04 Aug, 2021 04 Aug, 2021

Major new research investment to improve health of those facing greatest barriers

Health promotion foundation VicHealth will invest almost $1million in 6 ground-breaking research initiatives to support Victorians to build back better and fairer in the new COVID-normal. 

Over the next 3 years, VicHealth is providing $986,392 for 4 Victorian research projects and 2 Research Fellowships. 

Researchers will explore a range of issues, such as making community gyms more accessible to young people with a disability and reducing barriers to technology use for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. 

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said this research will provide crucial evidence and insights to help support Victorians, particularly those facing greater barriers to good health. 

“As we create our new normal, we see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better and fairer. To do this, we need bold, timely and innovative research,” Dr Demaio said. 

“We’re excited to announce our latest research projects and fellowships – all 6 will help to better inform and shape solutions to support the health and wellbeing of Victorians who need it most.” 

Among the Research Project recipients is Anita Harris, Research Professor at Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship & Globalisation. Her research will explore opportunities and challenges to enhancing digital participation among young Victorians from refugee and migrant backgrounds. 

“Young people of refugee and migrant backgrounds have enormous potential to harness technology for employment, education, social connection and wellbeing. But the pandemic, which has left us to rely heavily on technology, has exposed the barriers they face in accessing and using technology,” Prof Harris said.  

“In partnership with talented young researchers from refugee and migrant communities, we can identify the challenges these young Victorians face and build their strengths to support them to better engage in online opportunities.”   

The following 4 projects have been announced as part of VicHealth’s latest Impact Research Grants program: 

Researcher  Project Title  Project Objective  Funding
Professor Anita Harris 
Deakin University 
Enhancing Digital Participation amongst Refugee & Migrant Background Youth  To explore the opportunities and challenges experienced by young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in harnessing technology for their employment, education, social connection and wellbeing. The findings will then be used to develop resources that support young people to better access and use technology.   2 years 
Professor Jane Fisher 
Monash University 
Co-designed adapted postnatal mental health promotion program for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families  To reduce postpartum mental health challenges and improve infant health and social and emotional development among people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.   2 years 
Professor Nora Shields 
LaTrobe University 
Increasing physical activity among young adults with disability   To address environmental barriers to physical activity participation for young people with disability in community gyms.   2 years
Associate Professor Gary Sacks 
Deakin University 
Healthy and sustainable cities: tool for assessing local government food policy  Victorian local governments are required to implement policies to increase healthy eating and tackle climate change as part of their municipal public health plans. This project will develop and implement world-first tools to benchmark the progress of 6 local governments in introducing policies in these areas.   1 year  

VicHealth’s research fellowships program has been brought back after 10 years to support important collaboration between VicHealth and our university partners to improve the health and wellbeing of Victorians.

VicHealth’s new research fellowships are: 

Researcher Project Title Project Objective  Funding
Dr Hannah Pitt 
Deakin University 
Developing a public health advocacy framework for engaging young people in local government policy development  To understand how local governments can effectively engage young people in public health advocacy strategies aimed at responding to the health threats posed by harmful industries, including tobacco, alcohol, gambling and unhealthy food.  3 years 
Dr Christina Zorbas  
Deakin University 
Reducing inequities in healthy diets in Victoria.  Identify food policy options that better reflect the voices and values of those experiencing health inequities (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrant and refuge communities, people living in regional/rural areas, and people receiving low/no incomes). 
3 years 

For more information about the research projects and fellowships visit: 

VicHealth is launching a new round of Fellowships soon. Register here for updates.