Professor Kim Dalziel: Embedding collaboration and teamwork in health economics

Kim DalzielProfessor Kim Dalziel is Head of the Health Economics Unit in the Centre for Health Policy at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. She has specialist expertise in economic evaluation and modelling, child health policy, vulnerability and equity, and the use of health services and economic evaluation alongside clinical trials.

In 2021, Professor Dalziel received the MDHS Award for Excellence in Leadership. She currently leads a large study within the QUOKKA Research Program, which aims to strengthen tools and evidence on health outcomes in children to inform decision making.

How did you come to work in this area?

I came into health economics because I really appreciated the impact it could have on the design of health policy and healthcare decision making. I joined the University of Melbourne in 2013 on a McKenzie Fellowship designed to build research capacity in health economics and clinical trials, particularly with the clinical hospitals and partners with the University. My research program built up through the McKenzie Fellowship and post-fellowship. We currently have a group of around 24 economists and nine PhD students in the Health Economics Unit, and my role is to support, lead, supervise, and encourage opportunities and development for the researchers within this research group.

Which of the MDHS Faculty values speaks the most to you and why?

Collaboration and teamwork are really important to our work in health economics. When I think about the types of research and projects we do, each one involves collaboration and working mostly in multidisciplinary teams. It’s really satisfying to work in multidisciplinary teams because through bringing the different disciplines together there is an ability to create a larger impact. I’m very motivated by the possibility of impacting health policy and impacting healthcare decision making, and the value of collaboration and teamwork is central to our ability to do that in the health economics research.

How are you embedding the MDHS faculty values and standards into your own work?

It’s hard to think of any piece of health economics research that I do that’s not collaborative and usually also multidisciplinary. I believe our Health Economics Unit is positioned to embrace the values of collaboration and teamwork in how we work within the faculty and beyond. This includes the values around connecting, multidisciplinary research, sharing, and looking through different research lenses to maximise the impact of research. We also always have the impact and the outcome of our involvement central, which helps frame our collaboration and how we work together.

We also hold respect to a very high value. We respect the systems in which we work, the institution in which we work and the diversity of individuals and discipline diversity. Having a safe place to work and belong is incredibly important to us, and ensuring we bring that attitude of respect into our collaborative research arrangements.

An example of a project that we could never have achieved as health economists on our own without collaboration and teamwork is the QUOKKA Paediatric Multi-Instrument Comparison Study, which measures children’s health-related quality of life. As part of this project, we have around 6,100 children and their families taking part and it’s now the world’s largest collection of data on the best way to collect health-related quality of life in children. As a health economist, I wouldn’t know how to approach children to take part in a research project like this, so it’s been a huge collaborative effort in terms of our partnership with the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

We also have four universities involved in this project, The Royal Children’s Hospital, The Royal Women’s Hospital, many different clinical specialists to recruit children, and academic researchers from all around the world who are interested in this area of research. It’s been fantastic to have this world-first database with children and families providing a wealth of knowledge and information for the international research community. It’s a great example of collaboration and teamwork being super critical to the outcomes we wanted to achieve.

As told to Anna Furze.