Field of Research (FoR)
Stephen Bell is a Senior Research Fellow with the Public Health Interventions Research Group, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program, in the Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney. He is a social scientist who has led in-depth qualitative studies with a focus on sexual, reproductive and maternal health, and other public health issues, conducted in partnership with young people and other marginalised populations in a variety of...view more
Stephen Bell is a Senior Research Fellow with the Public Health Interventions Research Group, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program, in the Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney. He is a social scientist who has led in-depth qualitative studies with a focus on sexual, reproductive and maternal health, and other public health issues, conducted in partnership with young people and other marginalised populations in a variety of settings in Africa, Asia, Pacific-Asia, Europe and Australia for over 15 years.
His current work focuses on the sexual health of young Indigenous people in Central Australia and NSW; HIV serodiscordance, TB and young people's experiences of pregnancy in Papua New Guinea; and HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care among 'key populations' in Indonesia and Uganda.
Stephen’s research career has been split between academic institutions and research consultancy organisations in the UK and Australia. He is particularly interested in the theoretical, empirical and applied studies in young people's sexual, reproductive and maternal health, and in qualitative and participatory approaches to planning, program development and evaluation. His work explores how rigorous research using qualitative and ethnographic principles can enable practitioners and service providers to strengthen the delivery of sexual health programs, and develop peer-led research programmes to facilitate the design of culturally and socially attuned health services and programs.
Qualifications: BA Hons, MA, PhD
Developing youth-centred health promotion strategies to prevent and mitigate the adverse health impacts of adolescent pregnancy in Papua New Guinea (NHMRC Project Grant, APP1144424, CIA)
Talking story: learning from Aboriginal young people about sexual health (NSW Health Prevention Research Support Program, Round 5, 2017-2021, CIA)
Fostering Aboriginal young people’s sexual well-being by building on strengths (ARC Discovery Grant, LP170100190, CIB)
Understanding the socio-cultural dimensions of tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea: Knowledge to optimise public health solutions (NHMRC Project Grant, APP1142715, CI)
New strategies to increase testing and treatment for endemic sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in remote Aboriginal communities (NHMRC Project Grant, APP1060478, CI)
BA, MA, PhD
- Doctor of Philosophy (2009) Exploring empowerment in rural Uganda: young people, sexual health and NGOs,
Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
- MA in Environment & Development, with Distinction (2003) Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
- BA in Human Geography, with Upper 2nd Class Honours (2000) Department of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship (2011), School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex, UK
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postgraduate Studentship (2003-07), Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
- Royal Holloway College Studentship (2002-03), Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
- ‘Alan Mountjoy Prize 2003’ for the best independent dissertation on the social and economic geography of developing countries, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
My Research Activities
Young people's experiences of pregnancy in Papua New Guinea. Adolescent pregnancy is a major public health concern in PNG, the Asia-Pacific region, and other low and middle income countries, with severe health and socio-economic outcomes for young women. This three-year NHMRC Project Grant will examine the experiences of early pregnancy among young female and male Papua New Guineans (15-24 years). Using qualitative research and working in partnership with young people, project outcomes will include the design of youth health services and community-outreach programs to curb the ongoing harm associated with adolescent pregnancy. Collaborative study with the Sexual & Reproductive Health Unit, Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research.
Understanding the socio-cultural dimensions of tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea. PNG has among the highest TB incidence rates in the world, with rates in particular areas considerably higher. This three-year NHMRC-funded qualitative study will examine the socio-cultural contexts of TB control programs. The project outcome will be better contextualised solutions to improve the effectiveness of TB control programs and therefore the spread of TB and its drug resistant forms. Collaborative study with the Sexual & Reproductive Health Unit, Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research.
Talking story: learning from Aboriginal young people about sexual health, NSW, Australia. We are conducting youth-centred, youth-led qualitative research across NSW - in partnership with NSW Health, Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services and other community-based partners - that aligns with NSW Health priorities with a focus on the prevention of HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs. In addition to community-based research projects, this study includes the development of a qualitative research skills among Indigenous youth, and training and capacity building in youth-focussed qualitative research for Aboriginal Health Workers in NSW Health staff.
