This program of research investigates musculoskeletal diseases as a socio-environmentally related health outcome. Demographic, economic, policy and behavioural factors, known as ‘the social determinants of health’, influence the risk factors for, and the outcomes associated with, musculoskeletal disease. This unique program of research also investigates the meeting of the ‘social’ and the ‘biological’ in musculoskeletal disease. Epigenetic processes are responsive to experiences during development, growth and aging, and have important roles in regulating gene expression. Referred to as ‘social epigenomics’, this field of research focuses on explaining how experience becomes biology.

Dr Sharon Brennan-Olsen
Program Director
Sharon Brennan-Olsen is Senior Research Fellow and Program Director of ‘Social Epigenomics and Population Health’, funded by a competitive NHMRC Career Development Fellowship. Her research interests are the social determinants of musculoskeletal diseases and related health service utilisation, and her more recent investigations into biological mechanisms, such as inflammation, that may underpin the social gradient of osteoporosis, osteosarcopenia and arthritis diseases. She manages the Osteosarcopenia Roadshow (accredited training workshop for General Practitioners), and is a member of the Women in Bone Science Committee of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. Her track record includes >130 peer-reviewed publications, and has been involved in attracting research grants exceeding $3.5million.

Dr Alison Beauchamp
Project Director
Dr Alison Beauchamp is Senior Research Fellow and project director within the Social Epigenomics and Population Health program and is currently funded by a NHMRC MRFF Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) Fellowship. This 2-year part-time Fellowship will evaluate a process for implementing a clinical communication method called “teach-back” to improve outcomes for people with chronic disease. Alison trained as a social epidemiologist with Sharon Brennan-Olsen, and has recently transferred from Deakin University where she was an ARC post-doctoral Fellow. Her projects at Deakin involved working with community and healthcare practitioners to co-design and implement health literacy interventions, using an intervention mapping approach. Alison is also a part-time senior research fellow at Monash University. In this role, she supports rural healthcare services to build research capacity among their staff.

Dr Lynne Millar
Project Director
Lynne Millar PhD BA (Hons Psych) BA (Psych) graduated PhD (Deakin University) in 2014 while working in public health research. Her thesis was entiled ‘Community-based Childhood Obesity Prevention’. She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC), Victoria University. She provides the research underpinning the Australian Health Tracker series and her role there is to determine and track population levels of chronic diseases in Australia, add to the evidence base for the prevention of chronic diseases, and support policy that targets the determinants of chronic diseases.
  • Social determinants of musculoskeletal health
  • Health equity
  • Biological mechanisms underpinning social gradient of musculoskeletal disease
  • Social disadvantage across the lifecourse and later onset of musculoskeletal disease
  • Brimbank Birth Cohort
  • Community engagement
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