Community Health Services Research

The Community Health Services Research teams lies within the Centre for Community Child Health, which was established in 1994 in collaboration with our campus partners, The Royal Childrens and the University of Melbourne.

The Community Health Services Research team works towards the best possible health outcomes for children via effective and sustainable interventions that can be systematically delivered in the universal, primary and secondary sectors.

At the core of our research program are population-based efficacy and translational trials of the highest quality, informed by our longitudinal studies. Focus areas include obesity, mental health, language and literacy, hearing impairment, sleep, and food allergy.  Health services and health economics perspectives are integral to our work.

We create platforms and capacity, via:

  • The Child Health CheckPoint, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children's physical health biorepository
  • The Australian Paediatric Research Network, a platform for national secondary care trials and health services research;
  • Harmonised studies of language and related outcomes in hearing and hearing-impaired cohorts, informing and informed by CCCH's Victorian Infant
  • Hearing Screening Program
    • The Healthcare Innovation Affinity group, facilitating healthcare innovations on Campus and their translation;
    • Student and intern research opportunities; and
    • Our program's direct policy and practice relevance.
Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Dr Aarthy Joseph
Role: 
Research Assistant
Alanna Hanvey
Role: 
PhD Student
Alisha Gulenc
Role: 
Research Assistant
Anita Milkovic
Role: 
Honours Student
Dr Daryl Efron
Role: 
Senior Research Fellow
Elissa York
Role: 
Research Assistant
Elizabeth Nicolaou
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Emma Scibberras
Role: 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Emma-Leigh Rudduck
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Freya Kahn
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Professor Gary Freed
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Gayan Kathriachchige
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Dr Gehan Roberts
Role: 
Senior Research Officer
Dr Georgie Columbus
Role: 
Senior Research Assistant
Ha Le
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
Jake Pattison
Role: 
Research Assistant
James Mcgann
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Jasmeen Oberoi
Role: 
Research Assistant
Jennifer Vlok
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Jenny Song
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Jess Boyce
Role: 
Research Assistant
John Nguyen
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Jon Quach
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
A/ Professor Jordana Bayer
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Josh Muller
Role: 
Research Assistant
Julia Smith
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Julian Dascalu
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Kah-Ling Sia
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Kate Sievert
Role: 
Intern
Kate Lycett
Role: 
Research Assistant
Kate Paton
Role: 
Research Assistant
Kate Stephens
Role: 
Research Assistant
Kim Bui
Role: 
Research Assistant
Laura McMillan
Role: 
Research Assistant
Linde Floris
Role: 
Masters Student
Dr Lisa Gold
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Liz Varley
Role: 
Research Assistant
Lucy Rogers
Role: 
Masters Student
Marcus Callahan
Role: 
Research Assistant
Mark Farrell
Role: 
Personal Assistant
Melissa Mulraney
Role: 
Research Assistant
Najmi Ismail
Role: 
Honours Student
Nardia Zendarski
Role: 
PhD Student
Paul Hockey
Role: 
Intern
Penny Levickis
Role: 
Research Officer
Peter Carew
Role: 
PhD Student
Phillip Falkingham
Role: 
Research Assistant
Prescilla Perera
Role: 
Research Assistant
Prue Vivarini
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Rachel Neely
Role: 
Administrative Assistant- Research
Rebecca Bereny
Role: 
Masters Student
Rebecca Peat
Role: 
Project Manager
Dr Richard Liu
Role: 
Research Assistant
Sally Horne
Role: 
Research Assistant
Sarah Davies
Role: 
Senior Research Assistant
Shanavi Kulkarni
Role: 
Honours Student
Sherryn Tobin
Role: 
Research Assistant
Sonia Khano
Role: 
Research Assistant
Sophie Dunn
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Stephanie Heggen
Role: 
Project Assistant
Stephen Hearps
Role: 
Data Manager
Dr Susan Clifford
Role: 
Project Manager
Tara Purcell
Role: 
Scholarly Selective Student
Tiffany Lee
Role: 
Honours Student
Dr Valerie Sung
Role: 
Research Assistant
Yewande Adelaja
Role: 
Masters Student
Zeffie Poulakis
Role: 
Research Officer

Allergy in the Community Trial (ACT)

The Allergy in the Community Trial is a study aimed to determine whether a new model of care for managing food allergies in children can be safely and effectively implemented in the wider community in order to relieve overwhelmed tertiary paediatric allergy services.

Australian Paediatric Research Network – Harriet Hiscock

The APRN is a network of over 400 Australian paediatricians who are keen to contribute to new research that is relevant to both public and private practice.  The network is the first of its kind in Australia. It builds research capacity by involving more clinicians in research activities and enhancing recruitment for community based research projects. Projects include our annual Multi-Topic survey, five-yearly national 'snapshot' of paediatric practice, Delphi survey to establish paediatrician's research priorities and the Sleeping Sound with ADHD trial.

