The Population Child Health (PCH) Research Group is a multidisciplinary health systems research team working across Australia and Internationally from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Randwick precinct and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN). We conduct translational health services and health systems research to optimise child health outcomes and address inequities.

Our goals

We  improve quality of care, integrate services, promote equity, and enhance access for the ultimate benefit of children and young people.

Our objectives are to:

  1. Work with children and young people to discover the factors affecting their health, wellbeing, and access to the care they need.
  2. Conduct translational research that focuses on sustainably tailoring health systems to the needs of children and young people.
  3. Develop, implement, and evaluate scalable interventions that can be delivered by existing practitioners to increase access to high quality paediatric care for all children.

Research strengths

Central to our work is Consumer and Community Engagement. Our multidisciplinary research brings together clinicians across paediatric disciplines within health services. Our researchers have expertise in epidemiology, statistics, implementation science, qualitative research methods and economics. We assess the impact, implementation, and cost effectiveness of novel models of care and health innovations delivered across the health system embedded within gold standard health systems randomised controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and longitudinal cohorts.

Our partners include Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN), Local Health Districts (LHDs), NSW health, Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisations (ACCHOs), Primary Health Networks (PHNs) and the national Child Unlimited Network. With our partners we embed child health, implementation science and health economics researchers into health service initiatives to inform policy and service delivery.

Our results

  • Academic excellence
    383 peer-reviewed publications, $42 million funding successes
  • Innovation & engagement
    Growth of our team and building research projects
  • Social impact
    Broadened national and international research networks


6 academic & professional staff
> $1.3 million successful grants
4 HDR students
Established 3 streams


8 academic & professional staff
> $5 million successful grants
4 HDR students
> 10 projects
International collaborations


14 academic & professional staff
> $4.5 million successful grants
4 HDR students
> 15 projects
100+ links with external partners


14 academic & professional staff
> $13.8 million successful grants
4 HDR students
> 20 projects
100+ links with external partners

Our experts

  • Ms Mariyam Cadiri (Research Assistant)
  • Ms Mei Chan (Research Officer)
  • Dr Carmen Crespo (Research Associate)
  • Dr Jahid Khan (Research Associate)
  • Dr Tammy Meyers-Morris (Research Associate)
  • Mr Jack Murphy (Research Assistant)
  • Dr Hayley Smithers-Sheedy (Senior Research Associate)

Our extended team

Jackie Curtis, Shanti Raman, Valsamma Eapen, Tony Mendoza Diaz, Jane Shrapnel, Matthew Hooke, John Eastwood, Paul Chay, Michelle Jersky, Natasha Larter, Louise Sealy, Jennifer Stephensen, Paul Hotton, Emma Dickins, Stephanie Hodgson, Jordana McLoones, Gaston Arnolda, Vanessa Sarkozy, Kate Hunter, Ania Anderst, Lauren Hamill, Ingrid Wolfe, Ibu-mei and James John.

Our affiliated partners

  • George Institute of Global Studies
  • Endocrinology, Garvan Institute and St Vincents Hospital
  • Renal Medicine, St Vincents Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospitals
  • Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University
  • Infectious Diseases, St Vincent’s Hospital 
  • Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney
  • Institute of Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Sydney
  • Australian and New Zealand Musculoskeletal Studies Clinical Trials Network

Project overview

Our research addresses 3 key themes: Integrating Care; Priority Populations and the First 2000 Days.

3 key themes: Integrating Care; Priority Populations and the First 2000 Days.

Our evidence-based projects aim to improve quality of care, integrate services, promote equity, and enhance access for the ultimate benefit of children and young people. We work with children, young people, parents/carers and families by recruiting people with lived experience of chronic and complex diseases to act as research advisors. All our projects include impact evaluation (outcomes: health service use; patient-reported outcomes such as quality of life; patient-reported experiences), economic analysis (including cost-effectiveness analysis), and implementation evaluation.

