The Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health (CRE-DH) aims to identify cost-effective policies that improve the health of people with disabilities in Australia.

  • Project dates: 2017

While 15% of the world’s population have a disability, they have largely been ignored by public health research, practice and policy.

Research clearly shows that on traditional indicators of health, Australians with disabilities fare particularly badly in global terms – they have the lowest relative income and one of the lowest levels of labour force participation of all the OECD countries.

An Australian with a disability is more likely to be unemployed, live in inadequate and unaffordable housing, have not completed school, and live in financial stress. They may face discrimination in all aspects of their lives including their experience at school, with the health system, getting a job, and their family situation. All of these aspects contribute to their poorer health. Reducing these inequities would substantially improve the health of Australians with disability. Improving their health will also increase the overall health of the population, and significantly reduce health and welfare expenditure.

Solving the problem of disadvantage

Solving the problem of disadvantage and the consequent poor health of people with disabilities requires a robust knowledge base to inform policy reform. This is why the CRE-DH is important.

The Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health is a world first; it aims to gather the evidence needed to guide social and health policy reform for people with disabilities in Australia.We bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers with stakeholders from the health and disability sectors, state and federal governments, and disability consumer representative groups – who are embedded in the research design and development.  In collaboration with people with disabilities, service providers, non-government organisations and other stakeholders, we will identify the key and emerging issues affecting Australians with disabilities. Based on these ongoing consultations we will document how these vary between people with and without disabilities over time, across different geographical areas and between subgroups of the population. Our team is characterised by diversity– from public health academics to disability advocates, health economists and policy analysts–all of whom are focused on reducing disadvantage for people with disabilities.

Our research

We will map the spatial distribution of social, economic and health inequities between people with and without disabilities; apply cutting-edge epidemiological methods to establish the main social determinants of health of people with disability; build the first ever cost-effectiveness model to estimate the health impacts and value for money of policy interventions for people with disabilities, and embed stakeholders in the research process so that they are involved in the co-production of knowledge.

Capacity building

A major focus of the CRE-DH is to produce a skilled research workforce in disability and health. This means we will train early-career researchers and PhD students and build the research capacity of academics and policy-makers across sectors to respond to the pressing problem of people with disabilities’ poor health.

By bringing together leading academics and stakeholders we aim to produce systematic and comprehensive knowledge base about the policy interventions that offer the best health benefits for people, as well as the best value for money.

RESEARCH THEMES:

Mapping Inequities

We are collaborating with the Australian Bureau of Statistics using data combined from surveys, censuses and administrative data collections to compare the health, social, economic and environmental circumstances of Australians with and without disabilities over time and between areas.

Key outputs

  1.   Knowledge of the extent, magnitude and distribution of inequities in social, economic and health outcomes by disability status.
  2.   A world-first comprehensive monitoring framework to identify policy issues.

Social Determinants

We will analyse data from longitudinal studies that follow individuals over time to identify how different social, economic and environmental factors contribute to the poor health of people with disabilities. We will look at the relationships between health and social determinants such as housing, employment, poverty and discrimination. We will quantify how much the health of people with disabilities would improve if they were less disadvantaged.

  • Different social, economic and environmental determinants contribute to disability-related health inequities in Australia
  • Various social determinants intersect (e.g. housing and employment) in the production of disability-related inequities in health
  • The impact of social determinants on disability-related health inequities vary across different population groups (e.g. by impairment type, functioning or gender)

Key outputs

  1. Extensive knowledge of the social determinants of disability-related health inequities.
  2. A methodological approach for identifying social determinants based on new innovations in epidemiology, econometrics and biostatistics.

Health Economics

We will model the cost effectiveness of policy interventions that reduce socio-economic disadvantage among people with disabilities. We will do this by estimating the health benefits of the policies, the cost savings realised by improving health, and the costs of the policy interventions.

Key outputs

  1. Policies identified that provide value for money, maximise health and minimise inequities.
  2. The first disability-specific cost-effectiveness model, publicly available to assess policies.

Policy Analysis and Reform

Through sustained engagement with key stakeholder groups we will identify stakeholder issues and emerging policy concerns. Our ‘policy lab’ includes people from government, non-government organisations, statutory bodies, the disability service sector, and consumer representative organisations. The lab represents the views of a diverse range of stakeholders to develop consensus on policy priorities.

Engagement with this group will reveal information surrounding planned changes in disability policy, monitoring and data collection procedures, and potential areas of contestation.

Key People

Lead researchers

Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Professor Anne Kavanagh

University of Melbourne

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn

University of Sydney

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Professor Eric Emerson

University of Sydney

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Associate Professor Dennis Petrie

Monash University

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Associate Professor Hannah Badland

Associate Professor Hannah Badland

Vice-Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Associate Professor Helen Dickinson

University of New South Wales

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Dr Gemma Carey

UNSW Canberra

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Professor Peter Butterworth

University of Melbourne

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Professor Stewart Einfeld

University of Sydney

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Professor Roger Stancliffe

University of Sydney

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Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Dr Allison Milner

University of Melbourne

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Associate Investigators

Research Fellows

Partner Advisory Group

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