling for both State and Federal Governments in addition to regional modelling support for the World Health Organization Office of the Western Pacific. School experts have contributed to multiple COVID response committees and have regularly commented in the media.

Sarah Thackway, Executive Director at the Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence for the NSW Ministry of Health said:

“Our existing, long-term partnership with UNSW enabled the rapid mobilisation of people and knowledge and demonstrated the value and importance of strong and trusted connections. I was impressed with the speed that the agreement was reached and in only a matter of weeks UNSW staff were in the front lines of the COVID response. Professor Rebecca Ivers played a big role in supporting the deployment of key members from the School of Population Health into roles such as contact tracing, operations, and epidemiology. We were able to work closely to rapidly deploy UNSW research staff to provide answers to priority research questions by embedding researchers within the response; thus, ensuring the research was co-produced and the findings promptly translated to action.” 

The School’s efforts have generated significant knowledge around the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment to protect from infectious diseases, which has influenced policy and practice internationally. 

Communication about COVID-19 vaccination has been expanded to better engage with people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities. 

Associate Professor Anita Heywood, Director of Teaching, noted other positive impacts to teaching and learning:

“Our staff and student contributions to COVID-19 response efforts have both enriched our coursework programs and benefited student outcomes. Academics have included real-time case studies of COVID-19 response directly into their teaching and our students have had opportunities to attain real-world public health experience.”

From students and alumni to current researchers, lecturers and operational staff, the varied contributions made by experts from the School continues to enhance and advance societal impact. 

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School of Population Health, UNSW