Why choose Honours in Population and Global Health?

The Honours program in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health will provide students with skills and experience conducting research in an area of population and global health. Population Health researchers address questions designed to improve the health of populations in both Australia and globally, and use a range of approaches including for example; the analysis of population statistics; qualitative research with particular sub-groups in the population; analysis of legal and ethical issues in health, and; evaluation of health programs and policies.

Honours students will have the opportunity to join one of the many research groups within the School. The groups use the approaches described above to address diverse areas of health including; sexual health; indigenous health; mental health; men’s health; women’s health and disease prevention.

The opportunity to specialise provides a strong foundation for the future direction of Honours graduates, whether as a means of progressing to higher degree research at the Masters or PhD level, or improving the scope of employment options and professional advancement.

The course year starts in February and ends in November and is only available full time.


The Honours program consists of 100 credit points completed over 12 months full time (or part time equivalent) comprising of two (2) Advanced Coursework subjects and a Research Project.

To be awarded Honours with a specialisation in Population and Global Health, students must successfully complete the following:

BIOM40001 Introduction to Biomedical Research (12.5 points)

AND One of the following 12.5 point subjects  (as directed by Honours Supervisor & Coordinator):
POPH90200 Principles of Social Research Design
POPH90014 Epidemiology 1
POPH90058 Health Program Evaluation 1
POPH90206 Health Policy
POPH90270 Bioethics and Public Health
POPH90094 Health Economics 1

AND both of:
POPH40005 Population Health Research Project 1 (25 points)
POPH40006 - Population Health Research Project 2 (50 points)

What will you achieve?

  • Ability to formulate population health research questions;
  • Ability to apply ethical principles to the conduct of research with humans;
  • Expertise in all aspects of research design, including selection of populations, sampling approach, data collection methods and analysis;
  • Ability to apply critical and analytical skills to the identification and resolution of problems that arise in the conduct of population health research;
  • Proficiency in accessing, searching and summarising published research in population health;
  • Skills in communicating the findings of a research project in written and oral form.

Information session

Date:      Thursday 26th October, 2017
Time:      5.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Venue:   Room 515, Level 5, 207 Bouverie St, Carlton

MSPGH Honours Coordinators

Associate Professor Louise Keogh

Dr Lucio Naccarella

MSPGH Research Projects 2018

  • Assessment of the long term impacts of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. (Ms Dana Young; Ms Lauren Carpenter; A/Prof Lisa Gibbs)

    Supervisor: Ms Dana Young (dana.young@unimelb.edu.au)

    The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program (SAKGP) targets primary primary school students in Grades 3-6 (aged 8-12 years) to provide children with a pleasurable hands-on introduction to food education through growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal, healthy and delicious food. An evaluation conducted during 2006 - 2009 provided evidence that the SAKG Program resulted in improvements in child attitudes, knowledge, skills and confidence in relation to cooking and gardening. It is now 10 years since the original evaluation and the students involved in those first program schools are aged from 18-23yrs. This offers a unique opportunity to examine the lifecourse impacts of the program and to contribute new evidence internationally to understanding of the long term influence of kitchen garden programs. A mixed method study will be conducted incorporating a non-randomised, cross-sectional survey of young Victorian adults, and an exploratory qualitative study. Recruitment will be conducted across the State using social media to see how the cooking and gardening attitudes and behaviours of the SAKGP participants compare to their peers

  • Machine learning methods for causal inference in epidemiology: Application to the effects of cannabis use on mental health (Dr Margarita Moreno-Betancur; Prof John Carlin)

    Supervisor:  Dr Margarita Moreno-Betancur (margarita.moreno@unimelb.edu.au)

    Biostatistics is a core discipline of public health research. It comprises all statistical methods for the design and analysis of studies that use data to answer questions about the health of populations. At the interface of health and data science, it provides an exciting opportunity for candidates from Mathematics and Statistics majors to invest their unique skills in advancing the development and application of methods for understanding human health. This biostatistics project focuses on the implementation of causal inference methods incorporating machine learning, in the context of a study of the effects of cannabis use on mental health. The study uses data from the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study, a longitudinal cohort study of almost 2000 participants for whom large amounts of data have been collected across 10 waves over the past 20 years. This rich and complex data source has the potential to provide key insights into the effects of cannabis use, but traditional analytic approaches using standard regression models can be overly simplistic and may not validly reflect the full complexity of the data. Recently, it has been proposed that data-adaptive (machine learning) methods could be used in such contexts, by combining them with causal inference approaches such as propensity score and standardisation methods, which are widely used in epidemiology. The aim of this project is to implement, compare and assess these methods in the cannabis use study, providing an illustration and potentially a set of guidelines for practitioners who wish to apply them in their studies.

