MBBS (Flinders); PhD (Epidemiology and Population Health) (ANU); FASSA
Health Sciences

Professor Anne Kavanagh is an internationally renowned scholar in the field of health inequalities with specific expertise in disability, gender, the built environment and employment. She is the inaugural Chair in Disability and Health in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne. She is also the Academic Director of the Melbourne Disability Institute, an interdisciplinary initiative established at the University of Melbourne in 2018. She leads the NHMRC funded Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health (CRE-DH).

From a disciplinary perspective, Professor Kavanagh is recognised for her epidemiological methods and is the leading academic in social epidemiology in Australia and internationally. Anne’s career has spanned three major research areas: cancer screening, health inequalities, and disability and health. Prior to her move into disability research, she was Professor of Women’s Health at the University of Melbourne for ten years. Her groundbreaking research on hormone replacement therapy changed advice to women attending mammographic screening, resulting in a significant change in managing cancer screening, and stimulated future research on mammographic density in Australia and internationally. Professor Kavanagh also developed the protocols for monitoring breast cancer screening outcomes (1996-1999) which continue to be used nationally.

In the field of health inequalities, Professor Kavanagh led the Victorian Lifestyle and Neighbourhood Environments Study (VicLANES) – a multilevel study of 5000 Victorians living in 50 residential areas. It was one of the first of its kind in the world to demonstrate the importance of local environments to health outcomes. Since doing this research the field has burgeoned and VicLANES has been a template for further research. She also published extensively on the importance of gender, employment and housing as social determinants of health.

Professor Kavanagh has been researching disability from a public health perspective for the last six years. In this time, she has published extensively, attracted competitive grants and her reputation in the field of disability research continues to grow at a rapid rate. She is one of the first public health researchers and one of the only epidemiologists working in the disability field internationally. Professor Kavanagh has repositioned disability as a determinant of poor health. In public health, disability tends to be conceived as an outcome and a ‘failure’. Her argument, upon which the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health is based, is that disability is a determinant (or exposure) whereby people with disability experience considerable disadvantage that has negative consequences for health. She uses large datasets to identify the most important determinants of the health and wellbeing of people with disability. Her work shows how many of the health problems people with disability experience are due to social and economic disadvantage such as unemployment, housing stress, discrimination and poverty. Her interest is in shaping policies that reduce disadvantage among people with disability. She is a member of key national and state advisory committees that provide policy advice to relevant ministers; including the Independent Advisory Council to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and the Victorian Disability Advisory Council. She is also on the Brotherhood of St Laurence/NDIA Partnerships committee.

Importantly, Professor Kavanagh has contributed to the development of a new generation of social epidemiologists who are making significant contributions across the areas of discrimination, local environments, transport, housing, disability and health.

Current positions

Professor of Disability and Health, Heald, Disability and Health Unit, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, 2018 –

Academic Director, Melbourne Disability Institute, The University of Melbourne, 2018-

Co-Director, NHMRC, Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health

Previous positions

Professor of Women’s Health, Director, Gender and Women’s Health, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne 2008-2018

Associate Professor, Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne 2004-2008

VicHealth Senior Research Fellow 2001-2004, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia (fraction ranging from 0.4EFT-1.0EFT)

Senior Research Fellow, April 1999-Sept 2001, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

NHMRC Public Health Research Fellow September 1996 - April 1999. Cancer Epidemiology Centre, Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria

Visiting Fellow, September 1995 – September 1996. Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston MA, USA

Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Royal Australian College of Physicians, Admitted 1995

University of Melbourne, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Excellence Award for Equity, Diversity and Staff Development in 2015 in recognition of leadership in research and advocacy in relation to disability

Department of Human Services Public Health Award for Research Innovation for her leadership of the landmark – Victorian Lifestyle and Neighbourhood Environments Study

Knowledge Transfer Award, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

Young Tall Poppy Award, Australian Institute of Political Science, 2002

1. Milner A, Blakely T, Disney G, Kavanagh AM, LaMontagne AD, Aitken Z. Do employment factors reduce the effect of low education on mental health? A causal mediation analysis using a national panel study. Int J Epidemiol. 9 July 2018. 10.1093/ije/dyy128 [Epub ahead of print]

2. King T, Aitken Z, Milner A, Emerson E, Priest N, Karahalios A, Kavanagh A & Blakely T. To what extent is the association between disability and mental health in adolescents mediated by bullying? A causal mediation analysis. Int J Epidemiol. 3 August 2018, 10.1093/ije/dyy154

3. Aitken Z, Simpson J, Gurrin L, Bentley R & Kavanagh A. Do material, psychosocial and behavioural factors mediate the relationship between disability acquisition and mental health? A sequential causal mediation analysis. Int J Epidemiol. 7(3):829-840 01 Jun 2018 10.1093/ije/dyx277

4. Milner A, LaMontagne AD, Kavanagh AM. Men’s work, women’s work and mental health: A longitudinal investigation of the relationship between the gender composition of occupations and mental health. Social Science and Medicine, 2018, 204, 16-22.10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.03.020

5. O’Neil A, Scovelle AJ, Milner A & Kavanagh A. Gender/Sex as a social determinant of cardiovascular risk. Circulation. 2018 Feb 20;137(8):854-864. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.028595. Review.