2021 Impact Report

Addressing today’s most complex and compelling health challenges through excellence in collaborative research that transforms the design and delivery of prevention and care.

2021 at a glance


Research income


New research funding


New research projects


Potential media reach


Active PhD students


PhD & Masters completions




A message from the director

Professor Anna Peeters Director, Institute for Health Transformation

In our 2020 Impact Report, I suggested that while ‘unprecedented’ was the official word of the year, ‘resilience’, ‘courage’ and ‘innovation’ should be high on the list.

In 2021, the Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) continued to face the challenges and uncertainties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with that same resilience, courage and innovation. Throughout the year, Institute members continued to work together from their homes, and sometimes from our offices, to facilitate the cross-disciplinary partnership research that the Institute was founded to create.

A message from Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research

Alfred Deakin Professor Julie Owens Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research

It is a pleasure to reflect on the research and impact achieved by the Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) in 2021.

Throughout the year, the Institute continued to demonstrate resilience despite the challenging circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic presented. Continuing their focus on making better health and wellbeing easier for everyone to achieve, the Institute exemplified excellence in collaborative research as they generated $16.6M in new research funding and more than 500 publications with great and positive impact on our understanding of health care, related government strategy and policy, community education and more.

Our work

Making better health easier to achieve

Health shouldn’t be hard. That’s why the Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) is committed to addressing the most complex and compelling health challenges facing health systems not only in Australia, but globally. We deliver real impact and solutions that will strengthen our health systems and help make better health and wellbeing easier for everyone to achieve, now and in the future.

GLOBE Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition

Innovative preventive health and nutrition research that empowers people and enables healthier environments.

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Centre for Quality and Patient Safety

Improving quality and safety of patient care through applied health services research conducted in a globally unique and world-renowned integrated health services partnership network.

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Deakin Health Economics

Focusing on the efficient allocation of health sector and non-health sector resources to achieve policy objectives and inform both health service design and implementation.

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Determinants of health Determinants of Health

Contributing to health improvements for Australian and global populations through addressing the social, environmental, commercial and political determinants of health.

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Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes

The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes is the first national research centre in Australia and internationally, dedicated to investigating the behavioural, psychological and social aspects of diabetes.

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Healing HealthCOVID-19 special episode

IHT’s Professor Catherine Bennett been the voice of reason and a sought-after expert by the media during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing facts over opinion, and education and reassurance for the general public, while becoming something of a celebrity in the process.

In 2021, IHT recorded a special episode of the Healing Health podcast to discuss Australia’s public health response to the pandemic so far.

Listen to “Talking all things COVID with Professor Catherine Bennett” on Spreaker.

Addressing 2021’s most complex health challenges

Health shouldn’t be hard. That’s why at the Institute for Health Transformation (IHT), we’re committed to addressing today’s most complex and compelling health challenges facing health systems not only in this country, but globally.

These challenges reflect the broad scope of experience and expertise within the Institute that strongly position us to drive change across all levels of the health system, delivering real impact and solutions that will make better health and wellbeing easier for everyone to achieve, now and in the future.

Adapting to the changing profile of Australians' health needs
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Capitalising on the rapid digitalisation of health
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Driving systemic improvements in the safety and quality of health delivery
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Improving sustainability of our health system
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Reducing persistent health inequality
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Supporting better integration of complex and fragmented service systems
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Advancing the case for prevention across the life course
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Our impact

Creating local impact with a global outlook

The Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) is made up of people genuinely committed to making health systems work better and having an impact through the work they do.

Working with equity at the heart of everything we do, our researchers create local impact that can be applied to populations and communities everywhere.

Community responses to childhood obesity

Creating systems and environments that set children and young people on a path to life-long wellbeing is a complex task for communities. Led by Professor Steven Allender from IHT’s Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition – formerly known as the Global Obesity Centre – RESPOND (Reflexive Evidence and Systems interventions to Prevent Obesity and Non-communicable Disease) uses community-based action to tackle childhood obesity.

Since 2015, the project team has worked with communities to help them identify their own community-specific actions to tackle childhood obesity by creating healthier food environments and getting local kids more active.

