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As we traverse the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the future of healthcare, research in public health, big data and digital health at Curtin University coupled with its new range of postgraduate courses, is helping to change not just one life, but thousands. 

Professor Rosa Alati
Head of Curtin School of Population Health
Professor Rosa Alati is the Head of Curtin School of Population Health in Western Australia. She is an international leader in the field of life course epidemiology of health, linking familial administrative data longitudinally to develop large datasets to investigate causal pathways to health and diseases. Her research has been instrumental in identifying key risk factors for substance use and mental health disorders.

We spoke to Head of Curtin School of Population Health, Professor Rosa Alati, to find out more.

COVID-19 has changed the world – what impact has the pandemic made on the public health sector?

Many countries were insufficiently prepared to respond to the pandemic – exacerbating economic, social and health disparities. The pandemic has highlighted the critical role of epidemiology, the need for improved community health literacy and requirements for well-planned and resourced public health efforts that can be scaled up on-demand. 

How has the pandemic demonstrated the importance of health administration and management in ensuring quality patient care? 

It showed that visionary, inspirational, and proactive leadership has been critical to the COVID-19 response. Through foresight and effective management, necessary resources for healthcare organisations and essential facilities and services can be rapidly prepared, thereby minimising the disease’s spread and impact. 

Big data is changing the way we understand health care – how is big data improving public health outcomes? 

Perhaps no development has been more important than the capture, storage and analysis of large administrative and clinical data collections. These data collections, when linked across different areas of health care, provide valuable information on health and intervention outcomes across the entire population. The benefits of these big data assets will expand over time as governments make them increasingly available and the skills and technologies required to unlock their potential grow.

What foundation skills and qualities does a person need to succeed in public health? 

Public health professionals work across program management, policy development, research and surveillance so need strong communication and interpersonal skills. They must understand and respond to complexity, show a commitment to social justice, and have research, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

What courses does Curtin offer and what are the career outcomes? 

Curtin offers a range of postgraduate health courses in big data and digital health, health economics, health administration, public health, sexology, occupational health and safety, environmental health, dietetics and psychology. 

These courses equip students with knowledge, practical leadership and management skills that can be translated to the workplace, allowing them to lead and manage high performing teams in the healthcare environment.

In particular, our strong industry partnerships with the WA Department of Health, WA Country Health Service, WA Primary Health Alliance, and our advanced facilities, give our students in-demand industry skills and knowledge while they study. 

Currently we offer Commonwealth Supported Places for some of our postgraduate certificates, where the government subsidises part of the fees, significantly reducing the cost of the courses.

How is Curtin’s public health research driving positive change?

One example is our Journey to Home project, where a multidisciplinary team across health promotion, psychology, health economics, epidemiology and biostatistics are exploring approaches to increase access to secure housing and improve mental health outcomes for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Another is CERIPH (The Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health), which has achieved national and international recognition for its research over the past two decades, especially in the areas of injury control, drug use and mental health.

We are also one of the core participants in the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and have an alliance with the WA Country Health Service to transform how healthcare is delivered for people living in rural, remote and regional WA. 

Questions? Contact the editor.

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