I’m an accidental researcher. While I have a background in psychology, I was driven to understand how the mind impacts the body based on personal experience. This led me down a research path rather than a clinical one. While my research interests have changed since completing my PhD (I now focus mostly on improving contraceptive and family planning outcomes for vulnerable women), the need to understand people’s stories and provide evidence-based solutions to improve health outcomes remains a driving factor.
The ultimate goal of my research is quite ambitious. As my research is focused on contraceptive use and family planning among vulnerable populations, my goal is to shine a light on the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy across the globe and provide targeted policy and practice solutions. I believe that empowering women in their contraceptive choices by increasing contraceptive knowledge and access to highly effective methods, is critical to not only reducing unintended pregnancy and abortion but is a key component in achieving gender equality. Access to high quality contraception and autonomy over reproductive health allows women to decide if, and when to have children, a choice that is still lacking for many women, particularly those in low- and middle-income nations.
Dr Harris is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Women’s Health Research. She is the co-lead of the Centre for Women’s Health Research’s Worldwide Wellness of Mothers and Babies (WWOMB) program and has expertise in contraceptive use and family planning across the reproductive life course in both high and low- and middle-income countries. Melissa also has a particular interest in chronic disease management, including the impact of psychosocial factors on physical health and healthcare outcomes. She is a former ARC DECRA recipient, and her current program of work draws together research strengths in chronic disease and contraceptive use and access and research methods (e.g., longitudinal modelling, data linkage, cohort recruitment) by examining the contraceptive decision-making practices of Australian women of reproductive age with chronic disease to provide much needed information regarding reasons for unintended pregnancy in this population.
Her research on contraception has informed national and international policy including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines around long-acting reversible contraception. Her work has also informed evidenced-based provision of contraceptive services at family planning and non-profit organisations across Australia as well as influenced the provision of clinical training and therapeutic guidelines around contraception.
A large focus of my current program of work has been concentrated on developing an evidence-base around contraceptive use and contraceptive decision-making for women with chronic diseases. My goal is to continue improving our understanding of these issues and develop better women’s centred models of care and service delivery (including development of pathways for access to highly effective methods). My goal is to also influence the integration of contraceptive care within routine chronic disease management at local, national, and international levels.