Maxine A. Whittaker, MBBS,  MPH , PhD, FAFPHM, GAICD is the Dean of the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences at James Cook University (Feb 2016), She is also Co-Director of the World Health Organisation's Collaborating Centre for Vector Borne Diseases and Neglected Tropical Diseases. In 2017 she was awarded the Royal Australasian College of Physicians International Medal in recognition of outstanding service in developing countries. 

Experience Maxine Whittaker has lived and worked in Bangladesh, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Papua New Guniea and worked extensively in China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Thailand , Tonga, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.  She has extensive experience in project and programme design in health and development, especially in infectious diseases, One Health, and sexual and reproductive health and gender analysis, and using rapid formative research and anthropological methods and for a variety of international development partner and NGO organizations. She has developed local research teams in social sciences methods in Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Northern Queensland remote communities, and Vanuatu, and participated in the development of training materials and activities to support this capacity development.

From 2006-2009 she was the Senior Technical Health Adviser to the National Department of Health in Papua New Guinea where she was involved in health and development policy work, technical programme support especially in disease control and family health services, and a member of several national committees to advise the Ministry of Health (Child health, Maternal Health Ministerial Taskforce, family planning, Tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/STIs).

Research Interests Maxine Whittaker research interests are in fields of operational and health services research and medical anthropology, with a primary focus on sexual and reproductive health, health seeking behaviour and quality of care. She has a special interest in the issue of scaling-up pilot programmes into policy and practice, and as a founding member of Expandnet has contributed to a body of work published by WHO on this topic. She is co-chaired the Health Systems panel (http://www.malariaeradication.org/malera-refresh) and is recognized as one of the leaders in re-invigorating social sciences and community participation  in the malaria research agenda. 

Since 2009 has been CI on research and project grants in the Asia Pacific region worth more than $A80 million including several from DFAT published more than 80 peer reviewed publications, and several project documents for development partners and countries, policy briefings, briefing papers, book chapters and commissioned papers.

Present service and leadership roles 

Maxine is the Co- Chair of the WHO Research Project Review Panel (RP2) of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research including the WHO Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/about_us/en/).  Maxine is a member of the  Technical Reference Group of the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia)(https://indopacifichealthsecurity.dfat.gov.au/) and of the Queensland Government's Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Council (2019- now) (https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/biosecurity/policy-legislation-regulation/biosecurity-queensland-ministerial-advisory-committee). She is an active member of the Public Health Association of Australia especially the special interest groups of international health, One Health and women’s health. In June 2020 Maxine was elected to the Executive Committee of the recently formed Australian Network of WHO Collaborating Centres. 

She presents the James Cook University annual Women in Promotion workshops.

Previous positions She was previously (2008-2016) Professor of International and Tropical  Health and Co-Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Health Information Systems, Director of the Health Information Systems Knowledge Hub, Program Director of the Australian Initiative on Control and Elimination of Malaria/Pacific Malaria Initiative Support Centre and co-Secretariat of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network.

Previous service and leadership roles She was the Chair of the Board of Trustees (2019), Board of Trustee member ( 2014-2019) and member of the Scientific Advisory Group of icddr,b (https://www.icddrb.org/). 

Other professional activities: 

  • Temporary adviser to World Health Organsiation (Western Pacific Region) to 4th meeting Technical Advisory Group on Universal Health Coverage (19-21 August 2020)
  • Temporary adviser to World Health Organsiation (Western Pacific Region) to Consultation on Reaching the Unreached (27-29 July 2020)
  • Section Editor for Health Systems and Social Science of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • Associate Editor for Malaria Journal and of Public Health Action
  • Senior Editor for Biomedicine Hub
  • Member of the RBM Country and Regional Support Partners Committee
  • Member of the Australian Anthropological Society
  • Graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Technical Advisor, International Development, Storyboxes (https://www.thestoryboxes.com/)
  • Mentor in the ASTMH Committee on Global Health (ACGH) Mentorship Initiative 
  • Mentor in the Catalyse Mentorship program - advancing women scientists in Aboriginal and Tropical health (Menzies Institute)(2019)

Media Events


The Conversation


·       Villages wiped out: why infectious diseases are so much more harmful to isolated peoples  May 28, 2018 5.57am AEST

