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: 

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.

Prevention Research Support Program (PRSP) 

As a recipient of the NSW Health’s Prevention Research Support Program (PRSP), the PRC is conducting prevention and early intervention research that aligns with NSW Health priorities. The PRSP funding supports research infrastructure and strategies to build research capability and translate evidence from research into policy and practice. The PRSP program encompasses six thematic areas related to chronic disease risk factors prevention and control:

  • Implementing and evaluating interventions at scale
  • Analytic methods and systems modelling to inform prevention
  • Embedding prevention in health services
  • Building evaluation and scaled-up capacity of prevention workforce
  • Consumer and community perspective in prevention planning, implementation and evaluation
  • Evidence syntheses to inform research translation and implementation

Academic leaders: Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Professor Ben Smith

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.

Providing evidence advice, supporting evidence-based policy, conducting applied research and evaluation, and building workforce capacity in the promotion of physical activity, healthy eating and prevention of overweight and obesity in NSW.

Academic leaders: Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Dr Bronwyn McGill

The Australian Systems Approach to Physical Activity (ASAPa)

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: Professor Melody Ding, Professor Ben Smith, Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Adjunct Professor Bill Bellew, Tracy Nau

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 complex interventions (eg scaled-up programs, natural experiments), population- and system-level prevention and health promotion programs.  This includes conducting evaluation research of major policy changes and new initiatives, such as the NSW Get Healthy Information & Coaching Service, NSW Quitline, Make Healthy Normal, and Get Healthy @ Work amongst others.

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:  Professor Ben Smith, Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Dr Melanie Crane, 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 Prevention Research Collaboration is currently involved in a number of research programs focusing on:

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

Academic leaders: Dr Karen Lee, Professor Andrew Milat, Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman

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: Professor Melody Ding, Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman

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.

We 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.

Our current research programs in this space include:

Academic leaders: Professor Melody Ding, Dr Katherine Owen, Professor Philayrath Phongsavan

We are Australian and international leaders in vaping and tobacco control policy research. Our work focuses on countering the commercial influence and interference of the tobacco and vaping industries on public health. Our research exposing tobacco industry advertising and promotion on social media in the face of comprehensive advertising bans has led to regulation and policy changes both in Australia, and internationally. We are a lead partner on the Generation Vape research study. We are also frequent commentators in the news media and government expert advisors on tobacco and vaping control topics.

Academic leaders:  Associate Professor Becky Freeman, Dr Bronwyn McGill, Dr Christina Watts

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.

This includes undertaking 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 leads to changes in residents’ physical activity behaviour, their sense of community connection and safety.

Academic leaders: Professor Melody Ding, Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Professor Ben Smith, Associate Professor Michelle Lim, Dr Karine Manera

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.

We have 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.  We also lead research into the use of media to undermine health outcomes.

Academic leaders: Professor Philayrath Phongsavan, Associate Professor Becky Freeman, Dr Blythe O’Hara, Dr James Kite

EPOCH 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

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
View academic profile

Deputy Director

Professor Ben Smith
View academic profile

Contact us

  • Level 6, The Hub Charles Perkins Centre D17

Our location

Latest news