School of Population Health

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Healthy Ageing

The population age structure in Australia and many countries internationally is changing due to rising life expectancy, resulting in increasing proportions of older adults. While population ageing brings challenges, productive ageing populations can bring important social and economic benefits. The ageing of populations worldwide has significant implications for individuals and society. Comprehensive public health responses are urgently needed to respond to this demographic transition.

The School's Healthy Ageing Theme aims to build a collaborative group of academic and conjoint staff and students within the School of Population Health, and across UNSW, including the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute, who are committed to identifying evidence-based solutions to challenges relating to ageing in 21st century.

Our theme researchers are currently engaged in projects that focus on models of ageing well, injury and primary prevention, Aboriginal ageing, infectious disease and immunisation, dementia, falls, frailty, end of life care and population health.

Coming from a diverse set of complementary disciplinary backgrounds, our theme members include clinicians, psychologists, gerontologists, epidemiologists and qualitative who work collaboratively with health services, government, industry and consumer groups in Australia and internationally.


Ebony Lewis
Associate Lecturer 

Ebony Lewis has come from a background of Emergency nursing with a passion for improving the end-of-life experience for older people with advanced chronic illness. She has extensive experience in geriatrics assessment and gerontology research. Ebony is currently contributing to projects on prognostic preferences in hospitals, identification of elders at risk in in residential aged care, and optimising Advance Care Planning in general practice.


image - Ebony Lewis


Associate Professor Bette Liu
Associate Professor Epidemiology

Bette Liu is a medically trained epidemiologist who specialises in large scale cohort and record linkage studies. She has worked in Australia in clinical medicine and as a Public Health Medical Officer. She completed her DPhil (PhD) at the University of Oxford. She has played significant roles in the development of large scale prospective studies both in Australia and overseas. The main focus of her work has been to identify potential public health prevention strategies for common diseases through the use of observational study designs with a particular focus on infectious diseases in adults and their longer term sequelae.


Bette Liu image


Dr Rona Macniven
Research Fellow

Dr Rona Macniven is an emerging early career researcher specialising in physical activity, sport, falls prevention and public health research. She commenced an appointment as Research Fellow – Healthy Ageing (0.5FTE) at UNSW in December 2018. 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 above in 60 communities in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. 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 Holly Seale
Senior Lecturer, Infectious Diseases, Public Health and Health Services, Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology

Dr Seale has conducted behavioural research regarding infectious diseases and infection control. Recently, her work has focused on healthcare professional’s perceptions and behaviours regarding infectious diseases, particularly VPDs and examining new strategies for infection control using pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical measures. Her published studies have concerned communicable disease surveillance, social research, clinical trial outcomes, risk communication, immunisation coverage in at-risk groups, and the evaluation of education tools using qualitative and quantitative methods.


image - Holly Seale


Dr Adrienne Withall
Senior Lecturer

Adrienne is the Leader of the CHAMPION Team within the School and a descendant of the Kurial-Yuin saltwater people. The main aim of CHAMPION is to promote care and cognitive health in at-risk populations. Her research spans diverse populations, including those with young onset dementia and their supporters, people with chronic drug and alcohol use, the homeless, the prison population, and those who have sustained a head injury or concussion. Identifying risk factors to enable early intervention and promote optimal care is at the forefront of this research.


Image Adrienne Withall


Dr Aryati Yashadhana
Research Fellow

Areas of research expertise include Indigenous health, social determinants of health, intersectional health equity (gender, race, class), and international development. I specialise in qualitative and participatory methodologies, data collection and analysis in Australian (Indigenous) and international (Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, South East Asia) contexts; with a particular interest in Indigenous and decolonizing theories.