Attention to Sleep Project – Kate Lycett

Up to 70% of children with ADHD experience sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, resisting going to bed and being tired in the morning.  However, it is unclear whether sleep problems in children with ADHD persist over time, whether they are associated with other problems that children with ADHD can experience such as anxiety, and whether they have a long term impact on children's health and wellbeing over and above the impact of ADHD alone.
The project represents one of the first prospective cohort study to investigate sleep problems in children with ADHD. Between 2011 and 2012, families of 392 children with ADHD were recruited from 21 paediatric practices across the state of Victoria. Data were collected over three time points: baseline, six and 12 months. Results will be released in early 2015.

Baby Biotics

The causes of infant colic (crying) are unclear, and its management options limited. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are of health benefit, and have been suggested to reduce crying in certain groups of infants with colic. The Baby Biotics Study is the largest randomised controlled trial in the world to show that probiotics are not effective for all infants with colic. A follow-up study is currently underway to determine the longterm outcomes of infant colic.

Baby Business

Across the first 12 months of life, around 20% of parents report a problem with their infant's sleep or crying, and these can result in a range of negative outcomes.  The Baby Business intervention provided parents with information about normal infant sleep and cry patterns and strategies to manage these behaviours.  Families were recruited at birth, and followed-up at infant age four and six months. Compared to families who did not receive the intervention, intervention parents: reported fewer depression symptoms at six months and a reduction in depression symptoms over time, were less likely to spend 20+ minutes resettling their infant, were less likely to change formula, and had fewer doubts about their ability to settle their infant. For parents of infants who feed 11+ times per day, intervention parents reported fewer sleep and crying problems. Over 500 families are being followed-up again when children are around 24-months of age.

Child Health CheckPoint – Melissa Wake

The Child Health CheckPoint is a new phase of the Growing Up in Australia study. It is a special one-off physical health assessment offered to the 11-12 year old children in Growing Up in Australia.
The aim of the project is to learn more about the health of young Australians as they pass through the 'checkpoint' between being children and teenagers. Its information will help researchers and policy-makers understand how a child's first decade determines their health as they approach the teenage years. Because health issues can run in families, we also offer a health check to the child's parent or guardian in the same session. We hope the data will help improve prevention and treatment of illness, and the promotion of health throughout society.
Growing Up in Australia's younger children are invited to take part as the CheckPoint moves around Australia in 2014-15. The state-of-the-art health activities measure heart, lung, kidney and bone health, fitness, strength, vision, hearing, diet, activity and more.

CHIVOS – Melissa Wake

The Children with Hearing Impairment in Victoria Outcomes Study (CHIVOS) has followed a group of children with hearing loss from their early primary school years to early adulthood. The study gathered information from the participants and their parents/guardians via assessments and questionnaires about language, school, mental health and their overall wellbeing. This information is helping to answer important questions about the true impact of hearing loss on the lives of children and families.
Information from CHIVOS participants was first gathered in 1999-2000 when the children were seven to eight years old. A second wave of information was collected when these children began secondary school, in 2004-6. Information was collected a third time in 2010-11, when participants were 17-19 years old.

Cool Little Kids

One in seven school aged children experience “internalising problems” reflecting inner distress. Childhood internalising problems, also known as anxious or emotional problems, can have longer-term consequences in adolescence and adulthood on mental health, relationships, education and employment opportunities.
Cool Little Kids is a population-level randomised controlled trial of a parenting program aiming to prevent shy / sensitive preschool children from developing anxious and emotional problems during the transition to school.

Families in Mind

Behaviour and emotional problems affect one in seven Australian children. These problems include aggression, hyperactivity, disobedience, anxiety, social withdrawal and depression. Up to 50% of preschool children's problems continue through the childhood years.  Designed by child doctors, child psychologists and maternal and child health nurses, Families in Mind aims to prevent these problems in a large population based sample, before school entry. This three-armed randomised cluster controlled trial comprises of the:

  1. Combined arm: a brief universal group parenting program (Toddlers Without Tears; TWT) plus a targeted one-on-one family support program if needed (Family Check-Up; FCU)
  2. Targeted arm: a one-on-one family support program if needed (FCU)
  3. Usual care arm: no intervention but families can access help from usual services

We will examine whether combining the two programs (combined arm) is more effective than one program alone (targeted arm), when children are 3 and 4-5 years old.

