Research programs

Building Healthy Rural Communities 

Goal: To produce research that contributes to a future-oriented, community-relevant, efficient and effective model of providing health and human services for a rural region, in partnership with health and human services and communities.

The program incorporates these sub-themes:

Community participation

Building Healthy Rural CommunitiesThis stream of research is about working with communities to promote participation in establishing health and service priorities and then actions to address these needs.  Community is defined as all of the local stakeholders in service provision, including local citizens, service providers, agencies, politicians and policymakers. This stream is also about using new ways of involving people in design and decision-making. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to map services and health status; and using digital stories to capture local experiences, reflections and wants are just some of the innovative methods being used by this team. Research areas addressed are:

  • Methods of community participation
  • Impacts of community participation on health, and health and civic literacy
  • Application of several participation methods and methodologies
    Service designs produced by communities
  • Inclusion, sustainability and scalability of community participatory design

Strong partnerships have been forged with key community health services to help investigate these topics. Dr Amanda Kenny is the project lead on this stream.

Innovative and Locally-Responsive Service Delivery Models

AmbulanceInnovative Service and Locally Responsive Delivery Models: The aim of this theme is to contribute to reconfiguring rural health services at various levels in response to needs and priorities; and with an eye to improving accessibility, safety, efficiency and feasibility of provision.  Integration and local responsiveness are key interests. Service delivery models incorporate practice models, workforce, e-health, change management, and infrastructures including transport. Community participation research will inform the design of Service Delivery Models. The theme is particularly focused on:

  • Interdisciplinary service models for rural communities
  • Specific practice models
  • Practice change models

This theme is led by Dr Les Fitzgerald.

Rural Health Workforce

Assisting man stuck under tireAn outcome of community participation, and part of service delivery models, is the design of the rural health workforce such that it meets the changing needs of rural and regional communities.  The rural health and human services workforce includes managers, practitioners and lay/volunteer community members. Interests in this theme include:

  • Flexible roles for rural workers
  • Integrated and interdisciplinary workforce models
  • Role and appropriate scope of practice
  • How to produce rural health workers, continually develop them and provide satisfying career paths
  • The role of rural education in the retention of health (Allied Health and Nursing) and human services workers in rural communities

Current projects include: extending nurse practitioners and developing a longitudinal survey to track the careers of allied health professionals, nurses and oral health professionals in rural communities. Dr Carol McKinstry leads this theme.


This theme considers applications of technology in health and human services, particularly as the National Broadband Network rolls out. This theme addresses the use of technologies to deliver health care services, tertiary education and professional development for data collection and as repositories for research and service evaluation.  Some large projects are researching the use of medium to high fidelity simulation to feed into virtual classrooms for tertiary education and support of health services. Professor Teresa Iacono leads this theme.

Dr Mandy Kenny holds a PhD in rural health policy. She is a Professor in Rural and Regional Nursing.

Amanda Kenny, Health Sciences

Professor Jane Farmer

Community participation in health improvement.