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Curtin University
Centre for Population Health Research (CPHR)


Centre for Population Health Research: Translating research into health improvements.

(The three programs summarised below incorporate four core infrastructure methodologies to support the Centre’s research base: epidemiology, biostatistics, linked data and health economics. See

Programs Research Topics Activities
1. Health Informatics Data linkage: Western Australia, national and international

Health and health related data linkage
Governance, security and privacy
Cross sectoral linkages
Quantitative methods

Spatial health

Geocoded data
Temporal modelling

2. Health Services Research

Health systems research

Burns Injury
Maternal alcohol use disorders
Patient blood management
Policy evaluation
Road safety and trauma
Visual health

3. Genomics

Bioethics, policy, legal and social issues

Burden of genetic disease
Familial cancer
Familial hypercholesterolemia
Newborn screening
Prenatal screening

Bioethics, policy, legal and social issues

Ethical applications of genetic research
Genetic privacy

Student Projects

A range of projects are available for students to undertake Honours, Master’s and PhD degrees.

  1. Biomarkers used to screen for gestational hypertension (pre-eclampsia)
  2. Health economic evaluation of testing for familial hypercholesterolaemia: bridging the evidence gap.
  3. Iodine metabolism in pregnancy
  4. Evaluation of the clinical management pathway for obesity in primary care.
  5. Disclosure of genomic information to research participants
  6. Best practice model for cost-effective identification of inherited bowel cancer (Lynch syndrome)
  7. Health service utilisation & costs of genetic testing.
  8. Biomarkers used to screen for gestational hypertension (pre-eclampsia)
  9. Genetic screening for genetic conditions: what are the ethical and practical issues?
  10. Evaluating changes in health need in Western Australia
  11. Implications for health care service provision associated with an ageing population
  12. Recurrence of thin melanoma in Western Australia

Program of research 1: Informatics and Genomics

1. Health Data Linkage: enhancing the use of record linkage for health research.
Record linkage of health service data for research is one of the top priorities of the Australian Government The WA Data Linkage Project was established in 1995 and remains one of the few record linkage systems that contains population-based data from over 40 population-based health datasets including all hospital morbidity data, birth and death records, mental health services data, cancer registrations and midwives’ notifications.
[To learn more download the PDF]

2. CRC Spatial Information - Spatial Health.
A project to establish and integrate spatial health within the Centre for Research Excellence in Spatial Information (CRC-SI) is led by Professor Semmens and Ms Narelle Mullan (WA DoH). The spatial health program includes collaborative partners in other Australian states who are working within specific priority research areas including Defence, Energy and Utilities, Agriculture and Climate Change, Sustainable Urban Development, Positioning of Locations, and Data Capture and Feature Extraction.
[To learn more download the PDF]

3. Pharmacoepidemiology - Medication Safety and Pharmacoepidemiology in WA.
Investigations of medication safety and pharmacoepidemiology and pharmocovigilance are priorities for Australian and international research. The Commonwealth Government has just recently allowed data from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to be linked with administrative data from the WA Health Department.
[To learn more download the PDF]

4. Ageing and Chronic Diseases - Alzheimer’s Disease Research.
This program of work is led by Dr Renate Zilkens who was successful in obtaining a research Fellowship funded through the Alzheimer’s Australia Association in combination with Curtin University and the NHMRC. So far, the main findings have been that the use of record linkage nearly double the case ascertainment of people with Alzheimer’s disease; that 39% of all WA male deaths and 50% of all WA female deaths had a lifetime history of dementia.
[To learn more download the PDF]

5. Maternal alcohol use disorders
Eight per cent of Australian children less than 12 years of age live with mothers who drink alcohol at harmful levels Mothers with an alcohol-use disorder place their children at risk of harm through prenatal alcohol exposure, psychological and environmental risk factors.1-3 Prenatal alcohol exposure can result in a range of poor fetal/child outcomes classified under the umbrella term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), including birth defects, language delay, cognitive delay and child behaviour/psychosocial problems such as social and emotional delay, somatic, internalizing, externalizing and mental health problems.
[To learn more download the PDF]

6. The Eye and Vision Epidemiology Research Program (EVER):
Blindness is a crippling disability resulting in misery, loss of employment, economic loss and premature death. It is estimated that around 50,000 (0.57%) Australians are known to be blind, with an incidence 60 times higher amongst Indigenous groups. Currently, no accurate or validated population data on blindness exists anywhere in the world, and blindness rates are predicted to rise markedly in the next 20 years, owing largely to the ageing of the developed world’s population.
[To learn more download the PDF]

7. Clinical accountability program - Western Australian Audit of Surgical Mortality (WAASM).
The WAASM was established in 2001 as an independent operational research program to independently review all surgical deaths in WA. An evaluation of the WAASM in 2005 showed that for participating surgeons 73% had changed their practice as a result of the WAASM, 12% were aware of changes in their colleagues practice and 25% reported changes in systems delivery of surgical care.
[To learn more download the PDF]

8. Patient Blood Management (PBM):
An important initiative established by Dr Renate Zilkens, Mr Aqif Mukhtar and Professor Semmens was gaining State Health Research Council (SHRC) funding to support the Patient Blood Management Project (PBM). A pilot study to evaluate a PBM programme in WA, with a particular focus on reducing blood use, identified cost savings and improved patient outcomes.
[To learn more download the PDF]

9. Burns Injury research
During 2008, the Burns Injury project was established within the CPHR as a collaborative research program with Professor Fiona Wood from the WA Burns Unit to use record linkage to examine the epidemiology of severe burns, the use of health care services, the treatment of burns patients and to evaluate the outcomes of treatment. Data was used from the WA Burns Data linked to the WADLS and will be used for the development of best practice guidelines and for the development of health policy.
[To learn more download the PDF]

10. Indigenous Health
The promotion of access to high-quality primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is critical to Australia’s future. Support of Continuous Quality Improvement in everyday primary health care practice is a key strategy to achieve this future. In 2008. Professor Semmens was requested by Dr Tarun Weeramanthri, Director Public Health WA DoH, to lead the WA platform of the Audit of Best Practice for Chronic Disease (ABCD) and base the project within the CPHR.
[To learn more download the PDF]

11. Population Health Genomics
Genomics provides a link between clinical practice, academic research and policy development. Screening and awareness of risk allows preventive measures and surveillance measures to be instituted before damage occurs.
[To learn more download the PDF]

12. The Centre for Data Linkage (CDL)
The PHRN-CDL was established in April 2009 within the Centre for Population Health Research at the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI). The primary role for PHRN-CDL is to establish a secure data linkage facility that facilitates linkage between jurisdictional datasets using demographic data.
[To learn more download the PDF]

13. Health Services Research
Health Services Research covers multi-disciplinary research drawing on evidence generated from the medical sciences and administrative data to evaluate the delivery of health care. The objective is to improve access to safe healthcare by conducting systematic examinations of the quality (effective, timely and appropriate) and efficiency (costs, allocation and distribution) of health service delivery. Outcomes from health services research are used to inform policy and priorities for government and health service providers.
[To learn more download the PDF]