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Sax Institute

Monthly e-newsletter. August 2018


Research Action Awards 2018

Calling all early career researchers: there’s just over a week left for you to lodge your applications for the Sax Institute’s prestigious Research Action Awards 2018.

The Awards honour individuals whose work has made a significant impact on health policy, programs or service delivery. Up to three Awards will be granted, and each winner will receive a certificate and prize of $5,000 at a ceremony in Sydney attended by NSW Health Secretary Elizabeth Koff and National Health and Medical Research Council Chief Executive Officer Professor Anne Kelso AO.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Monday 10 September 2018. Applications are open to early career researchers who work for one of the Sax Institute’s Ordinary Member organisations, and who have up to 15 years’ postdoctoral or equivalent experience.

Applications must describe research that has had an impact on health policy, programs or service delivery, and must demonstrate evidence of the impact.

If your organisation is not an Ordinary Member of the Sax, it can apply to join by completing and submitting a one-page form. There is no membership fee.

Don’t miss this chance – find out more information on the Sax Institute website and lodge your application today!

news & opinions

Opportunities for rural health research

Rural and regional Australia abounds with opportunities for conducting ground-breaking health research with real potential to improve healthcare services and outcomes, Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman told a recent gathering of health research experts.

Delivering a keynote address at the fifth Western NSW Health Research Network conference in Orange, in the NSW Central West region, Professor Redman said the strong local knowledge and networks helped by regional health organisations, and the population distributions in regional areas, provided special opportunities in translational research.

The Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study is following approximately 260,000 participants in NSW, making it the largest long-term study of ageing in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world. Professor Redman said more than 16,200 people in the Western NSW Local Health District were already enrolled in the study, offering a short-cut to conducting research that could bring meaningful improvements to the lives of rural residents.

“Regional Australia has particular opportunities in this health research space,” Professor Redman said.
The conference took the theme ‘Celebrating Research Partnerships in the Bush’ and featured the launch of the Western NSW Local Health District’s Research Strategy, which outlines the LHD’s vision “to be an organisation that drives innovation and excellence in healthcare through a vibrant and proactive health research culture.”

Other keynote speakers at the two-day conference, held on 16–17 August at the University of Sydney School of Rural Health campus in Orange, included Tony Penna, Executive Director of the Office for Health and Medical Research at the NSW Ministry of Health; Scott McLachlan, Chief Executive of the Western NSW Local Health District; Professor Garry Jennings, Executive Director of Sydney Health Partners, and Sabina Knight, Director of the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health.

Catherine Hawke, chair of the Western NSW Health Research Network, which organised the conference and is the peak body for health research in Western NSW, said while National Health and Medical Research Council funding for rural health research had increased over the past decade, at 2.4% of the total by value it was still “very low” given the health issues faced by the 30% of the Australian population living in rural areas.

Australian Prevention Partnership centre

New $15 million in funding kick-starts Prevention Centre’s second five-year cycle

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre has received $7.7 million in renewed funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, taking its total funding for the next five years to more than $15 million.

The money will be used to expand the Prevention Centre’s national focus and will continue its ability to find the best ways to scale up policies and programs, particularly with high-risk and vulnerable populations. The new NHMRC funding was announced by the then Minister for Regional Communications, Rural Health and Sport Bridget McKenzie at an event in Sydney in early July.

Administered by the Sax Institute, the Prevention Centre is a national collaboration founded in 2013 to identify new ways of understanding what does and doesn’t work in chronic disease prevention in Australia.

Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman said the Prevention Centre’s work was more likely to have impact because of its emphasis on research co-produced by researchers, policy makers, and practitioners. She said this “improves the likelihood its findings will be relevant, useful and adopted by policy and practice”.

The Prevention Centre’s Director, Professor Andrew Wilson, said the new funding would enable the Prevention Centre to translate its findings into sustained action to address chronic diseases, which are the leading cause of death and disability in Australia.

“Chronic disease is Australia’s number one cause of preventable death, disability and healthcare costs,” Professor Wilson said.

“Australia has done well in some aspects of chronic disease prevention, most notably in tobacco control and management of cardiac disease risk factors like high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. But we have a long way to go in terms of obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, preventable or screenable cancers, and mental health.