Longitudinal Study of Australian Children Growing Up in Australia – Melissa Wake

Growing Up in Australia is the biggest ongoing national study of children ever mounted in Australia - following 10,000 children recruited in 2004 as babies and preschoolers from right across the nation. Studying the impact of Australia's unique social and cultural environment on the next generation, it aims to add to the understanding of early childhood development, inform social policy, and identify opportunities for interventions.
Around 5000 infants and 5000 4-5 year olds participated in Wave 1, to be followed by biennial waves of data collection. The study has been so successful that it is now likely to continue through to 2018.
LSAC is funded by the Australian Government, and conducted from the Australian Institute of Family Studies. The Consortium Advisory Group comprises leading Australian researchers from institutions including the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Prof Melissa Wake of the Centre for Community Child Health heads the Growing Up Health Design Team. We have published extensively from LSAC, focusing to date on sleep, obesity, mental health and overall development and functioning.

Language for Learning – Melissa Wake

7-15% of preschool children have language delay, so are vulnerable to poor lifelong academic, social and economic outcomes.  Trials suggest that intervention helps, but these are mainly in children presenting to clinicians for care. It's still not known whether screening all preschoolers for language delay and offering treatment to all those detected leads to better outcomes, or at what cost.

Memory Maestros Study

Children go to school to learn – but for some children, learning can be challenging. Some learning problems are due to “low working memory”. Working memory is what lets us remember information just long enough to do a task. Most school subjects, like reading and maths, need working memory.
Several studies suggest that improving working memory helps some children learn better. However, no one yet knows if this approach improves long-term learning skills in primary school children.

Memory Maestros has two parts:

  • The first part follows Grade 1 children from 44 Melbourne schools. We want to find out how well working memory predicts later reading, spelling and maths.
  • The second part is only for children with lower working memory. We’re testing whether a new program, called CogMed, improves children’s working memory and helps them learn better.
  • Memory Maestros recruited over 1700 children and families in 2012 and we are seeing them again in 2014. We plan to find out the answers to the study questions in 2015.

Sleep Well, Be Well – Jon Quach

Study 2: Translational randomized controlled trial
The trial aimed todetermine whether a brief sleep education program can improve children's sleep problems during the first year of primary school. In addition, it examined whether improving child sleep problems had positive flow on benefits for child behaviour, social and emotional functioning, learning and parent mental health.  The intervention was effective.
The second Sleep Well - Be Well study is funded by a project grant from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.
This study aims to find out whether the same sleep education program in the first trial, is effective when delivered by school nurses from the Victorian Primary School Nursing for children with sleep problems in Grade Prep. We will examine whether improving children's sleep has positive benefits for the child's behavior, learning and their parent's mental health up to 1 year later. If effective and cost-effective, it could be readily incorporated into the existing school health system.

Sleeping Sound with ADHD Translational Trial

Our first Sleeping Sound with ADHD trial showed that our intervention was able to improve child and family functioning. We now propose to test the translation of this program at the population level by training community paediatricians and psychologists in delivering this behavioural sleep intervention to families of children with ADHD and sleep problems.  The trial is taking place in Victoria and Queensland in partnership with the Australian Paediatric Research Network. If this intervention can be translated successfully, then this would have the real potential to improve outcomes for children with ADHD and their families at a population level.

VicCHILD - Melissa Wake

Unlocking the secrets of hearing loss
VicCHILD is the Victorian Childhood Hearing Impairment Longitudinal Databank.
It's a Victorian register and research databank of children born with a permanent hearing loss. With the help of Victorian families, VicCHILD is working to unlock the secrets of hearing loss.

Over 350 families have already contributed data to VicCHILD.
The databank holds a range of information about all Victorian children born with a permanent hearing loss. The information collected and stored by VicCHILD will: help researchers and health professionals gain a better understanding of the causes and outcomes of childhood hearing loss help researchers understand why some children with a hearing loss do well, while others face greater difficulties improve intervention and treatment and ultimately the lives of children with permanent hearing loss and their families.

Funding: 
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
  • Australian Research Council (ARC)
  • The Sax Institute
  • The Victorian Deaf Education Institute (VDEI)
  • US National Institutes of Health
  • Foundation for Children
  • Phyllis Connor Memorial Trust
  • Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY)
  • Telstra Foundation
  • Telstra Community Development Fund
  • National Heart Foundation
  • Australian Rotary Health Research Fund
  • Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
  • Victorian Government Department of Early Childhood, Education and Care (DEECD)
  • Australian Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
  • The Benevolent Society
  • The R.E. Ross Trust
  • The Helen Macpherson Smith Trust
Collaborations: 
  • Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)
  • Victorian Deaf Education Institute (VDEI)
  • Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne
  • Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital
  • The R.E. Ross Trust
  • Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  • Parenting Research Centre
  • Deakin University
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics