The University of Newcastle, Australia

Turning health research into action

Dr Alice Grady is using implementation science and new technology to translate public health research into real-world benefits for the community.

Improving public health requires robust research—but that’s just the beginning. Dr Alice Grady is using new technologies, such as web-based programs, to put evidence into practice in a way that is effective, sustainable and can be scaled up to reach more people. By turning research into action, Alice is helping to prevent chronic diseases and create healthier communities.

“To impact lives, we need to implement evidence-based practices that help to improve people’s health behaviours and prevent chronic disease. Digital interventions, such as online programs and phone apps, are a promising and potentially cost-effective solution.

“Technology has the ability to overcome geographical barriers, with minimal investment, to help more people benefit from evidence-based health practices.”

Improving children’s nutrition

Alice is particularly interested in improving children’s health and nutrition through clever online systems.

One of her collaborative projects successfully developed a web-based program—titled feedAustralia—to help over 50 childcare services across NSW adhere to the required dietary guidelines for children. Carried out in partnership with research institutes and health service providers, the evaluation of feedAustralia was a winner at both the 2018 Hunter New England Excellence Awards and the 2018 NSW Health Awards. The innovative program has  gained national attention, garnering $1.2 million in funding support from the Commonwealth Department of Health to be expanded nationwide.

While public health research continues to uncover answers and new hope for communities, our knowledge of how to successfully implement the research findings in a meaningful and scalable way remains limited. Alice’s research explores the barriers and enablers to rolling out effective health interventions—helping quality programs and research benefit more people.

“Poor implementation of evidence-based practices in community and healthcare systems can significantly hinder local, state and national efforts to prevent chronic disease, such as childhood obesity.

“By researching how to implement interventions well, we can increase the public health impact considerably.”

Global impact

Alice’s research is contributing to global impact. Over the past few years, she has collaborated internationally with prominent evidence-driven organisations such as the Cochrane Collaboration and Word Health Organization. Her work has been published in renowned journals such as The Medical Journal of Australia, been presented at 22 national and international conferences, and received more than $330,000 in funding.

In 2018, Alice was invited to further hone her research and academic skills as a participant in the ThinkWell Early and Mid-Career Women’s Development Program, facilitated through the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Health and Medicine's Gender Equity Committee.

“The program was a strategic step towards achieving my career: to become an independent research leader in the prevention of chronic disease via the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices within community settings.”

Alongside her research, Alice also supervises PhD students with the University, allowing her a valuable opportunity to pass on her knowledge and expertise.