Poche Fellow profile: Chris McKay

Meet Chris McKay. Chris is a Wiradjuri man and PhD candidate at our Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. He is based in the Indigenous Epidemiology and Health research group and his research focuses on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents.

Chris is interested in the risk and protective factors for chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease during this phase of life.

“I am investigating contextual social, cultural and environmental factors that are important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to maintain good health,” he said.

“My research is part of a larger study, the Next Generation Study, which is Aboriginal-led and designed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal community organisations around Australia.”

The findings from Chris’ research will contribute new information about the health status of young people in communities he’s working with, help answer questions about whether current health guidelines are adequate, and inform appropriate interventions and health services.

Chris is also currently enrolled in the Melbourne Poche Leadership Fellows Program – an annual program run by the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health to support the development of emerging Indigenous leaders in academic, policy, clinical and research roles in higher education, government, health delivery and the community sector.

“A unique aspect of the Poche Program is that it provides the chance to learn about community-focused leadership from an Indigenous perspective, in a culturally safe and supportive environment,” he said.

“For me, it will help me focus on ensuring my research is not only ethical, but also empowering for communities, and provides evidence that supports self-determination.”

Indigenous health leaders best understand the Indigenous context in Australia and the importance of culture and community to health.

Chris believes Indigenous leadership in health is crucial to addressing systemic causes of unequal health outcomes.

“Indigenous health leaders best understand the Indigenous context in Australia and the importance of culture and community to health,” he said, “and having more of them will help ensure that the research undertaken and health programs and services provided are the ones most needed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Ultimately, this will mean our priority health issues receive the focus they require, that research and services are culturally appropriate and empowering, and that the research data and evidence is controlled by communities.

“All of this will help strengthen community-controlled approaches to health and wellbeing, which are vital to community self-determination.”

When he finishes his PhD, Chris hopes to continue researching priority health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a postdoctoral role. He’s also eager to be involved in teaching, as well as efforts to improve Indigenous governance and ownership of health data.

To learn more about and engage Fellows of the Poche Leadership Fellows Program, you can visit the recently-established Poche Leadership Portal.