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The BetterStart research group involves a multi-disciplinary group of academics, research students and visiting fellows, located within the School of Public Health, The University of Adelaide.

If you would like to know more about someone in the group, please click on their name for their Researcher Profile.

Professor John Lynch
Director, BetterStart Child Health and Development Research Group

John is an epidemiologist and Professor of Public Health. He has an academic appointment in the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, UK. He spent 20 years working in North America and before returning to Australia in 2009 he held professorial positions at the University of Michigan (USA) and at McGill University in Canada.

John is an internationally recognised scholar in epidemiology and public health. He has numerous awards and Fellowships including a Canada Research Chair in Population Health, an honorary doctorate in Medical Science from the University of Copenhagen, and a prestigious NHMRC Australia Fellowship. He has over 300 journal publications, and every year from 2014 onwards, he has received Thomson Reuters' "Highly Cited Researcher" status that consistently places him in the top 1% of cited scientists internationally in his field.

Lisa Smithers

Dr Lisa Smithers
Associate Professor

Lisa is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Health, The University of Adelaide. Lisa's research encompasses perinatal health, healthy development and healthy diets for infants, children and pregnant women, indigenous settings and extends to policy-relevant research such as food advertising on television. Lisa has authored over 60 publications, including three articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and ten articles in the leading journals in the fields of nutrition and paediatrics. She is a Chief Investigator on projects for more than $1.6 million in grant funding.


Dr Catherine Chilttleborough
Senior Lecturer

Cathy's research focuses on how we can reduce inequalities in, and improve overall population levels of, child health and development. Cathy has an interest in applying causal epidemiological techniques to these questions and makes use of population data from longitudinal cohorts and data linkage studies. Her research has also focused on whether we can identify children who are likely to have poor development, for better targeting of family support programs, and she has an interest in how children's self-regulation influences later educational and health-related outcomes. She has also been involved in randomised controlled trials, particularly the process evaluation component, of interventions in primary schools to improve hand washing and physical activity among children. As an epidemiologist with SA Health from 1998 to 2008, Cathy's work focused on population health surveillance and chronic disease and risk factor epidemiology. During this time, she completed a PhD which allowed her to pursue her interest in social inequalities in health. After her PhD was awarded in 2009, she spent two years in a postdoctoral research position in the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol. She returned to the University of Adelaide in 2011 and contributes to teaching undergraduate public health and epidemiology.


Dr Murthy Mittinty
Senior Research Fellow

Murthy is an accredited statistician. His interests are both in the development of statistical methodology as well as in the application of statistical methods. Murthy's empirical works has been in child development, infectious disease modelling, biosecurity, dental health and coastal flood modelling.


Dr Alyssa Sawyer
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Alyssa is a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Public Health at The University of Adelaide. Alyssa undertook her clinical psychology training at the Flinders University of South Australia. She holds a PhD in clinical psychology, and also works as a clinical psychologist.  Alyssa has an enduring interest in early childhood development and her work focuses on investigating the effect of children's early psychological development on their later wellbeing and achievement; in particular, research projects include investigating characteristics in early childhood that lead to good outcomes from a public health perspective (including academic achievement, physical and mental health), the development of self-regulation, and population-level interventions designed to improve outcomes for children.


Dr Rhiannon Pilkington
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

In 2014 Rhiannon was awarded her PhD in Medicine. Since that time, Rhiannon has worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Public Health, The University of Adelaide as a part of the BetterStart Child Health and Development research group led by Professor John Lynch. She is an epidemiologist with expertise in epidemiologic research methods, data linkage and the analysis of large population datasets. Her research focuses on investigating early-life conditions that contribute to child health and development including potentially preventable hospitalisations, Type 1 Diabetes, neonatal hypoglycemia, child protection system involvement and child maltreatment.


Dr Angela Gialamas
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

In 2015, Angela was awarded her PhD with a thesis that investigated the association between the type, time and quality of child care in the first three years of life, and children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development as they started school.

