Flinders University will establish a new research centre to examine ways of improving health outcomes and preventing people falling through society’s cracks after a leading academic received a coveted Federation Fellowship from the Federal Government.
Professor Fran Baum was one of 14 outstanding researchers to receive a fellowship, which are renowned as the country’s best-known and most valuable research grants, from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and worth more than $23 million over five years.
The Head of the Department of Public Health, Professor Baum is also the first academic from Flinders University to receive the prestigious honour, which was announced by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.
“This is pretty significant achievement, not only for myself and the University, but for the field of Social Science as a whole,” Professor Baum said.
“Historically, very few social scientists have been recognised by these grants, but winning this grant is very timely given that social inclusion and health inequality are priority issues for the new Federal Government,” she said.
According to Professor Baum, the ARC’s total funding of $1.6 million over five years will be used to establish a new research institute aimed at identifying the theoretical understanding of the social and economic determinants of social exclusion and health inequities that will help inform and assist in the development, implementation and evaluation of public policies and interventions aiming to improve population health.
“Ultimately we hope that, over time, the research we generate at the institute will be used to influence and shape public policy and debate,” she said.
“That way we can ensure these social issues remain at the forefront of Government planning and strategy for a long time to come.”
Flinders Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Barber, congratulated Professor Baum on her achievement.
“The University is looking forward to an exciting research program ahead through Professor Baum’s collaboration with the SA Department of Health in this important area of public health,” Professor Barber said.
In announcing the Federation Fellowship winners at the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council dinner last night, the Prime Minster said the grants were being awarded to some of Australia’s best and brightest researchers.
“The Federation Fellowships will support ambitious research that will have a significant impact on all our lives,” he said. “We want to give those at the top of their fields to have access to an elite funding scheme with a strong international focus.”