Project 3:

Evaluating innovative approaches to improving access to comprehensive PHC for vulnerable consumers in Community Health settings in Victoria

PhD opportunity at the Australian Institute for Primary Care and Ageing, Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University

Community Health Services (CHS) in Victoria play a key role in delivering primary health care (PHC) to local communities, including planning at the local level to meet the needs of those who may have problem accessing services. In addition to providing flexible services that meet the needs of local communities, specific programs focus services on particular potentially vulnerable groups including children, vulnerable pregnant women, refugee and asylum seekers and those with chronic disease. Many CHS employ a wide range of health professionals (including GPs) and related community service professionals to provide comprehensive integrated PHC.

Common priority population groups are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • People with an intellectual disability
  • Refugees and people seeking asylum
  • People experiencing homelessness and people at risk of homelessness
  • People with a serious mental illness
  • Children in out-of-home care

Focus of the Research

The aim of this study is to evaluate existing and emerging innovative approaches to improving access to comprehensive integrated community-based primary health care for vulnerable consumers in Victorian CHS. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to identify the specific innovation or area of innovation that they wish to focus on, and a multi-disciplinary approach to the research will be required. Links to the broader IMPACT research program will be made through the methodology implemented, including some consistency in the measures to be used.

An existing opportunity has been identified and is one option for potential applicants to consider:

  • Comparison of models of program delivery for people experiencing homelessness and people at risk of homelessness. Cohealth—a large inner-city community health service—has three sites implementing innovative programs based on drop-in models of engagement. These sites provide supports targeting people with histories of homelessness. A PhD project exists to explore how the models operate and in what way the services offered at the different sites improve access to and engagement with the service support systems for people with histories of homelessness.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Associate Professor Virginia Lewis (Principal Supervisor). A second La Trobe University academic with relevant expertise will be identified to act as secondary supervisor. External co-supervision is also possible.

The project will be undertaken within the Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing in the School of Nursing & Midwifery within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Melbourne campus (Bundoora).

A range of qualitative and quantitative methods may be involved in this project including surveys, secondary data analysis, records audits, interviews, and focus groups

Through this project you will receive exposure to international health systems through participation in meetings with health experts in Canada and Australia.

We welcome applications from high calibre candidates with diverse backgrounds including (but not limited to) public health, nursing, primary health, social work, and health services management.

A three year stipend is available to support the successful candidate. The stipend is a La Trobe University Scholarship and will be paid at the APA equivalent rate (2014 = $25,392 Full-time APA stipend rate). The stipend is tax-free. Candidature needs to be recommended prior to an offer of scholarship.

Australian citizens and permanent residents are exempt from University student fees (RTS) while international students need to provide evidence on how the fees will be managed when applying for the position. Students will be required to pay the La Trobe University annual student services amenities fee (

To apply candidates must submit a cover letter, CV and academic transcript.

For further enquiries or to submit your application please contact:
Associate Professor Virginia Lewis +61 3 9479 3924 or
Dr Samantha Chakraborty +61 3 9902 9698 or