·       How infectious diseases have shaped our culture, habits and language July 13, 2017 6.06am AEST


Situational  Analysis on health services in northern Australia webinar for CRC  NA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gKjoddtCQc  and related publicaitons  https://crcna.com.au/resources/publications/northern-australia-health-service-delivery-situational-analysis-webinar  and https://crcna.com.au/resources/publications/northern-australia-health-service-delivery-situational-analysis-fact-sheet·    

Open Access (JCU Open Access Week 2019)

Introduction to College https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=-uYQLymeK-E 


Introduction  to One Health https://youtu.be/f2URbp318eg


·       Mi aigris long koins bilong em' ('I was attracted to him because of his money'): Polygamy, sexual agency and women in contemporary Papua New Guinea The 2013 Australasian HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health Conference, Recorded on 21-25 October 2013 in Darwin, Australia. The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine  Presented by Angela Mek Co-authors: Angela Kelly(1), (2), Lee Wilson(3), Herick Aeno(1), Richard Trumb(1), Foselyn Siki(1), Maxine Whittaker(3), Andrew Vallely(1), (4). 1- PNG Institute of Medical Research, PNG. 2- International HIV Research Group, UNSW, Australia. 3- University of Queensland, Australia. 4- Kirby Institute, UNSW, Australia. https://www.sexualhealthvisual.com/Video_by_Agnes_Mek_on_Mi_aigris_long_koins_bilong_em_I_was_attracted_to_him_because_of_his_money_Polygamy_sexual_agency_and_women_in_contemporary_Papua_New_Guinea_1.html#lectures

International Women's Day

Interviewed for Menzie's Socail Media Campagn celebrating the Internatioal Day of Women and Girls in Sceince 11 Feb 2020

Featured in PHAA Celebrates International Women’s Day 2020, PHAA Monograph Series No. 3, Canberra, 2020

Examples of recent presentations

RACP 2018 Annual Congress Climate sensitive vector‐ borne diseases and  outbreak response  capabilities in the Pacific https://www.racp.edu.au/docs/default-source/Events/congress-2018-presentations/racp-mon-18-maxine-whittaker.pdf?sfvrsn=2


  • TM5501: Tropical Medicine (Level 5; TSV)
  • TM5525: Communicable Disease Control (Level 5; TSV)
  • TM5529: Applied Health Economics (Level 5; TSV)
  • Global health advocacy
  • Co-Chair WHO Research panel for Reproductive program of the Human reproduction program (HRP)
  • Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network
  • capacity building and development
  • Global health policy
  • Medical anthropology
  • Malaria and other infectious diseases
  • One Health
  • Health systems research
  • Operational and implementation research
  • global public health
  • health systems
  • One Health
  • 2009 to 2016 - Professor, University of Queensland School of Public Health (Brisbane, Australia)
  • 2009 to 2014 - Director, Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health (Brisbane, Australia)
  • 1994 to 2001 - Senior Lecturer/Lecturer, University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia)
  • 1991 to 1992 - Visiting Fellow, Child Survival Project, Department of Demography and National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, (Canberra)
  • 1989 to 1990 - Operations Research Scientist,, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, (Dhaka, Bangladesh)
  • 1986 to 1988 - Resident Associate,, The Population Council, (Lusaka, Zambia)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2017 - Royal College of Physicians International Medal
  • 1985 - • 1985 Life Member International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA)
  • 1984 - Honorary Life Member, Australian Medical Students Association
  • 2001 - Dr Jerusha Jhirad Oration Award. Presented at the Silver Jubilee Conference of Medical Women International Association (MWIA)
  • 1998 - University of Queensland Short Fellowship

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 73+ research outputs authored by Prof Maxine Whittaker from 1990 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Anglo American Exploration (Australia) Pty Ltd - Contract Research

Health SDG targets (global mining town)

