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Research and Partnerships 

Life-Course & Place-Based Approach

The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia has adopted two intersecting themes to help to understand and organise our research, programs and advocacy in ways that reflect the needs of rural, Aboriginal and disadvantaged communities.


A life course approach takes into account how the context in which we live influences our health, prosperity and opportunities across the course of our lives.

Our health is shaped by the conditions in which we are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life (such as health system policies and funding, development agendas, employment and economic opportunity, housing, educational attainment etc) . These are called the social determinants of health.

The life course approach is an integrated approach to support communities to address the drivers of good and poor health by understanding how social, economic, biological, behavioural, environmental and other factors impact on health at different stages of people’s lives.

The life course approach acknowledges that health status is cumulative.  Factors such as poverty in early childhood, or  involvement with the criminal justice system in early adulthood, all impact on health across the course of a person’s life.  


The stage that people are at in their lives, however, is not sufficient to understanding or addressing their health needs.  Where they live, work and age is equally important.  For example, we know that living in a small rural town increases the chances of a person having two or more chronic disease and poor access to health care. 


Interventions to improve health therefore need to understand how stage of life, and the places in which they live, interact to create disadvantage in order to improve access to traditional health and medical services and improve health outcomes.

Our research, policy and service streams are integrated programs organising into the different life stages, and places, using the links on the right.

Social Determinants

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Work Streams

(click below to view our current & future projects)

Community-Led Research Centres



We are ambitious for real change

Poverty, inequitable funding, and ineffective service delivery models are all modifiable factors that contribute to poor health in rural, remote, Aboriginal and other disadvantaged communities.

For more than 20 years governments, universities and civil society organisations have talked about the importance of meaningfully engaging communities in designing and transforming the quality and efficiency of our health care system.  But to date, this has been largely a top-down approach and piecemeal.


The Productivity Commission recently argued that to transform health policy and outcomes in Australia we must embrace “accountability to the people actually impacted by policy and service delivery, with some ‘letting go’ of power and service specifications”.

Transforming rural and remote health care, and the provision of care to disadvantaged communities more generally, is less about fixing ‘problems’ with communities, and fixing problems with the way we engage people with lived experience of challenges.

This requires new approaches and models designed by communities for government, rather than government designing community consultation methods for people. 


It means we must change in the way that governments work, rather than changing in the way communities work.  As noted by the  “traditional siloed approach of government service delivery has largely failed to make a dent”.

According to the Productivity Commission we have to “countenance radical options, including devolving responsibility; parting with top-down power; allowing localised entrepreneurship and giving front-line workers a wide remit for practical problem solving”.

Our ambition is to help people with lived experience of disadvantage to bring their leadership and knowledge to the policy reform table.  


Our job is not to “represent” disadvantaged people, or act as an “expert” voice on their behalf, but to facilitate, enable and support people with lived experience to have their voices heard so that public policy can deliver better, more efficient and higher quality health outcomes.

Do you share our ambition?

Find out how you can help below.

Desert Road
The Foundation’s Research Plan has been developed through a collaboration with rural, remote and Aboriginal people.  Take a look at the Plan, and if you see something that aligns with your research priorities, or a topic you want to pursue, then contact us and let’s talk about applying for a collaborative research grant to design and evaluate new models of care.  We have done this with many universities and research organisations including the University of Sydney, Charles Darwin University, Deloitte Social Impact and others.  We can provide the industry linkages, and local credibility, while you provide the research expertise and ability to amplify any findings to influence the health of disadvantaged communities for the better.  The competitive advantage we offer is that your research will actually lead to good policy and improved health because it is informed by people on the ground.  
We have more than 20 years on-the-ground experience working with rural, remote and Aboriginal people to understand their needs, help with community planning and co-designing health care models that reflect local needs. Even better, we have successfully helped more than 17 communities establish and sustain local health care systems in the most difficult to service regions!  We have been hired by all tiers of government, Primary Health Networks, Local Health Networks and others to help them to meaningfully engage with local people and deliver solutions that work.  Better still, 100% of any money we make goes into delivering health and social care to rural, remote and Aboriginal people!
We have been honoured to become custodians of donations and other forms of economic support on behalf of rural, remote and Aboriginal people to undertake activities and programs that make a meaningful impact on their health and life outcomes.  

How you can help

The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia is the only major mainstream health organisation that is headquartered in a remote (MMM6) community.  We don’t just believe in improving outcomes for rural, remote and Aboriginal people - we put our money (and people) where they can do the most good!

Partners & Collaborators

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