Building healthy rural communities

This research program is focused on how primary health research, innovative health service, workforce approaches, and knowledge translation can be combined to maximise healthcare outcomes for vulnerable rural people and ensure the delivery of place-based, exceptional rural health care. Our industry partners are located across rural and regional Victoria. We explicitly involve community members in research focused on healthcare design, delivery and evaluation.

Health system fragmentation and the lack of a seamless and connected rural health and social system propagate poor health outcomes directly related to key social determinants of rural disadvantage: geographic isolation, poverty, vulnerability, poor education, homelessness and stigma. Failure to integrate health, social care, and other sectors in rural communities is costly, and is associated with potentially preventable hospital admissions and poor health outcomes.

The goals of our research program reflect the aspirational vision of health services without walls, where there are no boundaries between traditional hospital services and integrated multidisciplinary primary health care. Our research provides a blueprint for Australian health reform, demonstrating how community-driven health service redesign can address major access and equity issues, and how an agile, interlinked and self-improving system can be achieved at a practical place-based level.

Our research extends internationally, with key collaborations at University of Manitoba, Keele University, University of Manchester, University of British Columbia, University of Huddersfield, University of Salford, Turku University-Finland and King's College London.

Research team members

HDR students

Student nameDegreeSupervisorProject Title
John AitkenPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Dr Virginia Dickson-SwiftSharing knowledge: Community participation strategies for improving rural health
Donna BorkowskiMastersDr Carol McKinstry, Dr Matthew CotchettResearch capacity of allied health professionals
Siann BowmanPhDDr Carol McKinstry, Dr Linsey HowieExperience of mental health problems for secondary schools in rural Victoria
Kylie CarraPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Associate Professor Michael Curtain (CSU)Exploration of the relationship between meaningful activity and post traumatic mental health
Nadia DeVecchiPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Dr Virginia Dickson-Swift, Dr Susan KiddArtmaking in mental health: Potential for change
Marcus GardnerPhDDr Carol McKinstry, Dr Byron PerrinEffectiveness of clinical supervision for allied health
Diana GuzysPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Dr Virginia Dickson-Swift, Dr Guin ThrelkeldMoral distress and collective critical health literacy
Owen HowlettPhDDr Carol McKinstry, Associate Professor Natasha LanninFunctional electrical stimulation of the limbs for stroke rehabilitation

Ron Knevel


Professor Mark Gussy

Observing history rhyme: a critical analysis of the introduction of dental hygiene education in Nepal

Bridget LagingPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Dr Michael BauerDecision-making in nursing homes when a resident's health deteriorates
Alethea LeendertzPhDDr Carol McKinstry, Professor Amanda KennyEnablers and barriers of generalist occupational therapist services in rural and remote Australian communities: Mitigating clinical risk.
Nicola LloydPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Dr Nerida HyettPatient and staff co-design of healthcare services
Jill MaglioMastersDr Carol McKinstry, Dr Tracy FortuneCircus as an occupational therapy intervention.
Kate McIntoshPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Dr Mohd MasoodUnderstanding of rural social inclusion
Hannah SlootjesPhDDr Carol McKinstry, Professor Amanda KennyProfessional service review: the occupational needs of pregnant women during the transition into motherhood roles.
Rahila Umma-Chrstian 

Professor Mark Gussy, Professor Teresa Iacono

Exploring access to dental services for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in rural Victoria, Australia. 
Elena WilsonPhDProfessor Amanda Kenny, Dr Virginia Dickson-SwiftCommunity participation in rural health services and ethical implications


  • Kenny, A., Farmer, J., Dickson-Swift, V., O’Meara, P., Threlkeld, G., Hyett, N., Wilson, E., Aitken, J., Guyzs, D. et al (2016) Improving the health of communities through participation project: Final report. La Trobe Rural Health School: Bendigo, Victoria.
  • Hyett, N., Kenny, A., & Dickson-Swift, V., Farmer, J., Boxall, A-M.  (2014). Evidence brief: How can rural health be improved through community participation? Deeble Institute: Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Assoc.