More than 400 changes have been implemented across the project sites to support and encourage healthy choices.

Janette Lowe, Executive Officer of the Southern Grampians Glenelg Primary Care Partnership said it was wonderful to be involved in a project that showed the power of local communities to solve the difficult problem of childhood obesity.

“This project reinforces that to achieve healthier outcomes, communities need to be in the driver’s seat, leading the change with government and experts in a supporting role,” Ms Lowe said.

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Women's experiences of maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic

To find out how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected all aspects of maternity care and experience, researchers from IHT’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety surveyed more than 4,300 people involved in receiving or providing maternity care during the pandemic.

The study results were incorporated into the Government of Western Australia’s COVID-19 Guidelines for Maternity Services and referenced by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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COVID-19 wellbeing and support initiatives for healthcare workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact of the psychological wellbeing of people working in healthcare services. Researchers from IHT’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety partnered with Western Health to investigate Western Health staff members’ experience and use of employee wellbeing initiatives implemented during the pandemic.

The study was among the first of its kind in Australia and has since expanded to 4 other health services in Victoria and a Danish health service.

‘This research has identified that the needs of health service staff are many and varied, and may evolve over time. Western Health will continue to work in partnership with staff to ensure the support initiatives are tailored to their needs,’ Sandy Schutte, Western Health Executive Director (Acting) People Culture and Communications.

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Increasing uptake of type 2 diabetes screening among women with prior gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes affects one in six births and increases risk of type 2 diabetes. Despite national guidelines recommending early and ongoing type 2 diabetes screening, only 50% of Australian women screen.

ME-MaGDA (Messaging to Engage Mothers After Gestational Diabetes in Australia) is an international collaboration led by the Institute for Health Transformation’s Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes.

By identifying and understanding determinants of type 2 diabetes screening, ME-MaGDA aimed to develop and implement evidence-based messaging to improve the screening uptake among women who had previously experienced gestational diabetes.

In partnership with Diabetes Australia, the ME-MaGDA project have translated research evidence to revise and create resources for the National Diabetes Services Scheme and National Gestational Diabetes Register. The resources will reach more than 220,000 Australian women with prior or current gestational diabetes.

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Study findings help Western Australians live lighter

Mass media campaigns have been recommended as one tool to help address overweight and obesity. Researchers from IHT’s Deakin Health Economics team set out to assess the cost-effectiveness of LiveLighter®, a public health mass media campaign delivered by Cancer Council Western Australia (WA) that promotes eating well and physical activity.

The study found that the LiveLighter campaign had encouraged people to reduce their consumption of sugary drinks and sweet foods, resulting in $3.17M lifetime healthcare cost savings. These savings offset the costs of delivering the campaign.

The Australian-first study attracted media attention and was commended by Terry Slevin, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia.

Following publication of the study’s results, the WA Government announced $16M for continued funding of the campaign over 5 years.

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Epidemiology, it's going viral!

In 2019, few Australians would have known what an epidemiologist does. In 2021, epidemiology is now far better understood and many Australian epidemiologists have become household names, including IHT’s Professor Catherine Bennett.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a need for articulate, informative and engaging science communication became apparent. Catherine swiftly filled this need, penning her first COVID-19-related article in The Guardian in February 2020. Catherine has contributed to more than 20,000 COVID-19-related media items in Australia since the beginning of the pandemic, and many more internationally, including the BBC, CNET, CNN, Bloomberg, Reuters and Al Jazeera.

Catherine has also been a strong contributor to governmental reviews that will shape the legacies of this pandemic, and has worked with organisations in more than 50 countries countries to examine excess deaths, impacts of lockdown on culturally and linguistically diverse communities, infection control in hospitals, and rehabilitation support for people living with Long COVID.

Reflecting on her work, Catherine says her focus is always evidence and clarity.

‘The level of respect from the media has enabled me to explain current developments and influence the way topics were covered and the tone and emphasis of that coverage to ensure balance was maintained,’ she says.

