Women's health

Women have generally been under-represented in studies of chronic disease. Increasing social equality has led to women having similar rates of lifestyle associated risk factors for chronic disease. However, other risk factors differ between men and women, at least in part because of sexual and reproductive differences. As the challenge of multimorbidity increases with population aging, we need robust female-specific evidence around chronic disease aetiology and management to aid the development of policy to improve women’s lives through better health.

As a world leader in women's health research, the School of Public Health is uniquely positioned to effect meaningful change by producing high quality evidence for researchers, health practitioners and policy makers to enhance practice and service delivery in all areas affecting women's health.

A foundation of our research program is the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH), a world-leading national cohort study that collects data on all aspects of health across the lifespan. ALSWH survey data is linked to state and national administrative datasets, which are used to conduct research on women’s use of health and health related services, and to facilitate development of robust, evidence-based health policy and practice. UQ’s School of Public Health focuses largely on the health of women during early and mid-adulthood (e.g. maternal and child health and menopausal health), examining our understanding of how sex differences, reproductive factors, behaviours, abuse and area of residence contribute to risk of non-communicable disease.

ALSWH formed the core dataset for the International collaboration for a Life course Approach to reproductive health and Chronic disease Events (InterLACE), now a world-leading data and evidence resource, which aims to inform recommendations for study design, menopausal symptom measures, and reporting of results to improve international and cross-cultural comparisons. ALSWH also laid the foundation for our NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence on Women and Non-Communicable Diseases (CRE WaND), which aims to move women’s health beyond reproductive and sexual health to encompass and prioritise the prevention and detection of non-communicable diseases.

Our team aims to understand cancer aetiology, and how to support cancer survivors to make and maintain healthy lifestyle changes in the long term, with a particular focus on breast cancer survivorship and gynaecological cancer epidemiology.

Our research includes:

  • Understanding how reproductive factors are involved in the development of women’s cancers
  • Factors associated with patterns of care
  • Identifying modifiable behaviours that affect survival, and improving the measurement of these behaviours
  • Developing and trialling innovative behavioural change interventions with potential for mass-reach (e.g. telephone/SMS and Internet)

We investigate access to services for priority populations in relation to broader sexual and reproductive health needs. This includes menstrual health and hygiene, and access to sexual and reproductive health services such as cervical screening, contraception and pregnancy termination. We particularly focus on women living with HIV, migrant and refugee background women, young transgender and non-binary people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has been invited by research partners who have sought a collaborative community-led approach.

Our researchers are also at the forefront of endometriosis research, investigating how genetic factors, early life exposures and symptoms during adolescence contribute to its development and progression.