Centre for Health Equity Response to COVID-19

Who are we and what is our response to COVID-19

The Centre for Health Equity provides international leadership in working across intersecting factors that shape health including gender, Indigeneity, disability, trauma exposure, migration and refugee status, age, sexuality, and socio-economic status. Our world-class researchers develop practical and nuanced solutions to complex structural injustices that create vulnerabilities for at risk populations.

CHE COVID-19 Response.pdf

CHE COVID-19 Response - spread.pdf

In Summary Centre for Health EQuity Work on COVID-19

Gender and Women's Health Unit

Prof Olena Hankivsky (GWHU/CHE) - Pursuit, 7 May: Using Intersectionality to understand who is most at risk of COVID-19.

Prof Olena Hankivsky and Prof Anuj Kapilashrami (Queen Mary University) - Policy Brief: Beyond Sex and Gender Analysis: an Intersectional view of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and response.

Prof Olena Hankivsky and Anuj Kapilashrami (Queen Mary University), Intersectionality offers a radical rethinking of COVID-19. The BMJ Opinion  Read further here.

Prof Bec Bentley (GWHU/CHE) and Prof Emma Baker (University of Adelaide) - Pursuit, 3 April: Australian Homes on the Line.

Prof Bec Bentley and Prof Emma Baker (University of Adelaide) - Conversation, 14 April: 4 ways to be a good landlord in a time of coronavirus.

Prof Bec Bentley contributed to a Pursuit article, 10 June: Investing in social housing during a pandemic.

The following article from The Guardian, 18th May, is based on a report, from the SERADA project , looking at sexual and gender based violence against refugees.  The work on this project is being led by the University of Birmingham in collaboration with Uppsala University, Bilkent University and University of Melbourne/Gender and Women's Health Unit.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/18/coronavirus-crisis-increases-suffering-of-most-vulnerable-refugees.

Prof Bec Bentley, The Conversation, 29 June: Overcrowding and affordability stress: Melbourne's COVID-19 hotspots are also housing crisis hotspots

Prof Bec Bentley, ABC The Signal podcast, 7 July: All all lockdowns equal?

Ms Erika Martino and Prof Bec Bentley, The Conversation, 12 August: As demand for crisis housing soars, surely we can tap into COVID-19 vacancies.


  • Prof Olena Hankivsky (GWHU) (Lead), Dr Ashley McAllister, Anne Scovelle, Emilia Janca, have been funded by CHE to look at "An Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis of the COVID-19 Response.
  • Prof Bec Bentley (GWHU), Prof Lisa Gibbs (CCW) co-lead an investigation into "Renting in the time of COVID-19: What are the consequences for Health and Health inequalities", along with Erika Martino and Prof Barbara McPake (Nossal). (Funded by CHE). External collabotor - Prof Emma Baker (University of Adelaide).
  • A/Prof Cathy Vaughan and Prof Richard Chenhall (HHSS), COVIDCampus project, a student led project.  Students enrolled in the Master of Public Health subject Community based participatory research led a photovoice project, where they documented their own experiences of the initial lockdowns of the University campus and physical distancing regulations. Click here to view the exhibition online.

Disability and Health Unit

Links to all position statements on projecting the health of people with disability during COVID-19 pandemic and recent media in response to the management of COVID-19 and people with disability.


Position Statements:

  • Prof Anne Kavanagh, Chair in Disability and Health and Academic Director of the Melbourne Disability Institute, University of Melbourne; Co-Director CRE-D Research Director, Centre for Social Impact, UNSW;  Chief Investigator CRE-DH
  • Prof Helen Dickinson, Public Service Research, UNSW; Chief Investigator CRE-DH
  • Prof Gwynnyth Llewellyn,  Centre of Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney; Co-Director CRE-DH
  • Prof Bruce Bonyhady, Director, Melbourne Disability Institute, University of Melbourne

23 March - COVID-19: Policy action to protect people with disability in Australia

  • Prof Anne Kavanagh, Chair in Disability and Health and Academic Director of the Melbourne Disability Institute, University of Melbourne; Co-Director CRE-DH
  • A/Prof Gemma Carey, Research Director, Centre for Social Impact, UNSW; Chief Investigator CRE-DH
  • Prof Helen Dickinson, Public Service Research, UNSW; Chief Investigator CRE-DH
  • Prof Gwynnyth Llewellyn,  Centre of Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney; Co-Director CRE-DH;
  • Prof Bruce Bonyhady, Director, Melbourne Disability Institute, University of Melbourne
  • Prof Julian Trollor, Chair, Intellectual Disability Mental Health and Head, Department of Developmental Disability Neuropsychiatry, Professor, School of Psychiatry, UNSW Medicine
  • A tailored response for people with disability is urgently needed, 16 July. Read the full position statement from CHE-DH here


Prof Anne Kavanagh is part of the Committee responsible for developing and implementing this plan for AHPPC. Operational Plan for People with Disability in Emergency response to COVID19 - Full plan out by 9th April - https://www.greghunt.com.au/immediate-response-plan-to-focus-on-people-with-disability-during-coronavirus/

Dr Tania King writes that COVID-19 is an opportunity to advance gender equality and its many health benefits.   Reordering gender systems: can COVID-19 lead to improved gender equality and health?, published online, The Lancet, 19 June, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31418-5.