  • Conscientious objection to abortion and to 'dying with dignity': rights and responsibilities of doctors and nurses in Victoria, Australia (A/Prof Louise Keogh; Prof Lyn Gillam)

    Supervisor:  A/Prof Louise Keogh (l.keogh@unimelb.edu.au)

    In Australia, it is estimated that approximately 15% of doctors have a conscientious objection (CO) to abortion, and in rural areas, we have recently shown that the proportion might be more than double. Little research has explored CO in relation to voluntary assisted dying legislation, currently being considered by the Victorian parliament. Despite both a legal requirement (in Victoria) and professional expectations (nationally) that doctors with a conscientious objection refer a woman to ensure she can access the care she needs, we have evidence that this does not always occur in practice. New 'dying with dignity' legislation, if passed, may be subject to similar issues when implemented in the community. This project will involve increasing our evidence base about the practice of CO in the community through primary data collection with doctors and nurses.

  • The Health of Women After Release from Prison (Prof Stuart Kinner; Mr Jesse Young)

    Supervisor:  Professor Stuart Kinner (s.kinner@unimelb.edu.au)

    Incarcerated women are a particularly vulnerable and high-risk population who face complex social and health challenges after release from prison. This project will examine clinical health outcomes for women after release from prison and involve the analysis of existing data from the Health After Release from Prison (HARP) study. This large, NHMRC-funded study of prisoner and ex-prisoner health in two Australian states involved detailed interviews with adults in the weeks prior to their release from prison in Queensland and Western Australia, coupled with retrospective and prospective data linkage to examine patterns of health service utilisation in the community.

  • Ethical issues in crowdfunding medical care (Dr Rosalind McDougall; Ms Bryanna Moore)

    Supervisor: Dr Rosalind McDougall (rmcdo@unimelb.edu.au)

    Crowdfunding for medical care is an emerging phenomenon that raises many ethical questions.  Online crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe.com are enhancing the ability of some patients and families to access expensive and experimental therapies.  High profile cases such as the UK case of Charlie Gard have raised awareness of the increasing influence of crowdfunding in the healthcare arena globally. However, little is known about the ways in which Australian patients are using crowdfunding for medical care. This project investigates the ethics of crowdfunding medical care in the Australian context, through a qualitative content analysis of crowdfunding websites and subsequent ethical analysis.

  • Are community service announcements effective at improving knowledge about emergency contraception (Prof Jane Hocking; A/Prof Matt Spittal; Ms Maria Ftanou)

    Supervisor: Professor Jane Hocking (j.hocking@unimelb.edu.au)

    Knowledge and awareness about the availability of emergency contraception varies considerably among young adults. Yet, if used within 72 hours of unsafe sex, it can be very effectives at preventing an unwanted pregnancy. This project will involve the analysis of a randomised controlled trial that aimed to determine whether a community service announcement informing people about emergency contraception is effective at improving their knowledge. The trial is complete.

  • Mothers' understanding about long acting reversible contraception (Prof Jane Hocking; Hennie Williams; Ms Alaina Vaisey)

    Supervisor: Professor Jane Hocking (j.hocking@unimelb.edu.au)

    Australia has very low rates of use of long acting reversible contraception such as implanon in young women and yet, we have some of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy observed in high income countries. We hypothesise that mothers often advise their daughters on what contraception to use and may lack knowledge about the long acting options available. This qualitative research project aims to interview mothers about their understanding of long acting contraception and barriers to them advising their daughters about these options.

  • What can Aboriginal research ethics and global health research ethics teach one another? (Dr Bridget Pratt)

    Supervisor:  Dr Bridge Pratt (bridget.pratt@unimelb.edu.au)

    From colonial-era tropical medicine to modern-day global health research, researchers from high-income countries have a long history of exploiting research participants and research partners when performing studies in low and middle-income countries. Core ethical concepts have thus been developed for global health research: responsiveness, social value, community engagement, standard of care, ancillary care, and post-trial benefits. The ethics of research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations also has roots in a long history of exploitative research projects and partnerships. But the extent to which the two areas overlap, diverge, and can inform one another has not been investigated. This project offers the exciting opportunity to help build links between the two areas of research ethics. It aims to explore the extent to which the ethical concepts and guidance for research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations converge and diverge with those for global health research ethics. A literature review and comparative analysis will be performed to investigate this topic.

