University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre

Prevention Research Collaboration

Collaborative research solutions for a healthier world
We're committed to expanding research in non-communicable disease prevention, as well as other aspects of primary prevention and health promotion including physical activity, nutrition, obesity and tobacco.

The Prevention Research Collaboration is a specialised research group that sits within the University of Sydney School of Public Health, based at the Charles Perkins Centre.

We undertake collaborative research projects involving researchers and policy makers, to create the knowledge and evidence needed to improve policy and practice in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

Our 20-year milestone of undertaking chronic disease prevention research and engagement was celebrated at the Prevention Research Collaboration Forum 2023.

Our research

Our research applies a public health lens to physical activity, nutrition, obesity prevention, epidemiology and health promotion, as well as other aspects of primary prevention.

We work alongside policymakers, practitioners, NGOs, global health organisations and the community to deliver public health and policy-relevant research and education.

By bringing together researchers with diverse areas of expertise, we aim to engage in a range of policy-relevant research studies to generate different kinds of public health evidence, including: 

Our work focuses on improving population health through high quality epidemiological, measurement and surveillance research. We ask epidemiological questions of large cross-sectional and complex longitudinal data linked to routinely-collected medical records data, biobanks, and non-health data (e.g. GPS, transport data, social media) to examine trends and changes in the relationships between chronic disease, health status, and behavioural risk factors.

Academic leaders: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Associate Professor Melody Ding 

Assessing the impacts of complex interventions and policy (e.g. translational scaled-up programs, natural experiments) on the individuals and communities require innovative research methodologies and evaluation designs.

Determining if an intervention worked, why it worked, for whom and in what conditions, are critical for advancing the evidence base and for informing public health policy and practice. The PRC has distinctive skills in evaluating population- and system-level prevention and health promotion programs.

We have conducted evaluation research of major policy changes and new initiatives, including the NSW Get Healthy Information & Coaching Service, NSW Quitline, Make Healthy Normal, and Get Healthy @ Work amongst others.

In addition to this, we have led research to systematically investigate elements of practitioner, organisational and systemic capacity that influence evaluation practice and use within Australian prevention agencies. This has informed the development of the Evaluation Practice Analysis Survey, which is a tool for assessing evaluation capacity and practice.

Academic leaders: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Professor Ben Smith, Dr Melanie Crane, Dr Anne Grunseit, Dr Blythe O’Hara, Dr Margaret Thomas

We are at the forefront of developing innovative public health methods around implementation and delivery research, and frameworks for scalability of interventions to maximise impact and public health reach. This body of work has been embedded into practical research guides and tools for health professionals embarking in translational research activities.

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre (TAPPC)

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre (TAPPC) is a national partnership between academic researchers, policymakers and practitioners working collaboratively to improve the prevention of lifestyle-related chronic disease using a systems approach. TAPPC is in its second 5-year funding cycle, and continues to expand its network of partners including state and federal health departments, academic institutions and Centres, and non-government agencies. The research aims to strengthen the evidence base, facilitate dissemination of knowledge, and build capacity at policy, strategy, program and implementation level about prevention of non-communicable chronic disease.

The Prevention Research Collaboration is currently involved in a number of TAPPC research programs focusing on:

  • Implementation and scaling up of prevention programs;
  • monitoring community perceptions of prevention
  • developing a systems approach to promote physical activity at the population level;
  • and evaluation of scaled up interventions.

Academic leaders: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Dr Anne Grunseit

The PRC has made exceptional contributions through its world-leading physical activity and health research, especially to understand the many health benefits of increasing physical activity.

PRC researchers are committed to understanding the systems around physical activity and mobilising multiple sectors to tackle physical inactivity at the policy and structural levels.

