Section: Overview
Overview
Key publications
Research funding
Supervising & teaching
Career

Key details

Areas of expertise

  • Sociology
  • Chronic conditions
  • Qualitative research
  • Health workforce

Not available to supervise research students

Available for media queries

About Karen Willis

Karen is Professor of Public Health, College of Health and Biomedicine, Course Convenor MPH VU Online, and a member of the Institute for Health and Sport. Her research examines how individual health behaviours are linked to the broader social and political context. Current research examines loneliness in people with chronic health conditions and 'Future-proofing' frontline health workers during crises.

Karen's PhD research examined the social and political context of mammography screening in Australia. 

Funded research includes:

  • Staying Healthy: behaviours and services used by farmers and fishers 
  • How consumers negotiate between complementary and conventional health systems 
  • How Australians navigate the healthcare maze: the differential capacity to choose 
  • Establishing pathways to implement and sustain evidence based fall prevention in primary care
  • Goal setting and chronic condition self management.

Karen's publications include:

  • a health sociology textbook
  • two edited books
  • multiple book chapters
  • >90 peer reviewed articles.

She has supervised 8 PhD students to completion. She regularly contributes to The Conversation and is active on Twitter.

Karen is editor in chief of Health Sociology Review.

Qualifications

  • PhD (La Trobe University)
  • GradDip Health Promotion (Curtin University)
  • MA (Science and Technology Studies) (Wollongong University)
  • BA (Deakin University)

Key publications

Year Citation
2022 Lewis, S., Willis, K., Bismark, M., & Smallwood, N. (221201). A time for self-care? Frontline health workers' strategies for managing mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.. SSM - mental health, 2

doi: 10.1016/j.ssmmh.2021.100053

2022 Smallwood, N., Harrex, W., Rees, M., Willis, K., & Bennett, C. M. (220119). COVID-19 infection and the broader impacts of the pandemic on healthcare workers.. Respirology,

doi: 10.1111/resp.14208

2021 Wang, J., Willis, K., Barson, E., & Smallwood, N. (211201). The complexity of mental health care for people with COPD: a qualitative study of clinicians perspectives. npj Primary Care Respiratory Medicine, 31(1),

doi: 10.1038/s41533-021-00252-w

2021 Pascoe, A., Paul, E., Johnson, D., Putland, M., Willis, K., & Smallwood, N. (211201). Differences in coping strategies and help-seeking behaviours among australian junior and senior doctors during the covid-19 pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(24),

doi: 10.3390/ijerph182413275

2021 Smallwood, N., & Willis, K. (211101). Mental health among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Respirology, 26(11), (1016-1017).

doi: 10.1111/resp.14143

2021 Willis, K., Ezer, P., Lewis, S., Bismark, M., & Smallwood, N. (211001). Covid Just Amplified the Cracks of the System : Working as a Frontline Health Worker during the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(19),

doi: 10.3390/ijerph181910178

2021 MacKenzie, L., Liddle, J., Clemson, L. M., Tan, A. CW., Lovarini, M., Pit, S. W., Poulos, R. G., Roberts, C., Pond, C. D., & Willis, K. (211001). Perspectives of Australian GPs on tailoring fall risk management: A qualitative study. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 27(5), (409-415).

doi: 10.1071/PY21022

2021 Smallwood, N., Karimi, L., Bismark, M., Putland, M., Johnson, D., Dharmage, S. C., Barson, E., Atkin, N., Long, C., & Ng, I. (210906). High levels of psychosocial distress among Australian frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional survey. General Psychiatry, 34(5),

doi: 10.1136/gpsych-2021-100577

2021 Hughes, S., Lewis, S., Willis, K., Rogers, A., Wyke, S., & Smith, L. (210901). Participants experiences of and perceived value regarding different support types for long-term condition self-management programmes. Chronic Illness, 17(3), (242-256).

doi: 10.1177/1742395319869437

2021 Smallwood, N., Karimi, L., Pascoe, A., Bismark, M., Putland, M., Johnson, D., Dharmage, S. C., Barson, E., Atkin, N., & Long, C. (210901). Coping strategies adopted by Australian frontline health workers to address psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. General Hospital Psychiatry, 72 (124-130).

doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2021.08.008

Research funding for the past 5 years

Please note:

  • Funding is ordered by the year the project commenced and may continue over several years.
  • Funding amounts for contact research are not disclosed to maintain commercial confidentiality.
  • The order of investigators is not indicative of the role they played in the research project.

Future proofing the frontline strategies to support frontline workers during times of crisis
From: Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation (LMCF)
For period: 2021-2023
$299,780

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the following organisations for their support and essential contributions to my research:

  • Australian Research Council

    2020-2022 Sick, lonely and left behind? A sociological study of loneliness (DP200101872) Dr Sophie Lewis (UNSW), Prof Karen Willis (VU), Prof Lorraine Smith (Uni of Sydney), Prof Anne Rogers (Uni of Southampton), Dr Leslie Dubbin (Uni California, South Francisco). $381,875

  • Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation

    2021-2023: Future Proofing the Frontline: Strategies to support frontline workers during times of crisis: Prof Karen Willis (VU); A/Prof Natasha Smallwood (Monash Uni)

Supervision of research students at VU

Not available to supervise research students

Available for media queries

Other supervision of research students

Karen has supervised Masters and PhD students to completion.

Key academic roles

Dates Role Department / Organisation
Aug 2017 - Jun 2021
Professor, Allied Health Research
La Trobe University
Jul 2014 - Jul 2017
Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching
Faculty of Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University
Jan 2012 - Jul 2014
Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney
Jun 2021 - Present
Professor, Public Health
College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University
Show more academic roles
Dates Role & Department/Organisation
Aug 2017 -
Jun 2021
Professor, Allied Health Research
La Trobe University
Jul 2014 -
Jul 2017
Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching
Faculty of Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University
Jan 2012 -
Jul 2014
Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney
Jun 2021 -
Present
Professor, Public Health
College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University
Show more academic roles

Key industry, community & government roles

Dates Role Department/Organisation
Jul 2019 - Jul 2023
Consumer Advisory Panel member
Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner
Jul 2019 - Jul 2023
Research member
DHHS Ethics Committee
Jan 2019 - Dec 2022
Editor in Chief
Health Sociology Review
Dates Role & Department/Organisation
Jul 2019 - Jul 2023
Consumer Advisory Panel member
Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner
Jul 2019 - Jul 2023
Research member
DHHS Ethics Committee
Jan 2019 - Dec 2022
Editor in Chief
Health Sociology Review

Professional memberships

  • Academic Member, The Australian Sociological Association