“The mission of the Prevention Centre is to better inform the decisions about what we do and how we do it – putting the research into action.”


Sax Institute Knowledge Mobilisation Conference 2018

Presentations and keynote addresses are now available online from the Sax Institute’s well-received inaugural Knowledge Mobilisation Conference 2018, held last month in Sydney, with some further material from the event to become available soon.
About 200 participants and presenters from across Australia and internationally – including policy makers, researchers and practitioners from health and social sectors – attended the two-day Knowledge Mobilisation 2018 conference, which featured sessions and workshops covering topics including building capacity for agencies to use evidence, methods for co-production, evaluation of policy and measuring research use and impact.

A post-event evaluation survey of participants was highly positive, with attendees commending what they described variously as “an amazing, world-class set of speakers and presenters”, the “excellent” concurrent sessions, and praising “the creative networking opportunities - met lots of new people rather than sticking to ones I knew”.

Video recordings and presentations from the keynote sessions are already available on the Sax Institute website’s relevant conference page. Separate video interviews with the keynote speakers, recorded during conference breaks and not previously released, will be made available shortly.

Australia is a  world leader in the field of knowledge mobilisation. The conference showcased research being led by the Sax Institute as well as bringing together people from a range of sectors who are working to have the best evidence used to shape policies and programs.

Opening the conference, Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman said the field of knowledge mobilisation was now moving “beyond the rhetoric” to “an explosion of activity”.

Other keynote speakers were Professor Nicholas Mays, Professor of Health Policy, Policy Innovation Research Unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Professor Andy Bindman, Professor, Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco; Dr Abdul Ghaffar, Executive Director, Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research at the World Health Organization; and Dr Ian Scott, Director of Internal Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane.


Training program

The Sax Institute Training Program, launched earlier this year, is gaining momentum. To date, we’ve held a range of workshops and seminars for policymakers, practitioners and researchers and we’ve received positive feedback from participants. This week, we held our “Building successful partnerships for policy-relevant research” course for early career researchers. This skills-based course draws on the expertise of senior policy makers and researchers to help early career researchers build the skills required to initiate and sustain research partnerships with policy.

For the remainder of the year, there are a few more dates to note in the calendar. Our popular introductory seminar “Working with MBS and PBS data” on 14 September, will be of interest to researchers, policymakers and health service/program planning teams. The seminar provides insights into the multiple ways datasets can be used for those planning to use the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study or similar for linked data research and those interested in driving policy and practice change. On 30 October, we’ll be running a workshop for policy and program professionals on how to critically appraise research evidence to judge its quality and relevance to ‘real world’ policy and program design.

To register or keep informed of what’s coming up, visit our website at: https://www.saxinstitute.org.au/category/events/training/


Prevention Works podcast

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre has released a series of podcasts with top researchers, exploring how their work sheds light on prevention efforts and the latest thinking about what works best in avoiding health problems before they occur.

Called ‘Prevention Works’, the series is hosted by former ABC journalist Gretchen Miller and brings together researchers and policymakers to identify new ways of addressing lifestyle-related chronic disease. Five podcasts are already available on the Prevention Centre’s website, with more due to be published before the end of this year.

Topics of podcasts already available include the areas in which legal changes offer the most potential to bring beneficial change, the public health implications and potential of good urban planning, how to encourage Australians to increase their physical activity levels, and improving food security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Podcasts are available both as audio files and as transcripts.



We are currently recruiting for two positions across the Institute. The Australian Partnership Prevention Centre, administered by the Sax Institute, is looking for a Knowledge Mobilisation Fellow. This role involves finding creative ways to pull together findings from different research projects to show how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts in this research collaboration. The ideal candidate will be able to demonstrate how the Prevention Centre is contributing to building knowledge for global chronic disease prevention systems.

Elsewhere in the Sax Institute, the Knowledge Exchange Division is also looking for an Evaluation Fellow for its Evaluate program, which works to ensure that health and social policy agencies have new policies properly evaluated. Key responsibilities for this role include developing evaluation frameworks for government and non-government agencies, data analysis, report writing and funding applications.