This is recognised in the PRC academics developing and leading the Lancet Physical Activity Series 2012, 2016, and 2021.  PRC Researchers Co-lead the Sport and Physical Activity Research and Teaching Network (SPARTAN)

Academic leaders: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Associate Professor Melody Ding

SPRINTER (The Sport & Recreation INTervention & Epidemiology Research)

SPRINTER is an expert group that conducts policy-relevant research within the sport and recreation sector. Their work aims to make it easier for policy makers and strategic thinkers to make decisions about the implementation of sport and physical activity policies and programs to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians. They achieve this through conducting world-class research, developing cross-sector partnerships, and building capability and capacity of stakeholders in the sport and recreation sector.

More information on SPRINTER can be found through NSW Office of Sport

Dr Lindsey Reece from SPRINTER partnership discusses physical activity advocacy with Trevor Shilton from the Heart Foundation. Watch the webinar

Getting Australia Active III

Getting Australia Active III aims to build greater understanding and capacity among government policy makers to employ a whole-of-systems approach to increase physical activity in Australia.

A whole-of-systems approach involving coordinated, multisectoral action is essential to address the numerous interacting influences on physical activity and is endorsed as a critical approach by the World Health Organization in its Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018 – 2030.

This guide provides action-oriented guidance for policy makers to support the implementation of a WSA to PA in Australia. Access here.

Sport voucher programs

The SPRINTER team has worked collaboratively with the NSW Office of Sport to develop and implement an award-winning evaluation of the Active Kids voucher program. This exemplary evaluation has gathered the impacts and benefits of the program on children’s health and wellbeing in NSW. This body of work has enabled evidence-based decision making and significantly shaped the NSW Office of Sport’s implementation of the Active Kids program. The integration of research within this state-wide government program has reinforced the value of strong and collaborative partnerships that strive for positive social change through sport.

Find out more and access research outputs

Sports grant programs

In partnership with Sport Australia, SPRINTER is conducting an independent national evaluation of the Move it AUS Grant programs. Sport Australia’s “Move It AUS Program” has funded initiatives that aim to overcome barriers to participation in sport and recreation for physically inactive Australians. Their ongoing evaluation is determining what works and what doesn’t work, in tackling physical inactivity. 

Access publication and report of this work.

Gender equality in sport

Achieving gender equality is a sustainable development goal. There has been increasing momentum to make sport at all levels more inclusive for women and girls, however, gender inequalities remain.

The SPRINTER group have worked in partnership with the NSW Government Office of Sport to develop and evaluate the NSW Government’s first Women in Sport Strategy – Her Sport Her Way.

The research has identified a shift in how sports organisations consider gender during the implementation of this multi-component strategy.

Participation review on Women and Girls in Sport and Recreation.

Physical activity for healthy ageing

Our researchers are supporting the development and evaluation of strategies to promote engagement by older people in community-based exercise, sport and recreational opportunities.

These strategies include several national Better Ageing projects funded by Sport Australia and the Victorian Active Ageing Project funded by the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services.

Academic leaders: Professor Ben Smith, Dr Lindsey Reece

We conduct research that is relevant and appropriate for policy and for informing public health. The PRC has a reputation for co-creating knowledge with health practitioners and policy-makers, developing innovative evaluation research methods, and providing evidence with practical application to public health policy.

Physical Activity Nutrition Obesity Research Group (PANORG)

PANORG is funded by NSW Ministry of Health to conduct policy-relevant evidence reviews, research and evaluation to support health promotion and obesity prevention initiatives in NSW. The group works closely with the Centre for Population Health, Ministry of Health.

We provide evidence advice, support evidence-based policy, conduct applied research and evaluation, and build workforce capacity in the promotion of physical activity, healthy eating and prevention of overweight and obesity in NSW.

Academic leaders: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Dr Margaret Thomas

The Australian Systems Approach to Physical Activity (ASAPa)

The Australian Systems Approach to Physical Activity (ASAPa) is a national project carried out by the Prevention Research Collaboration under the auspices of The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre (TAPPC).

Funded by the National Medical Research Futures Fund, ASAPa aims to develop Australia’s first national framework to strengthen cross-jurisdictional, cross-sectoral action to increase population level physical activity. Progress to date has involved engagement with policymakers nationwide to help map and understand physical activity related policies, programs and prevalence measures, to identify gaps and opportunities for strengthening action.

