Every area of medicine serves women and children with unique health needs that need to be addressed in specific ways. However, we are faced with significant gaps in our knowledge of the effects of some treatments. There is an ongoing and urgent need for medical research that focuses on the health of women and children.  

Research into the health of women and children takes place in all UNSW Medicine’s research themes. Our aim is to ensure optimum health in women, babies and children for the next generation of healthy adults. 

Women and children’s clinical services at the Royal Hospital for Women and Sydney Children’s Hospital is integrated with work done by:

Our research into reproductive medicine has developed expertise in new ways of undertaking hormone-free IVF and imaging of babies in utero. We’re focused on the determinants of life and the interaction of surveillance and screening, environmental risk factors and genetics. Our work aims to help children progress through life achieving the best health, social, educational and vocational outcomes possible. 

UNSW Medicine Research Themes

Find out more about how UNSW Medicine's Research Themes interact with the health of women and children.

We have a strong focus on gynaecological cancer research and hold one of the world’s largest collections of ovarian tumour samples. Having pioneered the Australasian Oncofertility Registry, we’re Australian leaders in research to protect women’s fertility through cancer treatment.

Work in children’s cancer research is conducted through the only independent research institute in Australia entirely dedicated to childhood cancer, the Children’s Cancer Institute. The Behavioural Sciences Unit of the Sydney Children’s Hospital Kids Cancer Centre provides the evidence base for support of families through treatment, survivorship and bereavement.

In the area of infectious disease, inflammation and immunity, we engage in high impact work into respiratory disease, a major cause of hospitalisation in young children. We also have expertise in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Our work in women’s mental health includes studies on postnatal depression and pediatric mental health through the Black Dog Institute. We’re addressing the challenges of neuromuscular diseases in children, including spinal muscular atrophy, epilepsy, medical psychology, and infants born with a drug or alcohol dependency.

UNSW Medicine has a longstanding track record of research on women’s health, with a Global Women’s Health Program at The George Institute for Global Health promoting a life-course approach to addressing women’s and girls’ health and well-being. Collaborative research strengths in the cardiac and vascular health of women and children are found across the network of UNSW Medicine and Affiliated MRIs and include the School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the School of Women’s and Children’s Health. 

Case Study: Beating Cancer Through Psychology

Psychologist with patient

Beating cancer is about more than delivering the right treatment in hospital. Serious diseases in children can have long lasting impacts, not only on the patient but also on the family unit. We lead research which enables health professionals and the hospital system to better support children and their families to give the children the best possible chance of recovery.

Researchers in the Behavioural Sciences Unit have developed ways of helping young people who might be depressed at the end of their cancer treatment, parents suffering from insomnia during their children’s treatment, and grandparents grieving the loss of a child. Our researchers then test the efficacy of these interventions in clinical trials before implementing them more widely in the community.

We’re leaders in the relatively new field of psycho-oncology for children. Addressing psychological risk factors is an important strategy to ensure adherence to treatment and prevent the development of secondary diseases.

Researchers in the lab

Case Study: Finding the Genetic Base of Ovarian Cancer

More than 1500 women in Australia are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. However, we’re still unable to identify those at risk, or target treatments appropriately for women already diagnosed. Understanding the genetics of ovarian cancer could hold the key. 

Led by Professor Susan Ramus, the School of Women’s and Children’s Health Ovarian Tumour Tissue Analysis consortium is performing genetic profiling of more than 10,000 ovarian tumours. 

Genetic profiling will help to find new ways of diagnosing cancers early to cure them and identify new genes beyond BRCA that are implicated in ovarian cancer. 

This work could also lead to screening to identify women at risk of ovarian cancer before they develop the disease, enabling them to take preventive measures.