Understanding global biomedical technologies in local realities: the case of couples with mixed HIV status in Papua New Guinea. It is frequently assumed that, if given equitable access, biomedical technologies designed to treat and prevent disease will have uniform or predictable effects irrespective of the local context in which they are used or consumed. During this three year ARC-funded longitudinal anthropological study, we will work with people in heterosexual, same sex and polygamous relationships, in rural and urban settings, to explore the promises, limits and applications of HIV-related biomedical technologies, examine the effects of these technologies in people's lives, and understand how use of these technologies is influenced by local socio-sexual, religious and cultural practices and meanings. Collaborative study with the Sexual & Reproductive Health Unit, Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research.
The MOST (More Options for STI testing) Study, Central Australia. Many remote Aboriginal communities continue to experience the impacts of curable STIs that occur at rates among the highest in the world, and are looking for innovative yet pragmatic solutions. Based in the Northern Territory, the NHMRC-funded MOST study is a trial of two strategies for increasing the number of young people being tested and treated for sexually transmitted chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomonas in remote Aboriginal communities. The trial will follow a period of community-based qualitative formative research, and will be accompanied by community-designed health promotion about the availability and benefits of STI testing. Collaborative study with Central Australian Aboriginal Congress.
STRIVEplus: Refinement and translation of an intervention designed to improve sexual health service delivery in remote communities. This is a long-term NHMRC-funded observational study of quality improvement in government and Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services in the Northern Territory. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative monitoring research, this study aims to determine the long-term sustainability of changes in sexual health service delivery brought about by the implementation of a quality improvement program.
Peer research in health and social development. This project problematises the uncritical application of peer research and illustrates the potential of good quality peer research practice to aid understanding and make a difference both programmatically and on the ground. Through a mix of good practice case studies – drawn from a range of international settings involving diverse population groups – we hope to help ensure that the applied use of peer research can facilitate and lead to an in-depth understanding of real world pressing problems in health and social development.
Monitoring and evaluation in health and social development - interpretive and ethnographic perspectives. Drawing on primary research from a wide range of developing and developed country settings, this edited collection illustrates the value of interpretive and ethnographic approaches in program and service design, monitoring and evaluation. New approaches are needed to monitor and evaluate health and social development initiatives. The growing emphasis on results-based programming has resulted in evaluation being conducted in order to demonstrate accountability and success, rather than how change takes place, what works and why. The tendency to monitor and evaluate using log frames and their variants closes policy makers’ and practitioners’ eyes to the sometimes unanticipated means by which change takes place. Through a focus on individual and community perspectives, and locally-grounded explanations, the methods explored in this book offer a potentially richer way of assessing the relationships between intent, action and change in health and social development in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
My Research Supervision
Areas of supervision
Stephen supervises postgraduate research students predominantly from low and middle income countries who take a qualitative approach to exploring contemporary sexual, reproductive and maternal health issues and the social aspects of HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care in socio-culturally diverse settings.
He is currently supervising four students:
- Elan Lazuardi, who is undertaking ethnographic research to understand people's engagement with HIV care in Indonesian urban ART clinics (co-supervised with Associate Prof. Christy Newman).
- Anindita Gabriella Sudewo, who is conducting qualitative research to explore the diverse sexual and drug risk practices and experiences of vulnerability amongst people using drugs in Indonesia, and the development of appropriate community-based outreach responses by governmental and non-governmental organisations (co-supervised with Prof. Carla Treloar).
- Kate Whitford, who is undertaking a mixed methods study to investigate the social and contextual issues relating to STIs and HIV in young Aboriginal people in NSW, and strategies used by Aboriginal young people to improve their sexual health. This study will provide a locally relevant evidence base for the development of effective, culturally appropriate, youth-centred HIV and STI prevention programs in NSW (co-supervised with Dr. Skye McGregor and Associate Prof. Kathy Petoumenos).
- Rob Monaghan, who is undertaking a mixed methods study looking at novel initiaitives to enhance STI testing and treatment among Aboriginal young people in Australia (co-supervised with Prof. Rebecca Guy).
Completed PhD supervision:
- Dr Christopher Tumwine, Lecturer (Medical Sociology), School of Medicine, Kabale University, Uganda - who conducting qualitative research explore access to and engagement with HIV care services among people with HIV in Ugandan fishing communities (co-supervised with Prof. Peter Aggleton). Postdoctoral papers focus on: mobility and transport challenges influencing fisherfolk's access to HIV treatment and care services; social support and access to and use of HIV testing, treatment and care services in fishing communities; and the interface between 'traditional' and modern systems of treatment and care among HIV positive Ugandan fisherfolk.
- Development Studies Association (DSA), UK