Christina Heris was awarded a Prevention Centre scholarship to complete her PhD through Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute and Monash University, leaving her Research Manager role at the Australian Government Department of Health where she worked on national health communication programs including the National Tobacco Campaign.
In 2018 Christina transferred to the Indigenous Epidemiology and Health Unit at the Melbourne University School of Population and Global Health.
Christina’s PhD project sought to understand what influences smoking initiation for young Aboriginal people and the opportunities for prevention and was submitted in March 2020.
Christina continues to work as a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne in the areas of tobacco control and Indigenous health and provides communications support to Centre for Research Excellence REACH while also teaching at Monash University in the fields of health communication and health policy.
Please describe your role in one or two sentences: I’m a new PhD student working on the Prevention Centre funded project, ‘A Comprehensive Approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tobacco Control’ at the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne. I’m exploring what influences young Aboriginal people to start smoking, and what factors might protect against uptake including the role of culture, identity, connection to family and community, as well as mental health.
The most challenging part is … Refining the scope of my project to ensure it will have maximum benefit for the population, be useful for our partners in policy and practice, and achievable in just three years. There are so many worthy and fascinating areas of research, it’s tempting to want to chase down all of those leads.
I’m interested in the work of the Prevention Centre because … With a coordinated approach to chronic disease prevention there’s an opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of all Australians. The Prevention Centre’s approach of research co-production means that whether someone is a health professional working on the ground or a decision maker in a government agency, they’re more likely to have the information they need, when they need it, because they’ve been involved from the outset.
Before my current position, my most memorable role was… Working as a Research Manager on the National Tobacco Campaign at the Australian Government Department of Health, where in 2016 we developed the Don’t make smokes your story campaign. To be involved in the research for a positive and empowering piece of communication like that, developed with people in urban, regional and remote locations, and even getting to take the campaign into community at the Barunga Festival in the NT, was an absolute privilege.
My favourite holiday is … To Greece! I try to visit every couple of years and explore more of that beautiful country when I can. My Dad came from a tiny mountain village there, so learning the language and meeting the local people has helped me connect with that part of my history. Of course the amazing food and wine also helps!
My motto is … “What’s the story here?” It’s always fun to entertain people and I embrace the idea that even an unfortunate social interaction will provide good material for a story later. But I’m going to try and ask the same question in my research – “what’s the human story behind the data here?” – pulling the audience in with an emotional hook, engaging them with the findings in a different and hopefully more memorable and impactful way.
Read more about Christina here.