fbpx Julie Byles | HMRI

Emeritus Professor Julie Byles AO

Research Program:
Research Topics:
HMRI Award for Research Excellence
2015 HMRI Award for Research Excellence
Project Grant
2011 Project Grant
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2007 Project Grant
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2006 Project Grant
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2006 Project Grant
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2004 Project Grant
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2003 Project Grant
Project Grant
2002 Project Grant

What are your research interests?

As Jonathan Swift said, “everyone wants to live long but nobody wants to get old”.  However ageing should be seen as a success, and what we need to ‘solve’ is how to reap the dividends of that success.

Partly my research is about understanding how people can age well, and what individual, social and environmental actions promote healthy ageing. Even with the best actions, though, many people develop disease as they get older and so we also need to facilitate better ways to manage disease and enable optimal quality of life. People typically live with conditions such as diabetes for many years, and we want those to be quality years with minimal disability.

We need to ensure people have access to appropriate accessible services when and where they need them. Ageing research is therefore a balancing act between wanting people to age well, and providing support to those who need it. For these reasons, much of my research focuses on health services for older people.

Key research questions:

  • What health services are available to people?
  • Who needs those services?
  • Are the right people getting the services they need?
  • Are those services working as they should?

Why did you get into research?

I have been inspired by working with older people and listening and reading comments from the women in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). The women described a very different experience of ageing than we might expect if we only see ageing from the perspective of hospitals and nursing homes. Most of the women in our study age very well.  They are active, contribute to their families and enjoy life.  I want to understand how to maintain that positive trajectory as you get older. 

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

I feel we are already seeing big changes in how we view ageing and older people. I’d like to see that continue so that we see health as a resource for active ageing, and older people as valued and productive members of our communities.

I also want to see effective and equitable systems for providing health and aged care. I’d like to see platforms for routine collection and analysis of population data that generates evidence for continuous improvement of health and aged care systems.


Professor Julie Byles is Co-Director of the HMRI Public Health research program, Director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre (PRC) for Gender, Health and Ageing and also the Director of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH).

She is both nationally and internationally recognised for her exceptional leadership and outstanding contribution to public health, women’s health and ageing research. In 2015 she was named the HMRI Researcher of the Year.

Professor Julie Byles is a woman who wears many hats: contributing to research studies, developing new approaches to healthcare and maintaining international involvement to advance knowledge translation into effective policy for ageing and health. She has had a dramatic impact on the way ageing is perceived by both society and medical practitioners worldwide, showing that those aged 70+ are not in a state of decline but are active in their communities and families providing childcare and volunteering.

Her interests lie in risk determination, health assessment, health care evaluation, and measurement of health outcomes. As a clinical epidemiologist, her current research into ageing focuses on the role of health services, preventive activities, and treatments in maintaining quality of life for older people. She is also interested in how physical, psychological and social factors are associated with optimal physical and mental health of men and women as they age.

One of Professor Byles's career highlights has been her work with the ALSWH. This study has been running since 1995 and provides an evidence base to the Australian Department of Health and Ageing for the development and evaluation of many areas of policy and practice that affect women across their life course. Professor Byles was one of the founding investigators and has had a major interest in the oldest cohort of women born in 1921-26. These women were aged 70-75 years when the study began in 1996 and are now in their 90s.

The study includes the impact of socioeconomic status, life stage, live events and other circumstances that affect women’s health risks, and the patterns of change in physical function and mental health. Three other cohorts born 1946-51, 1973-78 and 1989-95 provide important evidence about women’s health through other stages including work and retirement, and provide insights to what these womens’ lives might be like when they too are older.

Another research highlight began with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs ‘Preventative Care Trial’, a landmark study to investigate how to meet social and psychological needs of older people, as well as their needs for preventive health care and aged services. This trial informed the introduction of the 75+ Health Assessments, which most older people now include as part of their health care plans. Professor Byles is now working with data from the ALSWH to investigate how these assessments have made a difference to the lives and well being of older women.

Some of her other research has been about provided practical solutions for everyday problems that face older people. She developed a training program for NSW Department of Health staff on caring for hospital patients with dementia, developed a toolkit for best practice nutrition and hydration in residential aged care for the Department of Health and Ageing, and contributed to falls prevention initiatives for older people. Most recently she has been working with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to develop a health promotion cookbook and other materials that enable older people to take a healthy and fun approach to food and healthy activities.

The latest highlight of her career is her work with the World Health Organisation, to translate knowledge on health and ageing to promote better policies and health care services in many different country settings.

Over the past decade Professor Byles has been the President of the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG). She represented AAG and other professional organisations at the National Aged Care Alliance, contributing to the development, implementation, and proposed evaluation of aged care reforms. She is also an advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific Region and Department of Ageing and Lifecourse – assisting with the collection and submission of evidence to propose public health policies. In 2013 she participated in a case study in Ghana which resulted in changes to the Health policy and targets for community health workers to better meet the preventive health needs of Ghana’s older population.

Professor Byles is committed to training and providing mentorship for emerging researchers successfully supervising 20 students in their PhD studies, 6 Masters students and hundreds of clinicians and policy makers. She is also the Deputy Head of School (School of Medicine and Public Health) at the University of Newcastle. 

Specialised/Technical Skills

Longitudinal data, population health, epidemiology, clinical trials, clinical interventions, health statistics, policy, risk determination, health assessment, health care evaluation, measurement of health outcomes.


HMRI: Public Health

Subgroup: RCGHA

Clinical Research: ALSWH, 45 and Up Study, Hunter Community Study


Award for Research Excellence - Julie Byles
HMRI Award for Research Excellence


The profile of pain in older women with arthritis - Lions Club of Adamstown Research Project Grant
Project Grant

Associate Professor Lynne Parkinson, Professor Julie Byles, Dr F Blyth, Associate Professor H Pollard


Pilot of best practice nutrition screening and intervention for hospitalised older people
Project Grant

Professor Sandra Capra, Dr Lynne Parkinson, Professor Julie Byles, Dr David Sibbritt


Adequacy and equity of treatment for depression among older Australian Women
Project Grant
Women and arthritis; the burden of suffering for older Australian women
Project Grant

Dr Lynne Parkinson, Professor Julie Byles


Older women and alcohol use: a longitudinal exploration of behaviours and consequences
Project Grant

Associate Professor Julie Byles , Dr L Parkinson, Associate Professor CD Este & Dr P Warner-Smith


High Versus Low Dos nutrition to reduce malnutrition prevalence and length of stay in fractured neck of femur patients
Project Grant


The role of nutrition in improving outcomes for people with fractures
Project Grant