Integrating Care

  • SC4C offers an integrated model of care, in which paediatricians work directly with GPs in their practices to bring the best possible close-to-home care to children and their families. Evaluation from the UK showed the model resulted in a 39% reduction in new patient hospital appointments, a 19% reduction in speciality referrals, and a 22% reduction in ED attendances 12 months after implementation of a similar model. Pilot data from Victoria has shown a 5% decrease in OP referrals and most importantly a 16% increase in parental confidence in GP care and satisfaction in the care they received. Through an NHMRC grant we have taken this model to 23 GP practices in Sydney and Melbourne, and the model will be expanded to rural areas with our successful Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Primary Health Care Research Grant: Strengthening Care for Rural Children (SC4RC), which aims to deliver and rigorously evaluate a primary health care strengthening program for rural children.

  • Learning from the Covid pandemic, SUSTAIN, successfully funded by the NSW Health TRGS scheme, aims to deliver a telehealth version of the SC4C model to GP practices in Central and Eastern Sydney, South West Sydney and Murrumbidgee PHNs. The SUSTAIN model of care, lasting 10 months in each GP practice, consists of:

    • Modular paediatric training through the Sydney Child Health Program – to be done as and when GPs have time to engage but completed within 1 year.
    • Fortnightly virtual care co-consultation sessions with the paediatrician.
    • Monthly “lunch and learn” on-line case-based discussions to discuss “problem cases”.
    • Online and telephone paediatric hospital-based support for signposting and problem solving.
  • If families are asked about their social and emotional needs, they are up to 40 times more likely to have these needs met. EPIC-CP asks families what they need from services and then uses a co-designed social care navigator pathway to meet the needs of these disadvantaged children and young people with Cerebral Palsy. Funded by the CP Foundation and SCHN the EPIC CP team, led by A.Prof Sue Woolfenden, will deliver and evaluate their EPIC CP pathway by the end of 2023. Sue is also leading the psychosocial pillar of the Luminesce Alliance Developing Brain Study proposal with SCHN, UNSW, and University of Sydney collaborators extending this concept to children with other neurological and developmental needs.

  • RuralKidsGPS is an innovative, integrated model of care. Care coordinators will work closely with care teams and families to meet the needs of children with complex health conditions through shared care plans, technology-enabled healthcare, and capacity building for families and local healthcare providers. RuralKidsGPS builds on a successful model of care—KidsGPS—developed by SCHN. Evaluation of this model within urban Sydney showed a 40% reduction in Emergency Department (ED) presentations and a 42% reduction in day-only admissions over two years, saving the health system $2.5million/annum and families >50,000km of travel. RuralKidsGPS will extend and evaluate the model across four rural LHDs: Murrumbidgee, Southern, Western, and Northern New South Wales. If proven acceptable and cost effective, RuralKidsGPS could be delivered to the nearly 100,000 children across rural NSW who live with a chronic medical condition. RuralKidsGPS received NSW health Translational Research Grant Scheme (TRGS) funding starting in July 2021.

  • The CYPHP is the largest paediatric health systems transformation program in the UK involving 120,000 children across two London boroughs. The trial is co-led by Prof. Lingam (UNSW) and Dr Ingrid Wolfe (Kings). Children receiving the CYPHP integrated model of care had a 13% lower non-elective admission rates compared to those receiving enhanced usual care. In addition, children in the CYPHP group had improved quality of life and improvements in clinical symptoms after the intervention. Importantly we found children registered with intervention practices were 50% more likely to be prescribed a spacer for their asthma compared with children registered in enhanced usual care practices. Children with severe asthma seen by the CHILDS service compared with those seen in primary care, were significantly more likely to have asthma action plans 76% versus 37%, and asthma control monitored 89% versus 53%. The program has been adopted across South Thames, presented in parliament, and informed the NHS plan for 2025.

  • The PEACH project aims to reduce inequitable health outcomes by providing vulnerable populations with enhanced access to health services. The project identifies and supports priority patients with complex psychosocial needs, including patients from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, people from CALD communities, people who live with a disability, or children who are in out of home care. The PEACH project establishes priority pathways to enable earlier, supported, and integrated access to SCHN’s services. The SCHN featured the PEACH project as the ‘In the Spotlight’ Quality Improvement Project. The PEACH project is funded by NSW Health Paediatric Priority Funding over 3 years.

