Director's message

Throughout the world, the provision of health care is faced with numerous challenges including an ageing population, rise in the prevalence of chronic disease, increases in the complexity of medical technology and spiralling costs.  Often the response to these issues has been to provide more information to aid decision making, however in doing so, the number of factors to consider when making a clinical diagnosis are dramatically increased as is the corresponding burden of cost associated with the health care.  This occurs all too frequently without any significant decrease in disease burden.

Throughout history medical scientists have tried to understand the human body using reductionist methods, i.e. understanding individual parts of the body, however, this approach now appears to be reaching the limit of usefulness in terms of understanding diseases and improving the provision of health care.  An issue of concern is that disease continues to be classified based on the systems and processes available at the time of identification, for example, eyesight and chemical staining rather than utilising more contemporary advancements in precision medicine such as molecular profiling.  Furthermore, despite the push towards prevention and early diagnosis, the healthcare system remains largely based on curing disease when it arises rather than encouraging a more participatory model of health maintenance by the individual.

The Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre at the University of Melbourne aims to address these challenges and thus contribute to the University's "Grand Challenge of Fostering Health and Wellbeing".  The Centre's activities focuses on the use of new and emerging information and communication technologies to understand the functions of the human body and to facilitate the development of new preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic solutions to fight disease and maintain health.

Our aim is for the University of Melbourne's Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre to integrate methods and techniques to facilitate the processing of health related information generated at all levels of biological complexity such as atomic, molecular, cellular, tissue, organ, within the individual and the greater population.  This requires the combined use of skills from bioinformatics, clinical informatics and public health informatics to assist in solving health problems.

Realising the wide distribution of researchers in the numerous fields across the University, the Centre facilitates relationships to enable the convergence of science and technologies that will contribute to advancing this new area of expertise.  We will also play a central role in biomedical translational research by applying a holistic approach:  recognising health problems exist within, and can be solved by, system networks such as gene networks, disease networks, social networks, device networks and computer networks, to name a few.

I thank you for your interest in our Centre and invite you to become involved in our activities.  For further information, please feel free to contact us.

Associate Professor Kathleen Gray
Acting Director - Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre
The University of Melbourne

Dr Kathleen Gray holds qualifications in education, environmental science and information science. She currently coordinates the Health stream in the University's Master of IT degree; previously she has held a variety of staff and curriculum development roles in health and life sciences in several universities. Her research interest span e-health and e-learning and the influence of the Internet in healthcare and biomedicine - specially on scholarly publication; on citizen participation; and on the health workforce.Kathleen is active in a number of industry and professional organisations and ia Fellow of the Australasian College of Health Informatics.