Anton Breinl Research Centre Health systems strengthening and workforce development

Health systems strengthening and workforce development

Strong responsive health care systems and workforce are essential for a healthy population.  Our four areas of research focus are all vital to improving health outcomes for rural, remote and Indigenous populations:

  • Health systems research
  • Workforce capacity and development
  • Education and training
  • Populations, equity and engagement


Program leader: Professor Sarah Larkins


NHMRC Partnership Grant (GNT1148660 2017-2020, $1.13million)

LEAP story is now available via YouTube.

Co-Lead Investigators Dr Veronica Matthews and Professor Sarah Larkins

The LEAP (Leveraging Effective Ambulatory Practices) project aims to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care services to identify and implement a strengths-based framework that will support quality improvement – we seek to understand what is needed for all services to succeed.

This project builds on current work and existing partnerships to improve the quality of health services. Working with eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care services and existing quality improvement networks, we will support services to achieve their quality improvement goals.

Find LEAP Project updates, presentations, publications and community resources on the LEAP Project page.

Larkins S (CIB), Taylor J, Elston J, Croker F et al.

This NHMRC funded Partnership project works with our partners Townsville Mackay Medical Local, La Trobe University Rural Health School, Loddon Mallee Murray Medicare Local and the Royal Flying Doctor Service to test whether a method for involving communities in participatory planning around rural oral health services is successful in designing improved services and better outcomes. Funding allocated: $840,000.

Learn more about Rural ECOH.

The Tropical Centre for Telehealth Practice and Research (TC-TPR) is the leading telehealth innovation and research organisation in North Queensland. Located within Townsville University Hospital, the TC-TPR is dedicated to advancing telehealth practice, training and research across Northern Queensland and Australia to provide quality and safe patient-centred care, closer to home.

Contact Associate Professor Sabe Sabesan for more information.

Larkins SMurray RMills J, Stewart R et al.

Demonstration health workforce development projects with Mareeba and Yarrabah communities in partnership with Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service. Extension currently under consideration by HWA. Funding allocated: $80,000.

Whaleboat DLarkins SMurray R

Innovation in Clinical Training Placements in the community-controlled sector in north Queensland. Funding allocated: $249,000.

Pighills A, Stronach P, Gordon S, Hornsby D, Thomas Y.  To establish a student led trans-disciplinary clinic to enable students to be allocated patients, carry their own routine clinical caseload and share professional skills. This service will be delivered to older people, at risk of, or currently experiencing, functional decline, from two community based Allied Health teams in regional Queensland. $245 5000.

Gordon S, Kennedy R, Morrison J, Raasch B, Stronach P, Pellatt A.  Development, implementation and evaluation of an inter-professional student-led university health clinic in partnership with non-Government organisations. $250 000.

Knight S.  The development and implementation of a service learning model of remote, Aboriginal and rural mental health clinical placements to build on current innovation, and to address multiple issues related to both student placements and service delivery in the region.

Larkins S, Murray RPreston RRoss SWoolley T et al.

THEnet is an international network of medical schools with a social accountability mandate. JCU SMD is a foundation school. THEnet have published an evaluation framework for socially accountable medical education and are now coordinating an international graduate outcome study. Atlantic Philanthropies funding since 2008. Euros 600 000.

2018-2020. Contract research, Department of Health. $370,000.

Researchers: Sarah Larkins, Rebecca Evans, Karen Carlisle, Emily Callander, Robyn Preston and Karen Johnston.

2019-2020. Contract Research, Cooperative Research Centre for Northern Australia. $150,000.  

Researchers: Maxine Whittaker, Sarah Larkins, Stephanie Topp, Edward Strivens, David Atkinson, Bhavini Patel, Alexandra Edelman, Nishila Moodley

The Northern Australia Health Service Delivery Situational Analysis project is an initiative of the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA). The project is a policy-focussed consultancy that involves the production of a health-sector-focussed situational analysis report following extensive stakeholder consultation across the north.

The analysis will identify the key challenges and opportunities facing the northern Australian health service delivery sector and health workforce and strategic development priorities for future investment.

The contracted project participants comprise:

  • James Cook University (project leader)
  • Northern Territory Top End Health Service
  • University of Western Australia Rural Clinical School
  • Hospital and Health Services in northern Queensland through the Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre.

These consortium partners are working closely with state and territory government departments and health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and other health and community stakeholder groups using a collaborative scoping and problem-solving approach.

The six-month project consists of two stages:

  • Stage 1: a scoping review of publications, policy documents and report; analysis of health sector export and demand opportunities; analysis of government-partnered workforce and research projects; and a cost-benefit analysis of development scenarios. These analyses were compiled into a draft situational analysis report for consultation in October 2019 (link below).
  • Stage 2: discussion and engagement with stakeholders across northern Australia to refine the draft report and inform the development of a policy action plan (October 2019 to February 2020).

For more details about the project please visit the CRCNA website.

Medical Education for Social Accountability: the Training for Health Equity Network (THEnet) Graduate Outcomes Study

Principal Investigator: Professor Sarah Larkins

This research project is undertaken by the Training for Health Equity Network (THEnet) which is an international collaboration of 13 schools of medicine and health sciences with a social accountability mandate. JCU College of Medicine & Dentistry is a founding partner of this group.

Learn more here.