  • Our work studying the myriad innovations created through COVID-19 was a unique opportunity to understand the healthcare system and select the best innovations e.g., telehealth for rural communities to upscale and mainstream in the future. We co-designed the Resilient Healthcare for Children framework that informed the NSW Covid-19 research response plan. Our work on Covid health services trends for respiratory illness was used by the US CDC and the UK winter planning initiatives; our work documenting the 55% increase in mental health presentations for children has led to increased NSW children’s community mental health funding.

  • Led by Dr Homeira, the CoMPAs program showed that an integrated suite of asthma interventions resulted in a 60% reduction in number of asthmatic children presenting with acute asthma exacerbations to the emergency room. She is now scaling this intervention up for a national trial.

  • The Growing Healthy Kids study delivers a comprehensive integrated weight management service to children in South West Sydney where 98% of children in the service have severe psychological and social needs.

  • Alpha NSW aimed to create a health intelligence system that responds to the changing needs of the population. The project also aims to determine how frontline workers could benefit from a data analytic platform that informs service development and delivery. The final report has been submitted to the Ministry of Health.

  • In partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), we led the project Evaluation of the Proof of Concept Child Digital Health Record (CDHR). The CDHR is an electronic version of the information captured in hardcopy baby books, such as the Blue Book in NSW. We have evaluated the process of developing a CDHR, which will store a child’s milestones, health, growth, development, and immunisations throughout early childhood (0-4 years). Our report considers the challenges encountered and the implications for product delivery with a view to informing future state and national rollouts.

  • More than one million young Australians experience mental illness each year, and half of all young people experience at least one period of mental ill-health before the age of 25. The YIP project has found that integrated care significantly decreases depression scores in young people. We will now co-develop an integrated pathway of care for young people with mental health difficulties in Australia.  With increased funding in mental health, we need to streamline patient centred services, so services are delivered around the needs of clients.

  • More than 2 million Australians will require transition from child to adult services over the next 20 years. Our pilot RCT evidence showed that structured transition interventions can increase adherence to care and use of adult health services. However, there are no national guidelines or standardised models of care for transition across Australia. Parents and young people have told us, through our ongoing consultation, that they need more structured help through the transition process. We aim to conduct an individual randomised controlled trial, across three states, to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a structured paediatric-adult transition intervention (Transition Compass) for young people with chronic health conditions. Transition compass consists of in person transition coordination (up to 1-year pre-transfer to adult services and 1 year post transfer), behaviour change self-management training and long-term use of Perx, a digital care platform for condition self-management and behaviour change.

First 2000 Days

  • FDCC is a holistic, first 2000 days model of care for migrant and refugee populations. Our team has been successful in securing TRGS funding to evaluate the impact of an integrated Child and Family Health (CFH) hub on attendance at CFH services, completion of developmental checks, support for child growth and development, breastfeeding and maternal wellbeing, and meeting family psychosocial needs. FDCC is TRGS funding and started in July 2021.

  • Our Healthier Wealthier Families project tested the feasibility and benefits of linking families to financial counselling services. We are assessing whether this initiative improves responses to poverty and deprivation in families of children aged 0-5 years.

  • NHMRC funded SEARCH has been Australia’s largest long-term study of the health and wellbeing of urban Aboriginal Children. SEARCH is a partnership between researchers from numerous institutions, the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC), and four Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs). Our preliminary results showed increased prevalence of hearing problems, risk of developmental disability, and language delay among urban Aboriginal Children as compared with non-Aboriginal children. Collaboration with the community and ACCHSs in SEARCH has been instrumental in our MRFF funding success (just under $900,000) for the Aboriginal Community Controlled Ear Health Support Systems (ACCESS) project. We are now working with the chief executives of 3 ACCHSs to develop a child health navigator program in their services to support children with or at risk of poor ear health and/or hearing impairment.

Priority Populations

  • This Aboriginal participatory Arts in Health parent group is a multi-award-winning program delivered at the La Perouse Aboriginal Community Health Centre. Parents, children, and providers connect through artmaking, supporting children’s physical, social, cultural, and emotional wellbeing. Our evaluations have shown that NNM participants have improved use of health services, improved mental health, new aspirations for further education and employment, enhanced resilience, and a keenness to give back to their community. We have successfully been funded by Rotary to expand NNM to Western Sydney.

