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Associate Professor Townsend teaches in the areas of Public Health and Family and Society in the School of Health and Social Development. She teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate level and also supervises higher degree
students. She is an active researcher whose research interests include: the human health benefits of interaction with nature; urban and rural contexts for health and wellbeing; social and health impact assessment; and housing and homelessness.
Unit Chair HSH736
Unit Chair HSH740
4 PhD students
1 masters major project student
2 masters minor project students
1 honours student
Associate Professor Townsend is involved, in collaboration with Parks Victoria and other partner organisations, in investigating the benefits of contact with nature
for human health and wellbeing. Current and recent research includes: an
investigation of health and wellbeing outcomes of differing levels of access to
nature for residents of high-rise housing; a study of mental health benefits of
hands-on nature based activities in primary schools; a nature based intervention
program for people suffering depression, anxiety and/or social isolation; an
assessment of health benefits of a visiting companion animal program in an acute
care hospital; several projects exploring the health and wellbeing outcomes of
‘bush adventure therapy’ programs in Australia; several projects exploring the
benefits of environmental volunteering; and a project assessing the valuing and
use of parks in high and low SES areas.
Other recent research undertaken by Associate Professor Townsend has included:
several studies of the use of parks and open spaces; a study of the cumulative
impacts of policy change on two small Victorian rural communities; a study for
the UK Housing Corporation on the housing needs and aspirations of British
women between 2000 and 2020; and a study of the role of physical activity and
sport in building social capital in rural communities.
• 1999 Recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in
• 2004 Recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellent Contributions to
• 2005 Recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in
Teaching and Learning
Public Health Association of Australia
International Union for Health Promotion and Education
International Association for Ecology and Health
Associate Professor Townsend is involved in a range of School, Faculty and University committees:
She is a member of the following Deakin committees and groups:
Deakin University Environmental Policy Sub Committee
Deakin Graduate School of Business Advisory Board
School of Health and Social Development School Board
She is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the journal EcoHealth, and regularly reviews articles for the following journals: Health Promotion International, International Journal of Consumer Studies, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, and Urban Forestry and Urban Greening.
• Human Nature Connections : 'The importance of green spaces and urban parks for health and wellbeing'. Invited keynote presentation at Agencies for Nutrition Action Conference, Wellington, NZ, May 2009
•'A World without Parks?' It Makes You Sick to Think of it!' Invited keynote presentation at Parks Forum Conference, Auckland, NZ, May 2008.
• 'The Nature Connection', Presentation to the 'Stirring the Possum' Public Forum, run by the South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at The Sanctury, Adelaide Zoo, April 2011.
• ‘Healthy Environments, Healthy People: The effect of biodiversity on health and wellbeing of individuals and families in rural communities’, Presentation to Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Board, ‘Brush with Biodiversity’ Conference, Kingscote, KI October 2010
• ‘Climate Change and Human Health’, Presentation to the Frankston City Council Community Workshop, May 2010
• ‘Healthy Parks = Healthy People? The Importance of Nature and the Outdoor Life’, Presentation to the City of Melbourne’s ‘Melbourne Conversations’ Public Forum, April 2010
• ‘Investing in Wellbeing: Healthy People, Healthy Business’, Presentation to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia Forum, March 2010