Archived: Public health accolade goes to two Prevention Centre investigators

30 May 2016

Prevention Centre chief investigators Professors Penny Hawe and Alan Shiell have received the highest level of honour from the UK Faculty of Public Health for exceptional contributions to the science, literature or the practice of public health.

Professor Penny Hawe
Professor Penny Hawe

They received two of the six honorary fellowships awarded in 2016 for their leading role in establishing the field of population health intervention research internationally.

Professors Hawe and Shiell, both of whom are on the Prevention Centre’s leadership executive, started working together in 1999 at The University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.

They were subsequently recruited by the University of Calgary in Canada and arrived at a time when the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – the equivalent to the Australian NHMRC – was establishing research centres focused on social and physical environments and health. They established the Population Health Intervention Research Centre, University of Calgary, which was unique in its focus on intervention research. Their driving interest was complexity science and the theory, methods, ethics and economics of complex interventions.

Professor Alan Shiell
Professor Alan Shiell

Their ideas helped to kick-start the field of population health intervention research internationally. Professor Hawe became the co-founder of the Population Health Intervention Research Initiative for Canada (PHIRIC), a 10-year, multi-agency initiative that advanced the science of intervention research and the use of evidence in policy making.

PHIRIC oversaw the development of training schemes, research, collaborations and capacity-building representing more than $120 million of strategic investment and created a new cohort of investigators focused on identifying population-level solutions to health problems, such as structural and policy changes in sectors like housing, urban planning and schools.

Since they returned to Australia, Professor Hawe to the University of Sydney and Professor Shiell to La Trobe University, ideas from their foundational work are now being carried into elements of the research program at the Prevention Centre.