Recent publications

2017 Publications

  • Clark, R., Tonmukayakul, U., Mangan, Y., Smith, M., Gussy, M., Manton, D., Bailey, D., Calache, H. (2017). Measuring Adherence to Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice. doi:10.1016/j.jebdp.2017.05.001
  • De Vecchi, N., Kenny, A., Dickson-Swift, V., & Kidd, S. (2017). Exploring the Process of Digital Storytelling in Mental Health Research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1), 160940691772929. doi:10.1177/1609406917729291
  • Hyett, N., Kenny, A., & Dickson-Swift, V. (2017). Approaches for building community participation: A qualitative case study of Canadian food security programs. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 153944921772711. doi:10.1177/1539449217727117
  • Nelson, D., Pascal, J., Kane, R., Mcgonagle, I., Kenny, A., Dickson-Swift, V., & Sagan, O. (2017). The psychosocial support needs of people affected by cancer: A comparative study of patient and carer experience in a rural setting. PSYCHO-ONCOLOGY, 26, 80.
  • Pearson, E.J.M., Morris, M.E. & McKinstry, C. (2017) Cancer related fatigue: Implementing guidelines for optimal management. BMC Health Services Research, 17, 496, doi:10.1186/s12913-017-24159
  • Phillips, C., Kenny, A., & Esterman, A. (2017). Supporting graduate nurse transition to practice through a quality assurance feedback loop. Nurse Education in Practice, 27, 121-127. doi:10.1016/j.nepr.2017.09.003
  • Taylor, J., Carlisle, K., Farmer, J., Larkins, S., Dickson-Swift, V., & Kenny, A. (2017). Implementation of oral health initiatives by Australian rural communities: Factors for success. Health & Social Care in the Community. doi:10.1111/hsc.12483
  • Truong, M., Gibbs, L., Pradel, V., Morris, M., Gwatirisa, P., Tadic, M., de Silva, A., Hall, M., Young, D., Riggs, E., Calache, H., Gussy, M., Watt, R., Gondal, I., Waters, E. (2017). A Cultural Competence Organizational Review for Community Health Services: Insights From a Participatory Approach. Health Promotion Practice, 18(3), 466–475. doi:10.1177/1524839916689546
  • Wilson, E., Kenny, A., & Dickson-Swift, V. (2017). Ethical challenges of community based participatory research: exploring researchers’ experience. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 1-18. doi:10.1080/13645579.2017.1296714

