Health research

Health is a strong and long-established research theme for the Sociology programme. We undertake research on health and medical technologies; health and illness experiences; public health, and; disability and injury rehabilitation. 

Health and medical technologies

Professor Alan Petersen has an international reputation as a health sociologist, with a focus on genetics and medicine (including media portrayals of innovations), genomics and public health, nanotechnologies, and stem cell treatments. He is lead CI on an ARC Discovery Project: ‘High hopes, high risk?: a sociological study of stem cell tourism’. ($239,00; plus $90,000 private benefactor grant for a PhD ‘Science in Society’ Studentship). This project investigates the expectations and experiences of those travelling overseas for stem cell treatments. It involves interviews with patients and carers, an analysis of online materials available to those contemplating treatments, and fieldwork at Chinese and Indian clinics and hospitals offering treatments. 


Dr Claire Tanner is the postdoctoral fellow on the ARC Discovery Project, High Hope, High Risk?. In this role, she is interviewing patients and carers who are travelling or contemplating travelling overseas for stem cell treatments. In 2014 she will be undertaking fieldwork in India at clinics and hospitals that offer treatments. She is working closely with Alan Petersen in developing research strengths in the sociology of new and emerging medical technologies.

Health and illness experience

Dr Mark Davis and Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic are involved in a number of projects exploring various facets of health and illness experiences; cultural aspects of health, and; social media and health technologies. 


Dr Davis has an international standing in close-focus qualitative research on HIV, hepatitis C and pandemic influenza. He leads an international, interdisciplinary team with Stephenson, N (UNSW) & Flowers, P (Glasgow Caledonian University) on an ARC Discovery Project: Pandemic influenza: people, policy, science (ARC Discovery Project: $293,000). This project investigates general public, public health and scientific responses to the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. It provides an evidence base for improved public health practice regarding pandemic influenza.  

A/ Professor Renata Kokanovic, a Monash Fellow leads a research program incorporating several interdisciplinary projects, focusing on some of the burgeoning disorders of late modernity, including ‘Personal experiences of depression and recovery’  (ARC LP, $320,000), with Ziebland S (Oxford University), Gunn J (UoM) & Highet N (beyondblue) and ‘Experiences of perinatal mental health and emotional distress in Australian Families – a person-centered ethnography’ – (Healthdirect, $455,000).

Within her Monash Fellowship, Renata is working towards interdisciplinary, international research collaborations on two mental health and illness focused projects: i) self-determination and the capacity to self-govern in people with severe mental health problems; and ii) phenomenology of early psychosis and ‘personal recovery’. In collaboration with Dr Davis and international colleagues, Renata is working towards research on emotions, body and Alzheimer’s disease.

Culture, diversity and social construction of mental illness

A/ Prof Renata Kokanovic, has a significant track record in interdisciplinary, collaborative research on culture and emotional distress, with a particular focus on narrative research on cultural meanings of ‘mental illness’ and cross-cultural medical encounters between doctors and their patients. 

Social media and health technologies


Dr Davis leads a program of research on ‘Sex, health and technology’ and is establishing international collaboration on sexual health’s new technologies. Funding for this program was awarded by the Monash Research Accelerator ($80,000) in acknowledgment of Dr Davis’s growing international reputation in this field of research.


A/Professor Kokanovic brings to her research expertise in innovative qualitative methodologies, a commitment to novel modes of research participation, dissemination of findings and knowledge transfer. Her healthtalkonline website is highly accessed and presents a significant resource for people with experiences of depression. Research on perinatal health in Australian families will establish context-sensitive online multimedia resource encompassing a wide range of experiences.

Public health and health promotion 

Public health is one of the research themes at Monash sociology. Professor Petersen and Associate Professor JaneMaree Maher are co-investigators with Fraser, S. (Lead CI), Maher, S. and Wright, J. on ‘Improving Australia’s response to childhood obesity: Prevention education and its impact on mothers and families (ARC DP: $90,000).

Associate Professor Jo Lindsay is part of a large study on Alcohol and harm minimisation among Australian university students project with Toni Schofield and Rose Leontini University of Sydney, Julie Hepworth, University of Queensland, Tara McGee, Griffith University and John Germov University of Newcastle. This ARC Linkage project with industry partners the Victorian Health Department, NSW Health Department and University Colleges Australia is the largest ever study of university students’ alcohol use and harm minimisation practices within Australia.  

Disability and injury rehabilitation 

This is an emerging research theme at Monash Sociology. Professor Petersen is also a co-investigator with Collie, A. (Lead CI), Vogel, A, Keleher, H, McClure, R., Ellis, N on ‘Determining the individual, community and societal impacts of compensable injury’ (ARC Linkage: $320,000, plus $250,000 partner contribution—Transport Accident Commission, WorkSafe, Comcare). The project examines the social, community and individual impacts of compensable injury. It involves collaborations with scholars in the Faculty of Medicine, the Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research, and organisations in the traffic accident and workplace injury compensation field. 

Alan is also a co-investigator with Lowe, I (Lead CI) and Dodds, S. on ‘A framework for assessing the social, economic and environmental impacts of new and emerging technologies’ (Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education: $86,000). This project was commissioned by DIISRTE and the findings will inform Federal Government responses to new and emerging technologies.