Disability Support Workers: The Forgotten Workforce in COVID-19 - link to full report and factsheets here


  • Dr Claudia Marck, with Prof Lisa Gibbs and Dr Assunta Hunter, is leading the development of a healthcare-based crisis resilience toolkit for people with multiple sclerosis (Funded by MDI and CHE).
  • Dr Ashley McAllister (Lead), with Stefanie Dimov, Prof Anne Kavanagh and Prof Helen Dickinson (UNSW), is looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the disability support workforce (Funded by MDI).
  • Dr Georgina Sutherland (Lead) received funding from the Centre for Health Equity to apply a gender lens to COVID 19 responses in the Australian tertiary sector.  She is working with Dr Tania King, Anna Scovelle, Dr Humaira Maheen, Jacqui Parncutt, A/Professor Cathy Vaughan, Dr Lila Moosad and Dr Meghan Bohren across the Gender and Women’s Health and Disability and Health Units.
  • Ms Alexandra Devine (DHU/CHE) and Dr Mediya Rangi, are conducting interviews to find out about the impact of COVID-19 on NDIS plan utilisation - COVID-19 and your NDIS plan.

Health and Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr Rosalind McDougall (HHSS/CHE) and Dr Linda Sheahan (Honorary Associate, Sydney Health Ethics) Ethical decision making tool: Planning for and managing COVID-19: Ethical decision-making tool

Dr Rosalind McDougall, Prof Lynn Gillam (HHSS/CHE), Dr Danielle Ko, Ms Isabella Holmes and Prof Clare Delany.  An ethical framework for decision-making about staff safety: balancing health professional wellbeing and duty to care. Read more here.

Prof Janet McCalman's (HHSS/CHE) Disaster & Change Podcast - Episode 1 - In the Midst of Death there is Life: Recovery from the Apocalyse.

Dr Ros McDougall (HHSS) and Prof Lynn Gillam (HHSS) have been involved in creating a new online short course with colleagues Clare Delany (MMS) and Danielle Ko (Austin Health) on "Clinical ethics and COVID-19".  It is freely available.  Read more here .

New article published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health on “Ethical considerations for paediatrics during the COVID ‐19 pandemic: A discussion paper from the Australian Paediatric Clinical Ethics Collaboration”    Dr Ros McDougall and Prof Lynn Gillam  were part of a collaboration of clinical ethicists and paediatric clinicians who have just published a paPer on paediatric ethics and COVID-19.  The paper, led by Dr Melanie Jansen, discusses (1) sharing paediatric and adult healthcare resources, (2) emerging healthcare challenges for children and families, and (3) allocation of PICU resources.  It is available on free access here.

Prof Janet McCalman participated webinar entitled A Viral History of the World.  Historians of health and medicine from Sweden, New Zealand and Australia reflect on the impact of epidemics and pandemics from bubonic plague, smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis to the Spanish Flu and the novel viruses that have afflicted us from HIV onwards. The discussion concludes with Covid-19 and our own time.

Dr Rosalind McDougall, Prof Lynn Gillam, Dr Danielle Ko, Ms Isabella Holmes, Prof Clare Delany, An ethical framework for decision-making about staff safety: balancing health professional wellbeing and duty to care.

Please view: Ethical decision-making tool

Anderson W. The model crisis, or how to have critical promiscuity on the time of Covid-19. Social Studies of Science (Feb 16, 2021): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0306312721996053.
Maddock P., Anderson W. Standing Up Straighter Against Covid-19? Arena Quarterly 2020; 4: 5-8.

Anderson W. The Philippine Covidscape: colonial public health redux? Philippine Studies 2020; 68: 323-35.

Anderson W. Unmasked: face work in a pandemic. Arena Quarterly 2020; 2: 80-84.

Anderson W. Think Like a Virus. Public Books (7 Jan. 2021): https://www.publicbooks.org/think-like-a-virus/

- Reprinted in: The 2020 Reader. Ed. Thomas J. Sugrue and Caitlin Zaloom. New York: Columbia University Press, 2021.

Anderson W. The Way We Live Now? Isis 2020; 111: 834-37.

Anderson W. Not on the beach, or death in Bondi? Somatosphere 2020. http://somatosphere.net/2020/not-on-the-beach-or-death-in-bondi.html/

Anderson W. Epidemic philosophy. Somatosphere 2020. http://somatosphere.net/2020/epidemic-philosophy.html/

Also, a number of interviews, including:

April 2020            Interview, National Public Radio, Boston, USA, re. Covid-19 https://radioopensource.org/public-health-across-the-pacific/

March 2020         Interview, The Wire, Australian Community Radio Network, re. Covid-19


Dr Rosalind McDougall and Prof Lynn Gillam (HHSS/CHE) are leading a CHE funded project entitled "Supporting frontline healthcare staff with ethics guidance in the COVID-19 crisis". While there is a body of academic research on pandemic ethics and various recent COVID-19 discussion papers on ethical issues, there is a lack of practical tools for decision-making. This project will fill this gap, equipping clinicians to navigate ethical questions in practice.

Indigenous Eye Health Unit

Emma Stanford and Laureate Prof Hugh Taylor AC (IEHU/CHE), 19 March: Schools must provide soap to maintain basic hygiene.

Emma Stanford (IEHU) and her Trachoma Team work on 'Clean Faces, Strong Eyes'. Building on the trachoma health promotion messages to include COVID-19 hygiene – “Of course you can wash your hands without washing your face, but you cannot wash your face without washing your hands”.  The new package includes videos, posters school kits and so forth.  Read more in its April 2020 eBulletin.

Justice Health Unit

Webinar Series | COVID-19 and detention (July-October 2020): here

Professor Stuart Kinner (JHU/CHE) has been commissioned by the WHO and Public Health England to analyse the impact of COVID-19 on custodial settings, and was interviewed about this on the ABC’s Radio National, where he noted Australia's move to lockdown prisons is a high-risk approach that will affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people most.

Prof Stuart Kinner also spoke to news network Al Jazeera about the dangers of COVID-19 in prisons in low- and middle-income countries. The article titled Overcrowded DRC prisons 'ticking time-bomb' for COVID-19 pandemic can be accessed here.

Prof Stuart Kinner and the Justice Health Unit continue to support WHO and the international response to COVID-19 in custodial settings. Click here to access our recent news item on the WHO interim guidance and associated Lancet publication.

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO has produced an interim guidance on preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention. Building on this interim guidance, members of the Justice Health Unit collaborated with WHO and the UK Collaborating Centre for Prison Health to publish an article titled Prisons and custodial settings are part of a comprehensive response to COVID-19 in The Lancet Public Health. The article, which has since been featured in Time magazine, can be accessed here.  Prof Kinner is now part of a WHO (European region) working group tasked with rapidly collecting epidemiological data on COVID-19 in prisons and other closed settings.

The Justice Health Unit’s Dr Kathryn Snow, an infectious disease epidemiologist, has recently been published in The Guardian, commenting on the coronavirus modelling that has informed Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article titled What does the government’s coronavirus modelling show? A horrifying scenario and getting control is available here. Dr Snow has been regularly contributing to science communication about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Justice Health Unit is convening a series of six webinars on the theme of Building a sustainable, comprehensive response to COVID-19 in relation to detention.  The webinars, to be held monthly from July to December 2020, will have a global perspective with speakers from international organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  More information is available here


Prof Stuart Kinner (JHU/CHE) , Dr Karen Block (CCW/CHE), Dr James Rose (IS/CHE) are co-leading two CHE Funded projects (1) "A rapid review of peer-reviewed and grey literature on COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections in custodial settings" and (2) "A global knowledge sharing and networking webinar series to optimise the public health response to COVID in custodial detention settings".  Investigators also include: Dr Rohan Borschmann, Dr Jesse Young, Dr Kathryn Snow, Dr Lucas Calais Ferreira, Louise Southalan, Lindsay Pearce, Claire Keen, Melissa Willoughby, Emilia Janca, Alaina Vaisey (CEB).  External collaborators:  International Committee of the Red Cross, Public Health England, Yale School of Medicine, WHO, Health Through Walls (Caribbean), University of Santa Catarina (Brazil), University of Malaysia Medical Centre, UNDP Asia-Pacific, ICRC Phjlippines, PAHO.

Child and Community Wellbeing Unit

Prof Lisa Gibbs (CCW/CHE) was featured in an ABC News story on how writing messages of hope can help children.

Dr Karen Block (CCW/CHE) is leading a project titled "Locked-down Life: Impact of COVID-19 on the day to day life of young people with refugee backgrounds" with  A/Prof Cathy Vaughan, Prof Richard Chenhall, Jeanine Hourani and Callisha Gregg-Rowan (Centre for Multicultural Youth).  (Funded by CHE.) This researchwill explore how young people from refugee backgrounds in Australia are experiencing the impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19 impact on pre-schooler mental health– Call for survey participants. The mental health of Australian pre-schoolers will be assessed in a survey on how they and their families are coping with COVID-19. University of Melbourne researchers say children aged 1-5 are under-represented in trauma and anxiety research as many people wrongly assume that they will simply bounce back. Dr Mira Vasileva and Professor Eva Alisic (both from MSPGH) can comment.  More on Pursuit. Media release here. Click here to take part in the 20-minute online survey (runs until 30 June).

A/Prof Eva Alisic (CCW/CHE), Dr Mira Vasileva, Pursuit, 18 June - What's the impact of COVID-19 on pre-school kids?

Indigenous Health Equity Unit

Alister Thorpe (IHEU) (Lead), Prof Richard Chenhall (HHSS), along with VACCHO, VAHS and Lowitja will look at "Engaging with Indigenous community controlled organisations to develop community priorities for COVID-19". The aims of this project are to engage with Aboriginal communities and organisations (ACCHOs) to assess Victorian Aboriginal community needs and priorities during the COVID-19 epidemic.  (Funded by CHE.)

More Information

Ruth Hentschel


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