  • Count Me In: Promoting wellbeing and inclusion through sports participation for migrant and refugee-background young people (Dr Karen Block; Ms Dana Young):

    Supervisor: Dr Karen Block (keblock@unimelb.edu.au)

    This is a mixed methods intervention and evaluation study being conducted in partnership with a range of community organisations. Opportunities exist for a project involving either qualitative or quantitative data collection and/or analysis.

  • How do Australian cosmetic physicians and surgeons use twitter? A qualitative content analysis (Ms Emma Barnard):

    Supervisor:  Ms Emma Barnard (ebarnard@unimelb.edu.au)

    This project will investigate how Australian cosmetic physicians and surgeons use the social media platform twitter to communicate about their medical practice.

  • Diversity and Social Inclusion on the University Campus: experiences and impact on student wellbeing (A/Prof Richard Chenhall; Dr Cathy Vaughan):

    Supervisor: A/Professor Richard Chenhall (r.chenhall@unimelb.edu.au)

    The University of Melbourne has a declared commitment to diversity and inclusion, noting that greater social inclusion is associated with better mental health outcomes and well being. The University has outlined its goals in this area through the Social Inclusion Plan 2012-2014; recognises efforts to promote the institution’s aspirations of inclusion through annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards; provides specific services to increase inclusion (such as Disability Liaison); and has recently become a participant in the national ‘Racism. It stops with me’ campaign.  However, there is little evidence available about student perceptions of social inclusion and diversity on campus, or about how the experiences of students may differ on the basis of gender, age, disability, and whether students are domestically or internationally enrolled. Using qualitative data collected by Masters of Public Health students over three semesters from 2015-2017, the “Researching Diversity and Inclusion on Campus” project aims to understand student perceptions of social inclusion and diversity on the Parkville campus of the University of Melbourne. Findings will be used to inform diversity and inclusion efforts within the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, and across the University.  Findings will also contribute to the growing theoretical and empirical literature on participatory research endeavours in tertiary education settings, and to evidence regarding the impact of participatory research approaches on participant-researchers themselves.

  • The effects of media reports of crime and mental illness on stigma (Dr Amy Morgan; A/Prof Nicola Reavley; Prof Tony Jorm):

    Supervisor: Dr Amy Morgan (ajmorgan@unimelb.edu.au)

    Stigma and discrimination are often nominated as central concerns for people with mental illnesses. Negative stories in the media linking violent crimes and mental illness may reinforce stereotypes of dangerousness and unpredictability and increase stigmatizing attitudes. This quantitative research project will investigate the impact of newspaper articles linking mentally ill persons with violent crime and how to mitigate negative effects upon stigma.

  • Zygosity determination in twins using population-based data (Dr Enes Makalic; Dr Katrina Scurrah):

    Supervisor: Dr Enes Makalic (emakalic@unimelb.edu.au)

    Large scale linked population datasets are now becoming more readily available for epidemiological research.  Pairs of twins can usually be identified in such datasets, by matching on fields such as date and place of birth and mother’s details, which enables very large twin studies.  However, information on zygosity (whether a pair of twins is monozygous (identical) or dizygous (non-identical)), which is important for such studies, is not usually available from population-based datasets.  This project will use datasets where zygosity is known to develop algorithms based on machine learning techniques which can be applied to determine whether or not a given pair of twins are identical, from within-pair differences in available measured variables.   Note: this project is biostatistical in nature and requires a reasonably strong mathematical or statistical background, including skills and experience with linear and logistic regression. Computer programming skills and/or knowledge of R would also be helpful but not essential.

  • Covariates associated with psychological wellbeing in Australian twins (Dr Gillian Dite; Dr Katrina Scurrah):

    Supervisor: Dr Gillian Dite (g.dite&unimelb.edu.au)

    The Australian Twin Registry (ATR) maintains a national register of twin pairs and their relatives who are willing to consider participating in health related research. More than 35,000 pairs of twins are members of the Registry, making it one of the largest volunteer twin registries in the world. The ATR administers the Health and Lifestyle Questionnaire (HLQ) to ATR members.  This is an online questionnaire developed for ATR members, and it asks about a range of topics including members’ backgrounds, health conditions, families and lifestyles.  Currently about 1400 pairs of twins have completed the questionnaire.   Several research projects utilising HLQ data are available.  These include 1) whether close contact (living nearby, talking or seeing each other regularly etc) is associated with psychological wellbeing as measured by K6 score and 2) whether Crohn’s/IBS symptoms are related to K6 score.  Regression-based methods will be used to assess whether these predictors are associated with psychological wellbeing/distress, within twin pairs, and/or using simple methods to account for correlation between twins in a pair.  Results will be applicable both to twins and to the general (non-twin) population. Note: this project is biostatistical in nature and requires a reasonably strong mathematical or statistical background, including skills and experience with linear and logistic regression.