‘I have pulled epidemiology from behind the computer to front of stage. Epidemiology is not just helping people through the pandemic, it is going viral!’

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The impact and importance of our research is regularly featured in the media and our researchers approached for expert comment.

In 2021, IHT and its researchers received more than 25,000 mentions in the media. Thirty-nine per cent of these mentions were made on TV, 33% on the radio and 26% online. Through these media mentions, our research achieved a potential audience reach of more than 890,000,000.

Leading the way with much of the media engagement was Professor Catherine Bennett, who continued to be highly sought by media outlets for expert comment on COVID-19. Catherine was featured regularly in local, national and international media across TV, print and online.

With the emergence of the Omicron variant in November, increased interest created yet another peak time for Catherine. She wrote a number of pieces at this explaining why Omicron is a source of unease and why a new variant means getting used to ‘dial up, dial down’ controls and was one of three experts included in a Fortune.com story on the implications of Omicron. Late in November, she took part in 24 interviews in one day.


Collaborating for better health

The Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) works close with more than 100 partners across government, non-government, peak bodies and industry. Together, our research addresses diverse aspects of health and wellbeing, from prevention to treatment.

Our partnerships invite the exchange of knowledge, ideas and resources to ensure we generate real-world solutions for today’s most complex health challenges.

DELIVERing better health outcomes for older adults in rural Australia

IHT Director, Professor Anna Peeters will lead a $9M project to improve health outcomes for older Australians in regional, rural and remote areas with feasibility-tested interventions to improve the timeliness, accessibility to and integration of care.

The project, called DELIVER, is a partnership between Western Alliance Academic Health Science Centre (Western Alliance), healthcare consumers, regional and rural health services, universities and primary healthcare providers across western Victoria.

Better heart failure guidelines and care for regional Australians

Professor Andrea Driscoll, from IHT’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research, will lead a $1.27M project over 5 years to improve heart failure survival and recovery in regional Australia, where heart failure leads to higher mortality rates and poorer quality of life than in our cities.

Improved phone support service for cancer patients and carers

Deakin Health Economics’ Dr Nikki McCaffrey will lead a four-year project to define and optimise the economic and social return on investment of telephone cancer information and support services for all Australians.

Improving the mental health of Australians with diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Around half of all people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease experience mental ill-health, says Dr Christel Hendrieckx, clinical psychologist and deputy director of IHT’s Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD).

Leading the way in research with LGBTIQA+ people with disability

It is increasingly recognised that policy and practice relating to LGBTIQA+ people with disability needs to be informed by a better understanding of the barriers they face in fully participating in Australian society.

Connecting the dots for healthy, active futures

Researchers from IHT’s Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition, formerly known as the Global Obesity Centre, (GLOBE) are working with VicHealth to collectively support 13 Victorian municipalities through the VicHealth Local Government Partnership project. The project aims to bring a more systemic approach to encouraging and supporting young people to grow up active, connected and healthy by building the capacity of local health promotion practitioners to collaborate with young people in their communities, and understand and influence the environments, contexts and challenges unique to their communities.

Awards & appointments

Award-winning research

Dr Robin Digby received two awards from Alfred Health, the Research Award for Best Nursing abstract: “Hospital staff well-being during the first wave of COVID-19: Staff perspectives“; and the Kathleen AB Smith Memorial Award for Best Early Career Researcher Publication (Nursing): “Introducing voluntary assisted dying: Staff perspectives in an acute hospital“.

Dr Karen Wynter was awarded Best Contribution to Science at the Australasian Marce Tresillian Virtual Conference (New Paradigms in Parenting, Perinatal Mental Health & Wellbeing) for the presentation Experiences of receiving and providing maternity care during the pandemic.

Jasmine Schipp, PhD candidate at the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes, reached the FameLab 2021 Victoria State semi-finals in July 2021.

Alfred Deakin Professor Marj Moodie was part of a team that won the Public Health Research Team Award at the Council of Academic Public Health Institutions Australasia (CAPHIA) Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Public Health Education. Led by Professor Chris Lonsdale, Australian Catholic University, the team was awarded for the iPLAY project, a school-based intervention to improve children’s cardiorespiratory fitness.