Academic leaders: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Tracy Nau

Our research in mass media and social media as health communications tools provides crucial evidence to support strategic use of these approaches in prevention work.

The PRC has worked with research and government partners to develop evaluation frameworks and provide advice to research bodies, community organisations and government groups on how to use mass media and social media effectively in their interventions and communications.

Academic leaders: Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Professor Ben Smith, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Assocate Professor Becky Freeman, Dr James Kite, Dr Blythe O’Hara, Dr Margaret Thomas

We research how people interact with their social and physical environment, specifically how the social, economic, and built environment influence physical activity behaviour, food choices and obesity.

We undertake studies using a diverse range of representative cross-sectional and longitudinal data to examine retirement and health behaviour, psychological health, social connections, cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Our research includes evaluating natural experiments, in particular whether renewal of public spaces lead to changes in residents’ physical activity behaviour, their sense of community connection and safety.

Academic leaders: Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Associate Professor Melody Ding, Dr Melanie Crane, Dr Blythe O’Hara

The Centre of Research Excellence in the Early Prevention of Obesity in Childhood (EPOCH CRE)

EPOCHE CRE aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related behaviours in the first five years of life, and their future impact. There is a diverse team of experts from around Australia and the world to bridge the current gaps in research, practice and policy and help improve the health outcomes for children as they grow into adulthood.

The EPOCH CRE’s research work is organised as four inter-related research Streams:

  • Analysing interventions to prevent obesity in early childhood;
  • Advancing assessment of obesity-related behaviours;
  • Economic evaluation of early childhood obesity prevention
  • Translation of evidence into policy and practice

For more details:

Academic leaders: Professor Louise Baur

Other projects

This research program is funded through an ARC Linkage Grant, in collaboration with Cancer Council NSW. In 2010, the research program involved structured interviews with sports officials, parents and children which were conducted at selected junior sports events or training sessions.

The program provides sound information on the health promotion practices of junior sports clubs, including their policies and practices in relation to sun protection, tobacco control, healthy eating and sports participation, as well as the range and extent of food and beverage company sponsorship of junior sports.

The research has identified a number of ways in which sports clubs could promote health more consistently, including changes to sports canteens and through adopting healthy sponsorship policies. The information collected is provided back to sports clubs and regional sporting associations, as well as sport and recreation government agencies in NSW and the ACT.

Download the report (pdf, 658.7kb).

Teaching and capacity building

PRC staff members contribute to a range of teaching and capacity building activities, including a range of Sydney School of Public Health public health postgraduate courses and research-informed workforce development activities.

Our researchers and PhD students teach core and elective subjects in public health and non-communicable diseases in the Master of Public Health program, a prestigious postgraduate degree offered by the Sydney School of Public Health.

PRC experts contributed to the development and launch of the Mass Open Online Course in chronic disease prevention. This course showcases the Centre’s expertise in prevention and health promotion, including areas such as nutrition, physical activity and obesity.

PRC also conducts training and capacity workshops for a diverse range of policymakers, researchers and practitioners. With the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre. PRC ran several online and face-to-face workshops on 'Complex program evaluation for public health'.

In addition to this, PRC conducts several program evaluation workshops for NSW Ministry of Health staff and for public health and Aboriginal health trainees. Through our work with the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity, we conducted online training workshops for international prevention practitioners and reached participants in over 40 countries.

Our people

Prevention Research Collaboration Forum 2023

We proudly celebrated our 20-year milestone of undertaking chronic disease prevention research and engagement with a fourm held in August 2023.

The event brought together leading researchers in this space who presented on their latest research as well as a panel discussion.

We encourage you to view the presentations from all our speakers.

PRC Biennial Report (July 2021-June 2023)

Download PDF


Associate Professor Philayrath (‘PH’) Phongsavan
Professor Philayrath (‘PH’) Phongsavan
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Deputy Director

Professor Ben Smith
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Contact us

  • Level 6, The Hub Charles Perkins Centre D17

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