Monday, 28 September 2015

Getting to know SPHPM’s newest PhD student Joanna Schwarzman

Joanna Schwarzman joins the School to begin her PhD as part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project Evaluation in Health Promotion: Gathering evidence to improve effectivenessShe is being supervised by Associate Professor Ben Smith who has designed the ARC project.

Q: Where did you work before coming to Monash?
A: I've just moved back to Melbourne after seven years in the Northern Territory working in Aboriginal Community Controlled Primary Health Care in a chronic disease prevention role, and before that as a physiotherapist. During that time I studied a Master of Public Health which really cemented my interest in population health and disease prevention work and research.

Q: How did you decide on your PhD topic?
A: I applied for the advertised ARC-funded project Evaluation in Health Promotion: Gathering evidence to improve effectiveness. The project was designed and led by Ben Smith here at Monash, together with interstate collaborators Adrian Bauman and Chris Rissel (NSW) and Trevor Shilton (WA).

Q: What was it about this topic that caught your attention?
A: The topic really interested me because of my most recent experience working to support new preventative health teams across the NT, and assisting them to address challenges they faced, most recently challenges with evaluating their work. The study aims to identify the barriers and enablers to evaluation practice and use in the health promotion and prevention field. I'm really excited that this study has the potential to guide the sector in addressing some of the barriers.

Q: And exactly how are you going about the PhD, what sort of research will you be conducting?
A: I started eight weeks ago, so I'm still getting my head around the ins and outs of doing a PhD. The study involves semi-structured interviews, then a survey of health promotion and prevention workforce and managers in government and non-government organisations from around Australia.
We will also review evaluation reports from health promotion and prevention teams. The mixed-methods approach aims to give us a detailed insight into the current state of evaluation in this field of preventative health, and identify aspects in which improvements can be made.

Q: And how do you see your PhD research contributing to the field of health promotion? Whereabouts does your research fit in that the body of knowledge?
A: We know from pilot research by Louise Francis and Ben Smith that there is interest and motivation to improve evaluation practices in the field. Practitioners, managers and funders are looking to build evaluation capacity, however there is little published empirical evidence to guide this work.

This study will be the first of sufficient size to explore influences to evaluation practice and use across types government, non-government organisations and in different states of Australia. It's also designed to explore the views of experienced practitioners, so the findings will be directly relevant to those working in the field. We're looking forward to getting going with the first phase this month.

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