I am on the return leg from one and a half weeks in Denmark and full of opportunities to share. The trip included a large delegation from the Deakin Faculty of Health to participate in the re-signing of a five-year collaborative agreement with Copenhagen University, and was arranged to coincide with the International Society of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity meeting in Uppsala.
It was fantastic to see so many Deakin researchers there, along with their counterparts from Copenhagen University, with expertise in mental health, public health, prevention, diabetes, physical activity, nutrition, digital health, and more. I enjoyed the keynote from Alfred Deakin Professor Michael Berk and Professor Hans Brauner, Pro-dean for Research, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, outlining their joint vision for repurposing currently available pharmaceutical therapies for treating mental health disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. Together they outlined a key purpose of our collaborations well: to fill gaps in each organisation’s expertise to deliver on a joint vision of better health outcomes for our patients and communities. We discussed focussed activities in mental health, prevention, and using digital health tools to reduce health inequalities. It was also a special treat to be hosted by the Australian ambassador to Denmark, Norway and Iceland, Her Excellency Kerin Ayyalaraju.
Prior to this visit I visited Aarhus University, meeting with our partners from across the Faculty of Health, hosted by the Dean of Health, Professor Anne-Mette Hvas, and spending a fruitful day with Professor Ole Baekgaard (Head of the Department of Public Health), Professor Helle Terkildsen Maindal (Professor in Health Promotion and an Honorary at Deakin University) and their teams. It was a pleasure to give a talk, as a newly anointed Skou Professor at Aarhus University, on our Institute’s approach to partnership research, and to see the enthusiastic response of the EMCRs who organised a workshop to explore how Aarhus could optimise its partnerships to drive evidence informed policy change. It was also great to hear how our funded projects and cotutelle PhD students are delivering excellent research on systems co-design and health literacy.
Towards the end of my time in Denmark I met with Professors Rikke Fredenslund Krølner and Morten Hulvej Rod (Director) from the Danish National Institute for Public Health, a section within Southern Denmark University that provides advice and research to the Danish government to inform their public health activities. It was great to give a talk there on our NHMRC funded Centre of Research Excellence in Food Retail Environments for Health (RE-FRESH), building on the visit to us from their PhD student Katrine Duus. We identified a shared vision for translational research with impact that I look forward to following up on.
After this visit I have a strong sense of why Denmark is a strategic partner for Deakin, and I think our youth and innovation are a great complement to their tradition and globally recognised research excellence. I look forward to building on our partnerships across all three universities, and welcome your ideas on where joint and cotutelle PhDs, fellowships and grants could build this partnership further.