Research in the Department of Community and Clinical Health

The Department of Community and Clinical Health undertakes research that benefits a diverse range of people in the community.

We are helping to improve the lives of people living with mental illness and psychosocial disability, hearing impairment and vestibular dysfunction, and vision impairment.

Our researchers inform government reviews and policy changes. Their innovations transform clinical care and improve health outcomes, while their advocacy promotes human rights and the importance of social justice.

Our research supports La Trobe’s research themes: Healthy people, families and communities; Understanding and preventing disease; and Social change and equity.

Find out more about how our partnerships and facilities enable transformative research.

Research areas

Our researchers are working to improve health and wellbeing across communities and the lifespan.

Our research is grouped into our five discipline areas:

Discipline lead: Dr Richard Anderson

Audiologists provide a range of services relating to the identification, diagnosis and management of hearing and balance difficulties. Our researchers develop evidence-based practice in clinical audiology.

Key research questions include:

  • How does the implementation of the bio-psycho-social framework fit within contemporary audiological practice?
  • What is the contemporary audiological practice for hearing loss and tinnitus in the context of hearing rehabilitation?
  • What is the contemporary audiological practice in the context of brain injury and rehabilitation?
  • What are the underlying causes and contributing factors that result in paediatric hearing loss?
  • What knowledge and personal qualities are considered critical to competent performance on clinical placements?

Discipline lead: Dr Tamara Tse

Occupational therapy promotes health and wellbeing by enabling people to participate in the everyday occupations of life such as self-care activities, education, work, leisure or social activities with family, friends or in the community.

Our research encompasses rehabilitation, innovation and access to health services, occupation in context, mental health in schools and the community, complex health issues in rural and community settings, resilience and quality of life, co-design and implementation in practice, and education research.

Key research questions include:

  • What is the nature of sensorimotor impairment, depression and cognition and its impact on function after stroke?
  • How effective are implementation interventions in the uptake of evidence-based practice in rehabilitation?
  • What is occupation-focused practice and how is it enabled or constrained?
  • What is the knowledge and experience of rural and regional high schools in Victoria, in managing students experiencing mental ill health?
  • What is the feasibility and effectiveness of an occupational therapy home assessment via video link?
  • How are occupational therapists conceptualising and using sensory modulation interventions to enable occupation among behaviourally disturbed people living with acquired brain injury?

Discipline lead: Associate Professor Connie Koklanis

Orthoptists provide a range of eyecare services in a fast-paced contemporary practice environment. Through evidence-based practice, our researchers explore workforce challenges, the patient experience and risk factors.

Key research questions include:

  • What does contemporary orthoptic practice look like and how do we build evidence for this practice?
  • What is the lived experience of patients undergoing ocular intervention?
  • What is the lived experience of patients seeking and receiving support or rehabilitation services?
  • What is the patient experience in the eye healthcare system?
  • What are the risk factors for ocular disease progression and vision impairment?
  • What are the clinical outcomes of patients undergoing ocular interventions?

Discipline lead: Professor Lisa Brophy

Social workers promote social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.

Our researchers are at the forefront of academic debates within the discipline. We also have internationally-recognised expertise in child and family services, mental health, and alcohol and drugs research.

Key research questions include:

  • How do we incorporate the lived experience of service users in all aspects of social work practice, teaching and research?
  • What is the impact of gambling and substance use in a world changed by COVID-19?
  • How do we improve the outcomes of young people traumatised by abuse?
  • How can we ensure there is uptake of evidence-informed models of care when implementing service provision in social work?
  • How can we reduce the use of coercive and restrictive interventions in mental health service delivery?
  • How can we promote the use of supported decision making in disability support?

Discipline lead: Dr Shane Erickson

Speech pathologists work with people who have difficulties with speaking, understanding language, reading, writing and social skills. They also help people who have difficulty eating or drinking.

Our researchers are working to improve service provision, client-relevant outcomes and the translation of research findings into practice. They are experts on the use of telehealth in delivering speech pathology services, the provision of effective clinical education for students, and world class trans and gender diverse voice research. Much of this research is undertaken in the La Trobe Communication Clinic.

Key research questions include:

  • Do parent led interventions improve children’s speech and language outcomes?
  • Which interventions lead to the acquisition of synthetic phonics?
  • What communication supports optimise patient-provider healthcare communication?
  • Can technology support people with aphasia living in the community?
  • What is the lived experience of people with communication difficulties following head and neck cancer?
  • How can we implement the best available evidence into speech pathology practice?

Research centres

Our staff play key roles in the Living with Disability Research Centre and the Centre for Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation.

The Centre for Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation is a National Health and Medical Research Council-funded centre that aims to transform the health and wellbeing of people with aphasia and their families. The Centre’s research program champions enhanced, cost-effective and sustainable interdisciplinary aphasia rehabilitation and community service.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Living with Disability Research Centre conducts research to help improve practices, programs and policies that support the social inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities. The Centre’s research program focuses on building a robust evidence base for the disability sector, and the broader community, to address the complex and multifaceted problems facing people with cognitive disability, their families and carers.

Find out more about the Centre.

Academic and Research Collaborative in Health

Several of our academic staff are also members of La Trobe’s Academic and Research Collaborative in Health, which brings together academics, clinicians, consumers, healthcare professionals, health and social care agencies and policy makers skilled in the translation of interdisciplinary research.

The Academic and Research Collaborative in Health aims to improve the patient experience, patient outcomes, healthcare quality and safety, and to achieve best practice in service provision. Partners include Alfred Health, Austin Health, Eastern Health, Healthscope, Mercy Health, Northern Health, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Women’s.

Find out more about the Collaborative.