2016 Publications

  • Boak R, Virgo-Milton M, Hoare A, de Silva A, Gibbs L, Gold L, Gussy M, Calache H, Smith M, Waters E (2016) Choosing foods for infants: a qualitative study of the factors that influence mothers. Child: Care, Health and Development. doi:10.1111/cch.12323
  • Borkowoski, D., McKinstry, C., Cotchett, M., Williams, C. & Haines, T. (2016) Research culture in allied health: a systematic review. Australian Journal of Primary Care.
  • Bowman, S., McKinstry, C. & McGorry, P. (2016) Youth mental ill health and secondary school completion in Australia: Time to Act. Early Intervention in Psychiatry. Doi: 10.11/eip. 12357
  • de Silva AM, Hegde S, Akudo Nwagbara B, Calache H, Gussy MG, Nasser M, Morrice HR, Riggs E, Leong PM, Meyenn LK, Yousefi-Nooraie R. Community-based population-level interventions for promoting child oral health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD009837. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009837.pub2
  • De Vecchi, N., Kenny, A., Dickson-Swift, V., & Kidd, S. (2016). How digital storytelling is used in mental health: A scoping review. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 25(3), 183-193. doi:10.1111/inm.12206
  • Gussy, M., Ashbolt, R., Carpenter, L., Virgo-Milton, M., Calache, H., Dashper, S.,Leong, P., de Silva, A.,de Livera, A., Simpson, J., Waters, E. (2016). Natural history of dental caries in very young Australian children. International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, 26(3), 173–183. doi:10.1111/ipd.12169
  • Gustafsson, L., Brown, T., McKinstry, C. & Caine, A-M. (2016) Practice education: A snapshot from Australian university program. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. 64 (2) 159-169 DOI: 10.1111/1440-1630.12337
  • Hall, S., McKinstry, C. & Hyett, N. (2016) Youth perceptions of positive mental health. British Journal of Occupational Therapy. DOI: 10.1177/0308022616632775
  • Hyett, N., McKinstry, C. E., Kenny, A., & Dickson-Swift, V. (2016). Community-centred practice: Occupational therapists improving the health and wellbeing of populations. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 63(1), 5-8. doi:10.1111/1440-1630.12222
  • Knevel, R., Foley, J., Gussy, M., & Karimi, L. (2016). Does enhancing personal care assistants’ own oral health influence their attitudes and practices towards oral care for residents - a pilot study. International Journal of Dental Hygiene, 14(4), 249–254. doi:10.1111/idh.12228
  • Knevel, R., Gussy, M., & Farmer, J. (2016). Exploratory scoping of the literature on factors that influence oral health workforce planning and management in developing countries. International Journal of Dental Hygiene, 15(2), 95–105. doi:10.1111/idh.12260
  • Knevel R, Gussy M, Farmer J, Karimi l (2016) Perception of Nepalese dental hygiene and dentistry students towards the dental hygienists profession. International Journal of Dental Hygiene. DOI: 10.1111/idh.12192
  • Knevel R, Gussy M, Farmer J, Karimi l (2016) Nepalese dental hygiene and dental students' career choice motivation and plans after graduation: A descriptive cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medical Education 15(1)
  • Knight, K., Kenny, A., & Endacott, R. (2016). From expert generalists to ambiguity masters: using ambiguity tolerance theory to redefine the practice of rural nurses. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 25(11-12), 1757-1765. doi:10.1111/jocn.13196
  • Lyons, A., Fletcher, G., Farmer, J., Kenny, A., Bourke, L., Carra, K., & Bariola, E. (2016). Participation in rural community groups and links with psychological well-being and resilience: a cross-sectional community-based study. BMC Psychology, 4(1). doi:10.1186/s40359-016-0121-8
  • Munro, G., O'Meara, P., & Kenny, A. (2016). Paramedic transition into an academic role in universities: a scoping review. Journal of Paramedic Practice, 8(9), 452-457. doi:10.12968/jpar.2016.8.9.452
  • Munro, G., O'Meara, P., & Kenny, A. (2016). Paramedic transition into an academic role in universities: A demographic and qualification survey of paramedic academics in Australia and New Zealand. Irish Journal of Paramedicine, 1(2), 1-9. Retrieved from
  • Pearson, E., di Stefano, M., Morris, M. E., & McKinstry, C. (2016). Interventions for cancer-related fatigue - a scoping review. European Journal of Cancer Care, doi:10.1111/ecc.12516
  • Pearson, E. J. M., Morris, M. E., & McKinstry, C. E. (2016). Cancer-Related Fatigue: Appraising Evidence Based Guidelines for Screening, Assessment and Management. Supportive Care in Cancer, DOI: 10.1007/s00520-016-3228-9
  • Phillips, C., Esterman, A., & Kenny, A. (2016). The theory of organisational socialisation and its potential for improving transition experiences for new graduate nurses. Nurse Education Today, 35(1), 118-124. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2014.07.011
  • Phillips, C., Kenny, A., & Esterman, A. (2016). Pre-registration paid employment practices of undergraduate nursing students: A scoping review. Collegian, 23(1), 115-127. doi:10.1016/j.colegn.2014.09.012
  • Slootjes, H., McKinstry, C., & Kenny, A. (2016). Maternal role transition: Why new mothers need occupational therapists. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 63(2), 130-133. doi:10.1111/1440-1630.12225
  • Wilson, E., Kenny, A., & Dickson-Swift, V. (2016). Using Blogs as a Qualitative Health Research Tool. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 14(5), 160940691561804. doi:10.1177/1609406915618049


Elizabeth Pearson, PhD Candidate

  • Occupational Therapy Australia, National Postgraduate Research Award 2017

Dr Nerida Hyett

  • Hugh Batten award (supervisor for masters of research) - LTU Faculty of Health Sciences award for highest marked minor thesis in health sciences.
  • Regional Women in Leadership Bursary 2015