Deakin-Aarhus Cotutelle - Health literacy and father engagement in perinatal health services

This is a doctoral Cotutelle project in ‘Health literacy and father engagement in perinatal health services' between Deakin University (Australia) and Aarhus University (Denmark).

Deakin Project Supervisor

Deakin School or Institute

Deakin Faculty


Melbourne Burwood Campus (Australia)

Aarhus University – Faculty of Health (Denmark)

Research topic

This is a doctoral cotutelle project between Deakin University (Australia) and Aarhus University – Faculty of Health (Denmark).

The successful PhD Student will be awarded a scholarship from Deakin University with the supervision team being drawn from Deakin University and Faculty of Health at Aarhus University. The PhD Student will graduate with two testamurs, one from Deakin University and one from Aarhus University, each of which recognises that the program was carried out as part of a jointly supervised doctoral program. The program is for a duration of 4 years with enrolment anticipated to commence in January 2023.

The PhD Student is anticipated to spend at least six months of the total period of the program at Aarhus University, with the remainder of the program based at Deakin University.

Fathers’ active participation in antenatal, maternal and early infant healthcare services is widely recommended, yet rarely achieved at desired levels. Understanding men’s health literacy strengths and barriers during their transition to fatherhood provides a promising strategy to inform improvement of the provision of antenatal, maternal and early infant health services to better accommodate and engage fathers. By supporting the health literacy needs of fathers, these services can potentially achieve positive health outcomes for all members of the new family, as well as a more equitable approach to healthcare for families during this important stage of their lives.

Project aim

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate organisational health literacy responsiveness in antenatal healthcare by (a) assessing health literacy strengths and gaps among men whose partners are receiving care at two large antenatal healthcare services in Melbourne, and (b) co-designing, with stakeholders (mothers, fathers, healthcare providers and health service leaders), strategies to build on health literacy strengths and address health literacy support needs among fathers. These strategies will inform a future intervention to improve father-inclusive antenatal healthcare provision.

This project will include the following components.

  1. Needs assessment: Identify health literacy strengths and needs among fathers whose partners are receiving care in continuity-of-care models in two large maternity services (one public and one private) in Melbourne Australia. This will include:

    (a) Online survey, including the validated Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ) (Osborne, Batterham et al. 2013), which a multidimensional tool that assesses diverse aspects of health literacy. This allows researchers to identify HL strengths and barriers.The 44-item HLQ covers 9 conceptually distinct areas of health literacy: Feeling understood and supported by healthcare providers; Having sufficient information to manage health; Actively managing health; Social support for health; Appraisal of health information; Ability to actively engage with healthcare providers; Navigating the healthcare system; Ability to find good health information; and Understand health information well enough to know what to do.

    Cluster analysis will be conducted to identify profiles of health literacy among fathers.

    (b) Semi-structured online interviews with a sub-set of fathers from the clusters in which health literacy gaps are identified, to provide more in-depth understanding of their health service experiences and health literacy challenges.

    (c) Based on data from (a) and (b), short vignettes (narratives) will be written, to represent each of the health literacy profiles identified.

  2. Development of locally appropriate solutions: Co-design workshops will be held with key stakeholders including mothers, fathers, healthcare providers and healthcare service leaders. Participants will be presented with the vignettes developed in Step 1 and asked to consider ways that health services could respond to each of the profiles presented. Strategies and intervention ideas will be developed and prioritised to build on the identified health literacy strengths among fathers and address the health literacy barriers identified among fathers in their community (see Step 1). Through these strategies, engagement of fathers in   health services may be improved, thus facilitating positive health and social equity outcomes among fathers.
  3. Modelling an intervention: In collaboration with the workshop participants from step 2, a theoretical program logic model of the processes and mechanisms for change, will be developed. This will involve prioritising an intervention or interventions, based on the intervention ideas developed during the co-design workshops. Pilot testing and evaluation of the intervention will not form part of the PhD project; funding will be sought to implement this subsequently.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Friday 9 December 2022

Please be aware screening for this scholarship will commence immediately and the scholarship may be awarded prior to the closing date.


This scholarship is supported by Deakin University, is available over 3 years and includes:

  • Stipend of $28,900 per annum tax exempt (2022 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate
  • International students only:  Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.
  • Full tuition fee waiver for up to 4 years
  • Funding to support travel of PhD Student between Deakin University and Aarhus University - Faculty of Health

Eligibility criteria

For Deakin as home: -

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate currently residing in Australia. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet the PhD entry requirements of both Deakin University and Aarhus University - Faculty of Health, including English language proficiency requirements
  • be enrolling full-time and or part-time
  • be able to physically locate to both Aarhus University - Faculty of Health (Denmark) and Deakin University (Australia)

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page and Aarhus University Graduate School of Health Rules and Regulations page for further information.

How to apply

Applicants should contact Dr Karen Wynter to discuss the project before being invited to lodge a formal HDR application to Deakin.


The successful applicant will also be required to lodge a separate PhD application to the Faculty of Health, Aarhus University via the Aarhus University - Graduate School of Health Application page. Please be aware that screening for this advert will commence immediately and the scholarship may be awarded prior to the closing date.

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Karen Wynter (Deakin University)

Dr Karen Wynter (Deakin University)
Email Dr Karen Wynter