Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan

Children's Health & Wellbeing

TeEACH (opens in a new window)

The early years of a child’s life, commencing with pregnancy and continuing until the child is eight years old, comprise critical periods in which children are set on a trajectory that will impact their health, development and wellbeing across the lifespan.

TeEACH brings together researchers across the University who work in fields as diverse as paediatrics, physiotherapy, public health, education, nursing, business and social work. All TeEACH members are involved in research focused on supporting young children and their families.

Upholding the right to cultural connection for children in care.

  • Chief Investigators: A/Prof Rebekah Grace (WSU), A/Prof Amy Wright (University of Sydney), Prof Manjula Waniganayake (Macquarie University), Dr Pooja Sawrikar (Griffith University), Dr Stacy Blythe (WSU), Dr Fay Hadley (Macquarie University)
  • Partner Investigators: Ms Kathy Karatasas (Settlement Service’s International Limited)
  • Partner organisations: Settlement Services International Limited, Key Assets The Children’s Services Provider (Australia) Limited, Barnardos Australia, MacKillop Family Services Limited, Anglicare NSW South NSW West and ACT, Challenge Community Services, Wesley Mission, Children Australia Inc

A positive sense of cultural identity is critical to wellbeing, yet children in out-of-home care often lose their cultural identities and connections. There is little evidence to guide out-of-home care agencies to support a culturally meaningful foster care placement for non-Indigenous culturally and linguistically diverse children. This project tests promising practices identified by the partner organisations and research literature to produce an exemplary model of cultural care, with input from children, carers and birth families. Trial implementation in the partner organisations will inform guidelines and recommendations so that the model can inform policy and practice in out-of-home care across Australia.


Adolescent Health and Wellbeing

Young People’s Mental Health (opens in a new window)

In Australia, mental illness is the largest single cause of disability, with as many as one in 5 people aged 16 to 85 years experiencing a mental illness in any one year. While mental illness across the life-course requires attention, much of the mental illness experienced in adult life has its onset in childhood or adolescence.


End of Life Care

Understanding the End of Life Needs of CALD and Aboriginal Communities in Western Sydney Local Health District

  • Investigators: Professor Debbie Horsfall, Professor Rosemary Leonard, Dr Joy Paton
  • Funding: $300 000 over 2 years. Funded by Western Sydney LHD

The research is a joint project between Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) and Western Sydney University’s (WSU) Caring at End of Life Research Team. It is a project in two stages. In stage one we will be using multiple methods, including the Death Literacy Index (previously developed by this research team), focus groups, in-depth interviews and photo-voice to develop our understandings of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Aboriginal people’s experiences of death, dying and caring and their needs, if any, for support and services. Elders of the relevant communities will work with us as co-developers of the research design. Informed by the findings of stage one stage two is the co-design of culturally appropriate, and safe, models of palliative care and support for Aboriginal and CALD communities. We are cognisant of the fact that Indigenous and CALD groups have been endlessly studied, with much of the research to date, either deliberately or inadvertently, adopting colonial assumptions, thus reinforcing power imbalances between the researchers and the researched (West et al., 2012). Some communities have described this approach as ‘structural violence’ (Atkinson, 2002). To help address this, the methodology is strongly informed by principles to assist in developing ethical practices for culturally safe research within Aboriginal and CALD communities. Participants in the research will have the opportunity to be part of the co-design work including the writing of the research report and the generation of recommendations. A book of photographs and narratives co-generated through the in-depth interviews will also be published alongside the more traditional research report. Individuals from each community will also have the opportunity to be co-researches as desired.

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Primary Health Care

Quality, Equity and Systems Transformation in Primary Health Care Project (QUEST PHC)

  • Investigators: Jenny Reath, Phyllis Lau, Andrew Page, Penelope Abbott, Steven Trankle, Kathy Tannous, Kath Peters, Natalie Cochrane, Tim Usherwood (Sydney University)
  • Funding: $506,895.92 Digital Health CRC

High quality Primary Health Care (PHC) is key to containing spiralling health costs and providing equitable community-based care in Australia. Currently Australia does not have an agreement on what constitutes high quality PHC to guide our funding models. In partnership with WentWest (Western Sydney Primary Health Network), QUEST PHC will work with Primary Health Networks, consumers and key stakeholders from Aboriginal Community Controlled Health and Prison Health sectors to develop Australia’s first evidence-based and professionally endorsed tool for measuring high quality PHC.

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Completed Research

Evidence for suicide prevention in planning transitions from employment to retirement in older age populations

  • Investigators: Andrew Page, Allison Milner, Matthew Spittal, Jane Pirkis
  • Funding: NHMRC

This investigates the impact of changes in employment status in older aged Australians on subsequent risk of suicidal behaviour, and the extent to which this risk is modified by referral pathways within mental health services and the role of other social supports. This project uses large-scale and detailed population health data sources on employment and mental health to derive policy relevant evidence to inform (i) intervention and modelling tools to inform quality improvement in mental health, social and employment services in older-age cohorts, (ii) mental health referral pathways and processes and consumer choice, and (iii) broader social policy recommendations in the aged care sector in the period of transition from employment to retirement in older age Australians.

Screen-time, wellbeing and sleep: drivers of health behaviours associated with obesity in adolescents?

  • Investigators: Prof Andrew Page (WSU THRI), Dr Louise Freebairn (ACT Health/Sax Institute), Prof Louise Baur (USyd), A/Prof Jo-An Atkinson (Sax Institute), Prof Nathaniel Osgood (University of Saskatchewan), Dr Elizabeth Conroy (WSU THRI)
  • HDR students: Hir Jani

The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity has risen substantially over the past three decades, and has emerged as a global health priority. While broader socio-cultural factors associated with obesogenic environments are important distal determinants, understanding the more proximate factors that may modify or facilitate health behaviours (such as mental wellbeing, sleep patterns and scree-time) will provide insights to inform interventions for behavioural change and health promotion among adolescent populations. This is important as health behaviours during adolescence are likely associated with subsequent behaviours and health outcomes as adolescents’ transition to adulthood. This pilot study will employ a prospective cohort study design and involve a convenience sample of 300 young people from the general population aged 12-19 years recruited from Western Sydney and Canberra populations. A combination of phone sensor data and ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) of health and wellbeing will be collected over a three month period via the mobile app ETHICA. This pilot study will result in the development of a detailed analytic approach and computational algorithms that combines multiple measures collected geospatially in real-time to develop trajectories of dietary and physical activity and wellbeing measures to inform a wider cohort study of adolescents.Research outputs:Munasinghe et al (under review), The impact of physical distancing policies during the COVID-19 pandemic on health and wellbeing among Australian Adolescents, Journal of Adolescent Health.Contact: