School of Population Health

Non-Communicable Disease Research People


Dr Blessing Akombi-Inyang
Associate Lecturer Global Health

Dr Blessing Akombi-Inyang is an emerging early career researcher in global health specializing in maternal, adolescent and child health, including childhood under-nutrition, the double burden of malnutrition and adolescent pregnancy. Her research focuses on providing evidence for community-based interventions to improve health outcomes among vulnerable populations particularly in developing countries. Blessing has a growing interest in migrant health within Australia particularly in the aspects of nutrition and lifestyle transition post-migration. Dr Akombi-Inyang is currently an Associate Lecturer in the School of Population Health. She co-convenes courses offered in the Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Global Health (MGH), Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence (MIDI) and Master of Health Management (MHM) programs.


Image Blessing Akombi-Inyang


Dr Jasim Anwar
Visiting Fellow

Jasim Anwar is a senior-level development consultant and a public health specialist, more than 15 years of experience with UN agencies and various Governments. His research interests include Maternal and Perinatal Mortality, Mortality Surveillance, Information System, Program and Project evaluation, Civil Registration and Vital Statistics, Socio-economic Assessment, Policy and Strategic Development and Medical Education.


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Associate Professor Xiaoqi Feng
Associate Professor in Urban Health and Environment; NHMRC Career Development Fellow

Xiaoqi Feng (‘Xiao’, pronounced ‘Shao’) leads a program of research focused on social and environmental factors that shape health, developmental trajectories and inequities across the lifecourse. Xiao applies multilevel and longitudinal models to analyse health, healthcare and mortality data linked with indicators of urban green space, air pollution, heat island effects and food environment using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Xiao has collaborated widely with leading researchers in North America, Western Europe and East Asia. She successfully translated research findings into policy and practice within the health and urban planning sectors in Australia.


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Dr Rose Leontini

Rose Leontini teaches Public Health Ethics and Professionalism in postgraduate and undergraduate courses in the Faculty of Medicine. She has an interdisciplinary background in health sociology and health ethics, with research interests in youth alcohol use, socio-ethical dimensions of genetic testing, the sociology of health and illness, and illness narratives. She has recently completed two studies funded by VicHealth and the ARC on alcohol use and harm minimisation among university students. She is convener of the Ethics Community of Practice at UNSW Medicine, member of the SESLHD Human Research Ethics Committee, and Member of the Health Professional Councils of NSW


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Professor Teng Liaw
Director, WHO Collaborating Centre on eHealth & Professor of General Practice

Teng Liaw is a clinician scientist and informatician. He leads a digital health program focused on mobile health and the quality and interoperability of real-world data stored in health information systems. The vision is harnessing artificial intelligence and digital tools ethically and effectively to achieve universal health coverage and sustainable development goals within a framework of digital health maturity of individual citizens and health professionals, organisations and system. His educational interest is building capacity in implementation and evaluation of digital health in low and middle-income countries directly and through the WHO.


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Dr Rona Macniven
Research Fellow, School of Population Health, UNSW

Dr Rona Macniven specialises in physical activity, sport, falls prevention, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and public health research. Her research examines physical health and social and emotional wellbeing and the impact of physical activity and sport across the lifespan, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Rona co-ordinates research on the Ironbark project, a multi-site, multi-institutional cluster randomised controlled trial to prevent falls among 600 Aboriginal adults age 45 years and. She also leads other epidemiological and community evaluation research studies in collaboration with multiple academic institutions and community groups, including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.


Image Rona Macniven


Dr Claire O’Connor
Research fellow, HammondCare & Conjoint Lecturer, School of Population Health, UNSW

Claire O'Connor is a research fellow at the Centre for Positive Ageing, HammondCare, a conjoint lecturer in the School of Population Health, UNSW, and is a registered occupational therapist (AHPRA). Her research focuses on people living with dementia, their families and supporters, with particular interest in non-pharmacological intervention to maximise engagement, functioning, independence, and to support behaviour management. Combining her clinical training in occupational therapy and research skills, Claire is passionate about contributing to research that is meaningful to people impacted by dementia and is particularly interested in the translation and implementation of research to generate positive change.


Image Claire C'Connor


Professor Alta (AE) Schutte
Theme Lead: Cardiac, Vascular and Metabolic Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Professorial Fellow, The George Institute for Global Health

Alta has extensive experience working in the field of hypertension and cardiovascular disease as part of global projects. Her work in the early detection and prevention of hypertension across the lifecourse, biomarker and -omics work, but also global awareness campaigns and public health strategies, have culminated in working with global organisations such as the World Health Organization, World Heart Federation and her leadership in the 2020 International Society of Hypertension Global Hypertension Practice Guidelines.


Image - Alta Schutte


Adjunct Professor Freddy Sitas
Director, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity

Freddy Sitas has a 25-year track record of developing significant epidemiological infrastructure studies designed to quantify the main drivers of cancer and other chronic diseases in Australia (e.g. 45 and Up Study, Cancer Lifestyle and Evaluation of Risk Study) and internationally (Johannesburg Cancer Study, South African Smoking Mortality Study). He has active projects, particularly on the role of smoking, BMI, infections including COVID-19 on premature hospitalisation and mortality. He is an Oettlè Memorial Medal recipient for his contribution to cancer research.


image - Frederick Sitas


Associate Professor Niamh Stephenson
Associate Professor in Social Science

Niamh researches the roles public health plays in social and political change in health domains and beyond. Her current ARC Discovery examines how public health work on social and health inequities is being shaped by new technological possibilities for accessing, linking and analysing population data. Former project’s include analyses of: transformations in the global response to HIV (book, Socialising the Biomedical Turn in HIV Prevention, co-authored with Susan Kippax, 2016); and of the intersections between 21st century shifts in the politics of health, labour and migration (book, Escape Routes: Control and Subversion in the 21st Century, 2008). She has published in the fields of sociology of health & medicine, social research, cultural studies and qualitative research methods.


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Professor Richard Taylor

Richard Taylor MBBS(USyd), DTMH(ULon), FRCP(UK), PhD(USyd), FAFPHM studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was Medical Epidemiologist for Pacific Islands at South Pacific Commission (Noumea, New Caledonia). He introduced Masters of International Public Health (MIPH) while at USyd, University of Queensland, and University of New South Wales (UNSW) Schools of Public Health, where he is Professor of International and Public Health. Research/service involves non-communicable diseases, perinatal/maternal mortality and external cause epidemiology in Asia Pacific states, and in Australia and New Zealand, including in Indigenous populations. Publications to mid-2020 are 486, including 277 in refereed scientific journals.


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Dr Luna Xu
Scientia Lecturer, Heart Foundation Post-doctoral Fellow

Luna Xu trained as a clinical nurse and an epidemiologist, her research focuses on exploring health behaviours and lifestyle components for primary and secondary prevention of non-communicable disease (NCD) in older people by using large datasets. Through her research, Luna aims to deliver robust evidence to promote peoples’ health behaviour, particularly on dietary behaviour. Her research aims to inform public health and clinical practice in NCD prevention, and also to provide strong evidence for health professionals to design effective health behaviour interventions to improve NCD prevention strategies, which will significantly reduce the burden of NCD in Australia and globally.


Image - Luna Xu