Centre for Global Health and Equity

At the Centre for Global Health and Equity, our projects and tools aim to assess and improve health equity and literacy. We strive to ensure our cutting-edge research has practical and measurable effects. We tailor our interventions to meet the needs of specific communities, and collaborate with research, government and community groups throughout the world to ensure our research has an impact both locally and globally.

We use grounded, place-based research methodologies, alongside traditional public health techniques such as epidemiology and community forums, to generate impacts at the individual person level through the development of programs that are implementable, effective and scalable.

Our research

Actions to address health literacy, equity in social housing, Victoria

The Centre for Global Health and Equity partnered with Lead Providers of the High-Risk Accommodation Response (HRAR) program of Victoria’s Department of Family, Fairness and Housing, with the aim to gain a deep understanding of the experiences of people living in HRAR accommodation settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more >

HRAR Lead Provider logos

Together we can help beat COVID-19

Beat COVID-19 Now is a global, cross discipline research initiative that combines population health, digital technology and data sciences to identify trends such as emerging hotspots of Coronavirus (COVID-19) activity. It's integrated digital platform brings together pandemic reduction efforts and community citizenry. Read more >

Building new tools to advance public health with Ophelia

We have developed, tested and implemented many new tools that are used nationally and globally. These tools focus on understanding and assessing health literacy as a way to understand and take action on health inequality. They are designed to empower researchers, health services providers, governments and communities.

The tools include the Ophelia (OPtimising HEalth LIteracy and Access) process, which supports co-design of small- and large-scale public health interventions and health service reforms. The Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ) is a needs assessment tool used within Ophelia. Ophelia and HLQ are widely used throughout the world, including within World Health Organization National Health Literacy Demonstration Projects. Areas where we have used the Ophelia approach include:

  • cancer screening
  • health services
  • digital health
  • migrant health
  • fostering children’s health literacy
  • hip and knee replacement reform.

We have also built, tested and implemented other tools to support the improvement of health literacy and equity, including the eHealth Literacy Questionnaire, Health Education Impact Questionnaire, Information and Support for Health Actions Questionnaire, and the Organisational Health Literacy Responsiveness Tool.

Improving community health literacy and health security in the Mekong

We are collaborating with government and academic agencies in Cambodia and Lao PDR to co-design new measures of community health literacy that are suitable for local communities and remote language minority groups. We collaborated with Australian and Cambodian researchers to discover more about emerging health problems in Cambodia.

We have conducted local interviews, workshops and surveys with the Cambodian Ministry of Health, National Centre of Health Promotion, Centres for Disease Control, and the Department of Animal Health and Production, and are undertaking field work with the University of Health Sciences, Laos PDR. Some of our PhD researchers are expanding the project to Malaysia and other countries. This work is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Improving children's health literacy in Australian schools

In our HealthLit4Kids project, we are empowering the next generation by teaching school children good health habits.

The project was co-designed by centre researchers and the teachers, children, families and communities of selected Tasmanian schools. The program involves structured lessons and activities around health. The children develop health messages in ways that make sense to them and share these with their parents and friends.

Implementing digital health records

My Health Record is Australia’s new online individual’s health record, which is stored by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA).

Working with the ADHA and the Western Victoria Primary Health Network, we are using the e-Health Literacy Questionnaire to explore patterns of implementation at the individual (consumer and practitioner) level as well as the system level. 

PhD research projects

  • Communities of practice: an untapped mechanism to accelerate collaboration and knowledge exchange
  • Community health literacy in Sarawak, Malaysia: new approaches to endemic diseases
  • Community health literacy in Cambodia: OneHealth and language minority groups
  • The epidemiology of health literacy in Australia
  • Global reach and impact of health literacy interventions across WHO National Health Literacy Demonstration Projects: a realist review

Case studies

Ophelia for keeping ahead of women's needs

Our Ophelia (OPtimising HEalth LIteracy and Access) process allows us to identify and respond to health literacy needs.

Ophelia was used by BreastScreen Victoria (BSV) to improve the uptake of their free preventative breast cancer screening service, which targets women over 40. Using Ophelia, BSV found that some women were not taking part in the program as readily as others. In particular, they found that cultural and language barriers were preventing program uptake for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and for women who speak languages like Arabic and Italian at home.

This understanding enabled the BSV to design program changes to better support these women. After in-depth talks with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the BSV co-developed solutions to respect cultural sensitivities around disrobing. And women who are fluent in Italian or Arabic now receive phone calls and screening information in their own language.

In this project, Ophelia provided key information that has enabled the BSV program to address barriers to accessing their service and health information.

Fishing for answers to improve lives

Research from the Centre for Global Health and Equity is empowering a group of Egyptian fishermen to make better health choices.

Egypt is a lower middle-income country with no universal health coverage, and the rural area in which the fishermen live has limited access to health services. The fishermen have many health challenges and are at high risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). In addition, the fishermen often work in bad weather away from family, and with poor supplies of food and water.

Ain Shams University researchers in Cairo are using our OPtimising HEalth LIteracy and Access (Ophelia) process in this World Health Organization National Health Literacy Demonstration Project. The results of our Health Literacy Questionnaire are helping the researchers to see how the disadvantaged community struggles to find and understand health information. The results also provide insight into the group’s social support structures.

With the input of the fishermen and their families, the researchers are now co-designing ways for the fishermen and their communities to avoid NCD risk factors and lead healthier lives.

Taking a healthy view of tradition

The Centre for Global Health and Equity is working with villagers in North West Cameroon in Central Africa to improve their health literacy. This project is helping to improve and maintain the health of a community in need.

Research in the villages found that the health literacy for the Kom people was very low. Their diet is high in saturated fats and low in balanced nutrients, which puts individuals in the community at risk of hypertension and diabetes. Most of the villagers are unaware of healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, when villagers are ill they turn to traditional healers rather than the healthcare system, which is poorly funded and resourced.

Raising the villagers’ health literacy is helping to keep them healthy and reduce their risk of noncommunicable diseases. Villagers receive instruction on nutrition, food safety and physical activity, tailored to fit the cultural context and beliefs.