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 sole CI on a newly funded ARC Discovery Project, ‘How do expectations shape testing in healthcare: A sociological study’ ($386,500). The first of its kind in Australia, the project investigates the factors shaping optimistic expectations for particular tests and for testing in general in healthcare. He is also lead CI on another 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.

Health and illness experience

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.

Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic is a Monash Fellow and internationally renowned sociologist of health and illness, whose work focuses primarily on qualitative research into health and illness experiences. She leads the Health in Society Research Network (HiSNet): a unique interdisciplinary research program that uses phenomenological, discursive and narrative-oriented qualitative methodologies to undertake critical social inquiry into health and illness experiences in the contemporary world. Renata is a Co-director (with A/Professor Lorraine Smith, The University of Sydney) of Healthtalk Australia (

Associate Professor Kokanovic’s research program incorporates several interdisciplinary projects, with a particular focus on phenomenology of mental illness. These include: ARC LP ‘Personal experiences of depression and recovery’ with Sue Ziebland (Oxford University) and Jane Gunn (UoM); ARC LP ‘Supported decision making for people diagnosed with psychosis, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder’ with Professor Bernadette McSherry, Professor Helen Hermann and Dr Lisa Brophy (UoM); and ARC DP ‘Experience of addiction and recovery with Associate Professor Suzanne Frazer, Professor David Moore (Curtin University) and Professor Carla Treloar (UNSW). Through these projects and associated work, HisNet is creating a unique set of online resources dedicated to people’s lived experiences of a wide range of health/illness conditions. These online resources use narrative research to provide targeted support for people experiencing health/illness conditions, and to transform care experiences by influencing policy, practice and education.

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

97802305256274Dr 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 health and illness.

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.