Indicative Funding
$89,621 (administered by London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)
The overall aim is to design interventions to support host communities the Sustainable development goal health outcome targets by 2030. The objectives are to: i) conduct a baseline assessment of existing data to estimate progress towards the health/wellbeing targets in the host countries (Peru, Australia, Canada, Chile and Southern Africa), ii) conduct baseline assessment in the host communities in relation to the SDG health and wellbeing targets, iii) design , cost and develop implementation plans for follow-on funding tailored interventions based on best practice evidence, to address the priority targets, iv) develop monitoring and evaluation frameworks to track progress
Maxine Whittaker, Mitzy Gafos, Brian Rice, Ana Maria Buller, Meghna Ranganathan, Stefania Dringus, Renay Werner, Cesar Bazam, Ximena Ceo and Miguel Fontes in collaboration with Michael Jana, Lebohang Letsela, Ralelani Daswa, Rafael Miranda, Jhonny Acevedo and Rodrigo Crivelaro (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Research for Trining and Development, Innovation for Development, Universidad de Chile, John Snow Inc. and Soul City Institute for Social Justice)
Sustainable Development Goals; Health; Mining communities; Disease Control

CRC for Developing Northern Australia Scheme - Contract Research

Northern Australia Health Service Delivery Situation Analysis

Indicative Funding
This project will identify key challenges and opportunities facing the northern Australian health service delivery sector and explore potential developmental scenarios and/or identify the most strategic research projects and development priorities for further investment. This will include but not be limited to infrastructure, clinical issues, policy, new models of care, investment, knowledge, training and human capital gaps and the research or alternative solutions to address them. This report will provide recommendations in all key areas identified to provide a better environment for growth and development on the northern Australian health service delivery sector.
Maxine Whittaker in collaboration with Edward Strivens, Robyn Aitken, David Atkinson, Sarah Larkins and Stephanie Topp (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Cairns & Hinterland Health Service District, Top End Health Service, Rural Clinical School of Western Australia and College of Medicine & Dentistry)
Northern Australia health sector; Health Economics; Health Policy; Health System evaluation

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) - Tropical Disease Research Regional Collaboration Initiative

Tropical partnerships to strengthen health systems responses to infectious diseases threats

Indicative Funding
$2,000,000 over 2 years
The Asia Pacific Region is facing frequent threats from emerging and existing infectious diseases. The capacity to mount a timely effective response is compromised in poorly functioning health systems seen in parts of the region. The resulting vulnerability affects the whole region, including Australia. Strengthening capacity to prepare and respond to these threats is thus a shared responsibility. This proposal aims to tackle the problem through collaboration with institutions, researchers and policy makers across the region, building on long held partnerships.
Emma McBryde, Sarah Larkins, Archie Clements, Barend (Ben) Marais, Peter Siba, Maxine Whittaker, Tom Burkot, David MacLaren, George Milne and Richard Speare (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, College of Medicine & Dentistry, Australian National University, The University of Sydney, Institute of Medical Research (PNG), College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and The University of Western Australia)
Health system strengthening; Infectious Diseases; Epidemiology; Disease Surveillance

Australian Research Council - Special Research Initiatives Scheme

Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine

Indicative Funding
$42,000,000 over 4 years
AITHM intends to build Australian research capacity in tropical health and biomedical sciences, to improve national capacity to identify risks to health security and biosecurity from re-emerging infectious diseases prevalent in tropical countries, and to undertake research which targets improvements in health outcomes and service delivery for regional, remote, and under-served communities in tropical Australia. This requires expansion of tropically based research facilities, the researcher skill base, and research programs.
Louis Schofield, Maxine Whittaker, Robyn McDermott and Alex Loukas (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Tropical Health and Medicine; Northern Australia

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Developing Local Models to Strengthen and Improve Capacity in Health Research in Melanesia (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Assessing primary health service capacity to prevent and control non-communicable diseases in the Kingdom of Bhutan; a healthy policy and systems analysis (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Strengthening community empowerment approaches to Aedes species mosquito management in a high-income country setting: comparative case studies within Queensland, Australia. (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Transition from Girlhood to Womanhood: Experiences of Adolescent Females in Papua New Guinea. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Constructing the contraceptive decision-making process: a framework for family planning programs in Sub-Saharan Africa. A Zambian case study. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Engagement and Participation of Faith based Organizations in the Health System Reforms in Soloman Islands (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • An investigation of the barriers to infectious disease interventions in Indigenous Australian communities (2019, PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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