Her post-doctoral research focuses on the effects of early life disadvantage on children's later development, including analyses of socioeconomic disadvantage, child care, and parenting investments in children. She uses many Australian datasets including the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children and the South Australian Early Childhood Data Project to explore the areas of research listed above.

Ms Alicia Montgomerie
Research Associate

Alicia joined the BetterStart group in July 2016. She has a Bachelor of Health Science and a Master of Public Health.  Her masters dissertation examined physical inactivity and obesity among South Australian adults. She has experience working with large population health studies, cohort studies and health surveillance systems, with advanced skills in the management of large datasets.  Alicia's research role at BetterStart includes working on the Early Childhood Data Project.

Dr Janet Grant
Postdoctoral Researcher

Janet joined the Better Start group in November 2016.   She has worked with population health surveys since 1998 and from 2000 to 2002, assisted with research within the Diabetes Clearing House and the establishment of the Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Recall Register. Janet was the Study Coordinator of the North West Adelaide Health (NWAH) Study from 2002 to 2015, and the South Australian Consumer Experience Surveillance System (SACESS) Coordinator from 2012 to 2016.  She has an undergraduate degree in Library & Information Studies and a Master in Public Health. In 2018, she completed her PhD with The University of Adelaide on the association between parental body shape and adult offspring body shape, including its influence on mortality and self-perception of weight.

Dr Helena Schuch
Postdoctoral Researcher

Helena joined BetterStart in February 2017. She has a Bachelor degree and a Masters in Dentistry from the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil, and completed a PhD in 2018 with the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH), The University of Adelaide. Her PhD focused on investigating the effect of socioeconomic position during the life course on periodontal disease in adulthood. Helena will be working on the South Australian Early Childhood Data Project within the BetterStart group.


Dr Dandara Haag
Postdoctoral Researcher

Dandara is a Brazilian researcher who joined the BetterStart group in October 2016. She has a Bachelor in Dentistry and completed her PhD in 2018 at the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH), The University of Adelaide. Dandara's PhD work evaluated the impact of general and oral health conditions on the quality of life of individuals.  Dandara is working with the BetterStart group on various projects involving epidemiological analysis of de-identified datasets, including child protection and parenting investments.

Ms Alexandra Procter
Research Assistant

Alexandra completed her Bachelor of Health Sciences (Advanced) research project with the BetterStart group and is working as a part-time research assistant with Dr Rhiannon Pilkington and Dr Angela Gialamas. Alex's work focuses on hospitalisations among South Australian children.


Dr David Gonzalez
Senior Lecturer

David is a physician from Ecuador, specialising in tropical and infectious diseases in children. He has a Masters and PhD in epidemiology (life-course epidemiology), and postdoctoral expertise in body composition analysis and professional education. In the last five years, he has worked at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil) as Assistant Professor of nutrition epidemiology, supervising five masters students, three PhD students and one postdoctoral fellow. Since 2010, he has published more than 40 papers in peer reviewed journals (h-index=5; 14 articles with impact factors >2.0). In 2015, he commenced as a Senior Lecturer at the School of Public Health, working on early socioeconomic and nutritional predictors of health and nutrition status in adolescence and adulthood.


Mr Ben Agnew
Research Assistant

Ben graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical & Electronic) degree in 2014. His honours project involved designing a practical experiment to help students better understand current-voltage characteristics of electronic components. Ben is currently working on the digital television project for the School of Public Health. This involves designing and building a system to detect and block advertisements during children's television programs. In mid-2015 Ben plans to begin a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.


Dr Catia Malvaso
Postdoctoral Researcher

Catia recently completed her PhD on the link between maltreatment and youth offending in the School of Psychology. She has experience working with linked administrative data, large datasets and longitudinal data. She has managed a number of research projects on vulnerable youth and has worked closely with both government and non-government stakeholders, including consultancy work for the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of children in the Northern Territory.

BetterStart Research Group

Level 9, Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences building
Corner of North Terrace and George Street
Adelaide SA 5000


T: +61 8 8313 0546

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