  • Bayesian estimation of variance components models for twins in Stata (Dr Katrina Scurrah; Dr Enes Makalic):

    Supervisor: Dr Katrina Scurrah (kscurrah@unimelb.edu.au)

    Variance components models are frequently fitted to data from monozygous (identical) and dizygous (non-identical) twin pairs, in order to attribute variation in a measured trait to shared genes, shared environmental effects, and unshared effects.  These models can also adjust for measured covariates, are usually fitted using maximum likelihood estimation, and can be implemented in Stata.  However, twin studies are often relatively low-powered, and a Bayesian approach using posterior probabilities may provide more useful results.  This project would develop, implement and test Bayesian variance components models for twins fitted using Stata for several different datasets, and compare results with those obtained using maximum likelihood estimation. Note: this project is biostatistical in nature and requires a reasonably strong mathematical or statistical background, including skills and experience with linear and logistic regression. Stata programming skills would also be helpful but not essential.

  • Power and sample size for the classic twin model (Dr Enes Makalic; Dr Katrina Scurrah):

    Supervisor:  Dr Enes Makalic (emakalic@unimelb.edu.au)

    The “classical twin design” aims to estimate components of variation due to shared genetic effects, shared environmental effects, and unshared effects using data from identical and non-identical twins.  A recent publication described a method of calculating the power to detect each of these variance components under certain assumptions.  However, this method did not address power to detect differences in correlations between identical and non-identical twins, which is an important first step in fitting variance components models.  This project will develop methods for estimating power for this first step, using both theory and simulations.  The methods will be made available on the Twins Research Australia website for researchers to use worldwide. Note: this project is biostatistical in nature and requires a reasonably strong mathematical or statistical background, including skills and experience with linear and logistic regression. Computer programming skills and/or knowledge of R would also be helpful but not essential.

  • Housing condition and health in Australia (A/Prof Rebecca Bentley; A/Prof Emma Baker; Mr Ankur Singh):

    Supervisor: A/Prof Rebecca Bentley (brj@unimelb.edu.au)

    The type of housing people occupy directly their mental and physcial health. This project will work with a new data source (the Australian Housing Conditions Survey) and existing longitidinal data to describe and quantify the housing and health relationship in the Australian context.

  • Epigenetics as a mediator of gene:environment interactions underlying early life programming of cardiovascular and metabolic risk (Prof Richard Saffery; A/Prof Justine Ellis; Dr David Burgner; Prof Anne-Louise Ponsonby):

    Supervisor: Prof Richard Saffery (rsaffery@unimelb.edu.au)

    The world is experiencing an alarming rise in the incidence of cardiovascular disease, obesity and poor metabolic health. Mounting evidence suggests that the period in utero and early postnatally plays a critical role in programming these phenotypes. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to complex disease risk and are also known to influence epigenetic profile. Thus, epigenetic variation has emerged as prime candidate for the early life programming of later CV and metabolic health.  Epigenetic variants have great potential as biomarkers for monitoring ideas progression and may be reversible with appropriate intervention. The overall aims of this project are to examine the association of epigenetic variation in early life (with a focus on DNA methylation), genetic variation and environmental exposures, with measures of adiposity and cardiovascular health in the unique Barwon Infant study of 1000 mothers and their children (www.barwoninfantstudy.org.au/). BIS has a wealth of environmental measures and longitudinally sampled biospecimens with genome-wide genetic data already collected, enabling an unprecedented investigation of the role of genes, environment and epigenetics in conferring early life risk of cardio/metabolic health in humans.

How To Apply

  1. More information about the program and available research projects can be obtained:
    • At the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences Honours Expo and individual information sessions held by Departments and Institutes;
    • From the list of departmental research projects;
    • From individual supervisors.
  2. You need to identify a potential project and supervisor from the research project list. Read the project description and any recommended publications to ensure that it is the correct choice for you, and then contact the Supervisor.
  3. Apply online.