  • This project aims to improve communication pathways between housing, health, and social services working with Aboriginal families in South East Sydney. The Healthy Housing project is a strong collaboration between our team, The George Institute (TGI), SPHERE, Ngarruwan Ngadju First Peoples Health and Wellbeing Research Centre, Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI), University of Wollongong, NGOs, community and primary health clinicians, and government organisations. We have completed a systematic review and qualitative interviews with multiple stakeholders and are in the process of developing clear guidelines and pathways for health and other professionals so they can more effectively support the housing needs of Aboriginal families. We will begin trialling the pathway in 2021. This project was funded by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Fellowship program.

  • The aim of this study is to understand the life course development of children who enter out-of-home care and the factors that influence their development. We found that carer mental health was a strong predictor of child related mental health. These findings have been fed back to NSW health and social care.

  • The last 200 children study is a national cohort study examining the health and well-being impacts of prolonged (up to 4-5 years) offshore immigration detention on refugee children. Indefinite mandatory immigration detention of those seeking asylum in Australia by boat is a key Australian Government policy, and this policy’s downstream impacts on refugee children and families. The consequences of such extreme prolonged detention have also not been explored in the international peer reviewed literature. The children’s treating clinicians from 10 participating sites across Australia are providing data on sociodemographic factors and health and well-being outcomes factors for up to 5 years after the children’s release from immigration detention. Preliminary findings from the baseline study have been presented at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) national Congress in May 2021 and the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) international Congress in June 2021.

International Research and Advocacy

Our team collaborates with researchers and clinicians globally to support international child health research and advocacy. Professor Karen Zwi led the development of a published Global Position Statement on the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable children and youth. We are also working with universities and health services in Fiji and Indonesia to develop evidence-based interventions to support children with neurodevelopmental disorders. We work closely with colleagues in King’s College London and have run programs in India, Pakistan, Uganda, and Mozambique. The Spring Program has informed enhancements of the Lady Health Worker Program in Pakistan and the Asha Worker Program in India. It has been adopted in the participating states and presented at the WHO. The Inscale program has led to development of telehealth (mobile phone) enhancements of the IMCI program in Uganda and Mozambique. It has informed further development of Community services during the Covid Pandemic.

Health Systems Research Leadership

  • The Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise aims to change the future of healthcare by combining research, innovation, education, and knowledge translation to drive better outcomes for communities. With a total of more than $5 billion annual revenue, this partnership combines 14 leading organizations in the Sydney region, including SCHN and UNSW, along with LHDs, hospitals, universities, and medical research institutes. SPHERE’s clinical academic groups bring together experts across disciplines to find answers to complex health challenges.

  • Lingam set up and co-leads Child Unlimited. Child Unlimited connects more than 200 world leading researchers and clinicians with children who live with chronic illnesses. Researchers and clinicians in the Alliance are based at children’s hospitals, research institutes, and community organisations across Australia. Child Unlimited’s mission is to enable children with chronic illness to live their best lives now and into the future. The Alliance builds on the current work of child health research organisations by leading new and collaborative research that focuses on ensuring children affected by chronic illness successfully navigate the journey to adulthood, supported by their family and community.

  • The Early Life Determinants of Health clinical academic group aims to improve policy and practice to ensure every child has the best start to life. ELDoH focuses on boosting access to health and wellbeing supports for children from vulnerable communities, such as those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and/or refugee backgrounds. The ELDoH clinical academic group includes >180 members including professors, senior clinicians, chief executives, and policymakers from SPHERE partner organisations.

  • The Luminesce Alliance is a joint venture between the Children’s Cancer Institute, Children’s Medical Research Institute, SCHN, UNSW, and University of Sydney—established with the support of the NSW Government—that brings together experts in paediatric research and translation. The Alliance aims to invest in excellent research so all children can live healthy and productive lives. Luminesce Alliance programs include research on cancer, rare diseases, and paediatric mental health.

  • BestSTART-SWS brings together world-class clinicians, researchers, and policymakers, who work with families and children to create a centre of excellence in child-health translational research. BestSTART-SWS aims to revolutionise health systems and integrate the voices of young people and their families into research efforts. The goal of BestSTART-SW is to optimise the health, development, and wellbeing of children and young people in South West Sydney, with a focus on CALD, refugee, and Indigenous populations.