45 and Up Study leader named one of  Australia’s 100 most influential women
Professor Sally Redman, Health Minister Jillian Skinner, Professor Emily Banks
Professor Banks (R) with Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman (L) and NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner at the recent 45 and Up Study meeting.

Having followed in the footsteps of her suffragette great-grandmother in working to improve women’s health and wellbeing, Professor Emily Banks has been honoured as one of Australia’s 100 most influential women for two decades of work using research to inform health policy and practice.

Professor Banks, the Scientific Director of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, was recognised by the The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards  2016  in the Innovation Category. This is in recognition of a career in which she has harnessed the power of big data in health, and used research results to inform community, policy, clinical and public health practice across a wide range of areas.

“I’m really honoured to have received this award and to be recognised alongside so many other extraordinary women,” she said. “It means an enormous amount to me, and those I have worked with, to have my work recognised not only for its scientific excellence but also for its ability to bring about meaningful improvements in health.”

Professor Banks is an internationally recognised epidemiologist and public health physician who also leads Epidemiology for Policy and Practice at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University. She  joins outstanding women from a wide variety of sectors across Australia, including in categories of Board/Management, Public Policy, Diversity, Business Enterprise, Young Leader, Global, Local/Regional, Innovation, Arts, Culture and Sport, and Social Enterprise/Not-for-profit recognised in the awards.

Other award winners included Australian Human Rights Commission chair Gillian Triggs, VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and three-time Paralympic swimmer Ellie Cole, as announced in the Australian Financial ReviewSydney Morning Herald and Age publications.

Going beyond discovery

Professor Banks has been working in public health and epidemiology for more than two decades and has become passionate about the need for scientists to go beyond discovery to provide the evidence that community, policy makers and practitioners need to improve health.

Her work using the 45 and Up Study to investigate smoking and premature deaths in Australia, which showed that up to two-thirds of current smokers could be expected to die from their habit if they don’t quit, was used for high level government tobacco control policy as well as for front-line services like Quitline.

She also worked with the World Health Organization to provide reliable evidence on the adverse effects of female genital mutilation on childbirth, providing fundamental evidence for global policy as well as being critical for continuing grassroots advocacy and work to eliminate the practice.

Continuing to improve women’s health

Professor Banks said she was filled with gratitude for the women, like her great-grandmother – who was arrested for smashing windows as a suffragette – who had long-fought for women’s rights and felt she had a responsibility to continue to work to improve women’s health and wellbeing.

“The exceptional women who are listed demonstrate the powerful force that women are in bringing about positive change,” she said.

Announcing the award winners, Ainslie van Onselen, Westpac’s Director of Women’s Markets, Diversity and Inclusion said the women were having a real impact: “Influence is the power to make change, and women across Australia are using this power to transform the country and to make an impact abroad – and we saw this in the calibre of this year’s nominees. It is an honour to be able to recognise and award the incredible work these women have made ongoing to our society.”

Find out more