Research Action Awards now open to high-impact public health research

The Sax Institute is again celebrating researchers whose work supports policy decisions that make a real-world difference to people’s health and wellbeing through the 2016 Research Action Awards.

The Institute established the annual awards last year to recognise research that has made a significant impact on health policy, programs or service delivery.

We are now calling for applications for this year’s awards, which are open to early career researchers with up to 15 years postdoctoral or equivalent experience, who work for one of the Sax Institute’s Ordinary Member organisations, and whose research has made an impact.

One of Australia’s foremost researchers in immunisation behaviour, Associate Professor Julie Leask, was one of four researchers who were presented with inaugural Research Action Awards in 2015.

Associate Professor Leask, who has researched the area of vaccine refusal and acceptance for nearly two decades, found that strategies to improve vaccination rates should target fence-sitting parents rather than those whose opposition to vaccines is entrenched.

Her work has led to an international collaboration to develop a Vaccine Communication Framework, which has been used by healthcare workers in vaccine communication in a number of countries. This is being further developed and evaluated by the Federal Government and National Centre for Research and Surveillance in a three-year project called SARAH – Strategies and Resources to Assist Hesitant parents with vaccination.

Shining a light on public health research

Associate Professor Leask said the Research Action Awards had helped shine a light on the impact of public health research ‒ a broad area of research that often falls through the gaps when it comes to awards, grants and public recognition.

“In public health research there are usually some very quiet achievers to whom we owe so much and who rarely receive public acknowledgement, “ she wrote in an article published on health website Croakey.  She told the Sax Institute: “My co-awardees and I wanted to shine a light on these quiet achievers who worked with us – we were mindful that we work in teams.”

She pointed out that the other 2015 award winners had each taken a different path to getting their research used in practice: Dr Anne Cust for her pivotal work that led to sunbeds being banned in several Australian states; Dr Santosh Khanal from the NSW Ministry of Health for his research on removing barriers to delivering a childhood obesity program; and Associate Professor Farah Magrabi from Macquarie University for her world-leading work on tracking IT-related patient harm.

“We are all driven by a desire to see research that could have been locked behind publisher paywalls or left to gather dust on library shelves shared with people who have the capacity to improve health programs and services. And it’s just as exciting to see it recognised publicly.”

This year’s applications will be assessed by an independent committee of experts in public health and knowledge exchange, chaired by Professor Nicholas Mays, Professor of Health Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Director of the Policy Innovation Research Unit, and co-editor of the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy.

Three successful applicants will receive $5000 each towards their professional development, presented at a ceremony on 30 November in Sydney.

Find out more