Image Aryati Yashadhana


Ironbark trial: healthy ageing for older Aboriginal people

image - Ironbark Trial

The Ironbark trial is a cluster randomised control trial comparing the health outcomes of the Ironbark: Standing Strong & Tall program (a weekly exercise and yarning circle) to the Ironbark: Healthy Community program (a weekly social program) among groups of Aboriginal people aged 45 years and older.
The research includes funding local Aboriginal services to deliver one of the programs for 10 – 15 Aboriginal people for 12 months.  We aim to recruit 60 services and around 600 participants (both men and women) into the trial over the next 4 years.  We are working with collaborators in NSW, SA and WA.

There is a nested evaluation to determine acceptability of the Ironbark: Standing Strong and Tall program to participants, and an economic analysis.  We envisage the research will have direct policy and program benefits for Aboriginal specific falls prevention programs, and wellbeing programs for older Aboriginal people.

See Project Details


Reducing the impact of vaccine preventable diseases in older Australians

Image - Older Australian woman

Australia’s population is ageing, and with that comes an increasing burden on Australia’s health system.  Our researchers are working to combat this with strategies to improve health and prevent morbidity in older adults. Vaccine preventable diseases are responsible for substantial morbidity, mortality and health care costs in Australian adults.  However, adult vaccination is a comparatively under-researched area with many unanswered questions about who would benefit most from vaccination, and therefore what the most appropriate and cost-effective vaccination strategies are.

See Project Details


Supporting Aboriginal People to Age Well in Remote Settings: The Dharriwaa Elders Group

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This project involves researchers from UNSW School of Public Health and Dharriwaa Elders Group (DEG) working together via the Yuwaya Ngarra-Li partnership (YN) to understand what ageing well means to Aboriginal people in Walgett, a town in remote north-west NSW, and determine what supports, services and environments they require to facilitate wellbeing as they age. We aim to:

  • Describe what ageing well means to Aboriginal people in Walgett and their priorities for aged care, including for members of the Stolen Generations
  • Examine barriers and enablers of ageing well in Walgett, including: existing health and social services; informal social support; housing and the built environment; telehealth; and the DEG.
  • Determine the acceptability and feasibility of proposed research methods for a larger study involving the co-design of aged care services and infrastructure in Walgett. For example, if housing audits would be acceptable to assess the suitability of existing housing stock to support ageing in place in Walgett.


Community co-design to develop and test measures to examine the health and wellbeing impact of Deadly Running Australia

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This project brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers and community participants of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF) Deadly Running Australia (DRA) program to co-design, validate and conduct feasibility testing of measures that examine the impact DRA on overall health and wellbeing.

The study will examine the health and wellbeing impacts, as determined by the community, of the Deadly Running Australia program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Specifically, the project will conduct focus groups with DRA participants to identify/develop culturally appropriate measures, building on participatory action research methods to evaluate the 12-week pre-post impact of DRA (Part A). Subsequently, we will conduct formative validation and testing of the co-designed measures to determine the initial 12-week DRA health and wellbeing impacts (Part B). A further aim is to develop appropriate capacity building to enable community members to lead all aspects of local data collection, including interpretation of results.


Preparing the workforce for an ageing Australia: the development of multidisciplinary competencies for healthcare workers

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This study is funded by the Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research & Enterprise (SPHERE) and involves UNSW, UTS, UWS and the Ingham Institute. Our multi-disciplinary research team is aiming to develop a broad, multi-disciplinary competency framework for the care of older people in Australia. A scoping review will be undertaken to identify a range of competencies for the care of older people across various disciplines, which will be thematically analysed. Core multi-disciplinary competencies across healthcare worker disciplines will be developed. These will tested using a two stage DELPHI survey with a panel of disciplinary experts.


The Ageing and Health specialisation enables students to complete a specialised program of study as part of their degree. Specialisations are available in the Master of Public Health, Master of International Public Health, Extension programs and Dual Degrees.

This stream is relevant to students with an interest in ‘ageing and health’, particularly for those students aiming to work in policy, planning or aged care services. This stream maintains an international focus and is relevant to students from high, middle and low income countries.

Healthy Ageing teaching is also represented through the following Programs: