About Professor Elizabeth Waters
Professor Elizabeth Waters’ made a lasting contribution to the field of public health both nationally and internationally, fuelled by her passion and commitment to justice, equity and upholding the rights of children.
Professor Waters’ career in public health began in the mid 90s. A background in science, nursing and exposure to global health issues provoked her interest in preventative health which led her to pursue a Master of Public Health at Monash and then complete her PhD at Oxford University, with a focus on child health and wellbeing.
Equipped with experience at the Royal Children’s Hospital, VicHealth, Oxford University, Centre for Community Child Health, and Deakin University, Professor Waters arrived at the University of Melbourne in 2007 with an established team of researchers passionate about government and community partnership approaches to preventative health.
In 2008 Professor Waters and her team was awarded the Jack Brockhoff Foundation Centenary Grant, a $5 million philanthropic gift distributed over a ten-year period. The grant was the largest amount ever awarded by an Australian Foundation or Trust to support a child health research program within a University. It established Professor Waters as the Jack Brockhoff Chair of Child Public Health and Director of the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program. Here Professor Waters led a team of researchers and a wide body of work aiming to improve children’s lives; tackling childhood obesity, improving oral health, disaster recovery, quality of life for children with disabilities, health of children and families with same-sex parents and social inclusion for those with a refugee/migrant family background.
Alongside her work in child health, Professor Waters was an influential leader within the international group the Cochrane Collaboration, determined that evidence should have an impact on the health of populations globally. In 1999, she took on leadership of the Health Promotion and Public Health Field and subsequently developed the Field, in collaboration with the international community, to be registered as the Cochrane Public Health Group. She also represented Cochrane on the World Health Organization (WHO) – Cochrane Partnership Group, represented Cochrane and public health within the WHO Global Commission on Social Determinants and World Health Assembly, and was invited to represent Cochrane public health interests on the WHO Clinical Trial Registration and Reporting, and Guidelines for Review Committee. In 2014, Liz was instrumental in establishing satellites of Cochrane Public Health in India and Europe.
Professor Waters established herself as an international expert on childhood obesity, as lead author of one of the most highly cited Cochrane reviews in the history of its publication (Interventions for preventing obesity in children), and co-authored 10 other Cochrane reviews.
Contributing to the field of public health more broadly, Professor Waters was on scientific advisory committees for NHMRC, ESRC, MRC, ARC, Department of Veterans Affairs, UNICEF and CDC. She was also on the editorial board of 3 international health journals and had acted as a reviewer for 16 other journals. She was an author on over 250 peer-reviewed publications and throughout her career attracted over $45 million in grants.
In 2014, Professor Waters received the Anne Anderson award in recognition of her role as a visible and fearless role model for women, helping to bring about changes that have promoted women in leadership in Cochrane.
The legacy of Professor Waters’ work will continue to support others to make evidence-based decisions to promote health and wellbeing in Australia and internationally. Her intellect and vision brought people and science together, and has created lasting programs of work that benefit the health and wellbeing of children and their families into the future.
In July 2016, the Elizabeth Waters Memorial Travel Scholarship was established by Liz’s friends and family to honour two of Liz’s great passions in life: excellence in child public health and travel.