Tan Nguyen was recognised for his dedication and commitment to students in the Victorian and Tasmanian student chapter of the Professional Society of Health Economics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) Student Network.

Monica Schoch from QPS received two awards at the Renal Society of Australasia (RSA) Conference, the RSA Education Excellence Award 2021 and RSA Award 2021 for an outstanding contribution to the renal community.

Deakin Health Economics researchers won the Best Presentation prize at the 42nd Australian Health Economics Society (AHES) Annual Conference for the second year in a row, with Dr Long Le and team members from DHE awarded the Best Presentation Paper for their report on findings from their project, Use of Checklists in Reviews of Health Economic Evaluations – challenging the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Jennifer Halliday and Dr Edith Holloway were joint recipients of the Diabetes Victoria Employee Recognition Award for their work on the successful Targeted Translation Research Accelerator (TTRA) funding submissions.

Alfred Deakin Professor Alison Hutchinson was inducted into the Sigma International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame in recognition of her significant and sustained contributions to the profession of nursing and the people it serves.

2021 IHT Awards for Research Excellence

Individual awards for research excellence

Individual Awards for Research Excellence aims to recognise researchers with an excellent track record in terms of quality and contribution to science.

Early career

Winner: Dr Jennifer Browne

“Receiving this award came as a genuine surprise to me, especially given the calibre of EMCRs within the Institute. I’m extremely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve received since I commenced my postdoctoral research within the Institute two years ago. This award might have my name on it, but without the support of my supervisors, mentors, colleagues, and collaborators my research simply wouldn’t be possible. I especially want to acknowledge the Aboriginal researchers I work with and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. I share this award with you.”

Highly commended: Dr Laura Alston & Dr Sharon Kramer


Winner: Associate Professor Melissa Bloomer

“I am very honoured to have received this award for research excellence. Sometimes a career in research feels like there are just as many rejections and disappointments as there are successes. So I’m incredibly grateful to be part of the Institute and Deakin University where a range of supports are offered to researchers wishing to generate and contribute to impact in their cognate area and beyond. Once again, thank you for this award.”

Highly commended: Dr Claudia Strugnell

Individual awards for research impact

Equal Winner: Joanne Watson

“I was thrilled to have my research focused on human rights for people with severe and profound intellectual disability acknowledged through the EMCR award. As course director of Deakin’s suite of Post Graduate courses in disability and inclusion, it is a challenge to find time to focus on my research. Before joining Deakin, I spent many decades practicing as a Speech Pathologist, supporting people with severe and profound intellectual disability who do not use speech to communicate. This experience has driven me to further develop the evidence base around human rights for people with severe and profound intellectual disability with a view to impacting legislation, policy and practice in this under- researched area. Receiving this award has encouraged me to continue my research in this area, striving to impact legislation, policy and practice internationally and nationally. I’m very grateful to the Institute for taking the time to review my application, granting me this award, and supporting the research of the disability and inclusion team at Deakin.”

Equal winner: Dr Hannah Pitt

“Receiving the Institute award for Research Impact was a great honour and I’d like to thank the ECMR committee and the Institute for dedicating funding and time to this award. I found the process of having to reflect on the impact of my work to be quite a rewarding experience as we can often forget how much we have achieved over the years. I really encourage ECRs to consider applying for these awards in the future, as they are a great opportunity to receive recognition and a bit of encouragement that our work is being seen and recognised for making a real difference either to policy or in practice.”

Highly commended: Dr Natalie Heynsbergh


Professor Anna Peeters was appointed as Chair of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research

Dr Stéphane Bouchoucha was appointed President-Elect of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control (ACIPC)

Associate Professor Pat Nicholson has achieved Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Dr Karen Wynter was appointed President-Elect of the Australasian Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health.

Stephanie Sprogis was accepted into the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM 12 month program that matches PhD students with leading industry professionals to develop industry skills, discuss career aspirations, and build valuable networks.

Research outcomes

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Financial report

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