Professor Karen Willis - Faculty of Health Sciences (Faculty of Health Sciences)

Fully accredited supervisor - Can supervise as principal supervisor


I am a health sociologist who examines the links between health choices and broader social and political ideas. I have studied the choice to be screened, the choices that farmers make to try and stay healthy, and the choice made by people with chronic illness to participate in chronic disease self management research. My current ARC Discovery Project examines how people exercise choice in the contemporary Australian health care system.
I am a member of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA).


Phone :3566 (Melbourne)
URIs :

Research Interests

Health policy and health system ; Social and political dimensions of health ; Chronic Illness ; Sociology of complementary & alternative medicine ; Qualitative Research Methodologies ;

Methods Expertise

Qualitative Research: ;

Research Projects

Current Projects

  • How Australians navigate the healthcare maze: the differential capacity to choose, (PhD) (Principal Supervisor)

Selected Publications


Not just a fisherman's wife: Women's contribution to health and wellbeing in commercial fishing, in Australian Journal of Rural Health (accepted 10 June 2014)

Women's experiences of cognitive changes or 'chemobrain' following treatment for breast cancer: A role for occupational therapy?, in Australian Occupational Therapy Journal

(Forthcoming) Community action in Australian farming and fishing communities in Nick Gallent and Danielle Ciaffi (eds), in Community Action and Planning: Contexts, Drivers and Outcomes, The Policy Press Bristol

Less like a drug than a drug: the use of St John's wort among people who self-identify as having depression and/or anxiety symptoms , in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (available online:

Hope is that fiery feeling: Using poetry as data to explore the meanings of hope for young people, in Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung /Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 15(1), Art 9.

The experience of living with metastatic breast cancer: a review of the literature, in Health Care for Women International

Without hope everything would be doom and gloom: Young people talk about the importance of hope in their lives., in Journal of Youth Studies, 17(6) pp. 778 - 793

(Forthcoming) The nexus between the social and the medical: How can we understand the proliferation of complementary and alternative medicine for enhancing fertility and treating infertility?, in The Routledge Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Social Science and Law


Analysing qualitative data, in in M. Walter (ed.) Social Research Methods, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne

Professional practice in contested territory: child health nurses and maternal sadness., in Contemporary Nurse. 43(2), pp. 152-161

Integrative Medical Doctors - Public Health Practitioner or Lifestyle Coach. , in European Journal of Integrative Medicine

Integrative medical practitioners and the use of evidence., in European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 5, pp. 410-417

Radiologist participation in multi-disciplinary teams in breast cancer improves reflective practice, decision making and isolation, in European journal of cancer care


Older Australian women use complementary fertility care: A practice audit, in Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 18 (1):1-2 (refereed letter)

Supporting farmer and fisher health and wellbeing in 'difficult times': communities of place and industry associations,, in Rural Society. 22(1), pp. 31-44

Using documents to explore the links between implementation and sustainability in a complex community intervention: The PRISM Study, in Social Science and Medicine 75, pp. 1222-1229

Choice, trust and risk - the policy context and mammography screening, in in N Uchiyama and M Zanchetta Do Nascimento (eds). Mammography / Book 2, InTech Publishers, ISBN 979-953-307-521-0 pp. 3-24


Exploring implementation and sustainability of models of care: can theory help?, in BMC Public Health, 11(Suppl5)

What's in a name? Integrative medicine or simply good medical practice?, in Family Practice 28: 655-660

Constructing health consumers: Private health insurance discourses in Australia and the United Kingdom, in Health Sociology Review, 20(3): 306-320

Understanding risk, choice and amenity in an urban area at risk of flooding, in Housing Studies 26(2): 225-239.

Women's use of complementary and alternative medicine for fertility enhancement: A review of the literature, in Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 17(8): 685-690.

Participating in research - exploring participation and engagement in a study of self management for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, in Qualitative Health Research 21(9): 1273-1282.

Staying healthy: The case of cotton and cane growers, in in AustralIn Q. L?? (ed.) Health and Wellbeing: A social and cultural perspective, Nova Science, New York.


Women's work: Maintaining a healthy body weight, in Appetite 53: 9-15

Perils and possibilities: Achieving best evidence from focus groups in public health research, in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 32(2): 131-136


Taking Responsibility or Averting Risk? A socio-cultural approach to risk and trust in private health insurance decisions, in Health, Risk and Society 10(4): 399-411.

'I come because I am called': Recruitment and participation in mammography screening in Uppsala, Sweden, in Health Care for Women International 29: 135-150.

Weighing up the risks - the decision to purchase housing on a flood plain, in The Australian Journal of Emergency Management 23(1): 49-53.


What have sampling and data collection got to do with good qualitative research?, in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 31(6): 540-544.

A heirachy of evidence for assessing qualitative health research., in Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 60 (1): 43 - 49

The essential role of social theory in qualitative public health research, in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 31(5): 438-443.

Generating best evidence from qualitative research: The role of data analysis, in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 31(6): 545-50

Problems with provision: Barriers to drinking water quality and public health in rural Tasmania, Australia, in Rural and Remote Health Journal 7(627): 1-9.


Good mothers and good workers: A case study exploring the 'seamless' approach to work and child care responsibilities., in Just Policy: A journal of Australian social policy (39) 38 - 44


Working under pressure: a pilot study of nurse work in a postoperative setting, in Clinical Nurse Specialist, 19(2): 87-91.


Personal choice/social responsibility: Women aged 40-49 years and mammography screening., in Journal of Sociology, 40(2): 121-136


Trusting technology: Women aged 40-49 years particpating in screening for breast cancer - An exploratory study, in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 27(3): 282-286

SAAP Safety and domestic violence: A content analysis, in Just Policy: A journal of Australian social policy (31) 24-30


Compromise, country women and cancer: Women's health policy in Australia, in Health Sociology Review, 9 (1), 51- 61

Feminist public health practice and population based health strategies: Breast cancer screening in Australia, in Scandinavian Journal of Public Health (27) 245 - 246


Working with people with eating disorders: How do professional attitudes affect approaches to early intervention?, in Australian Journal of Primary Health 3 (3): 23-31

Building community networks: A road trauma education and training package for rural areas. , in Australian Journal of Rural Health 5 (1): 6-10


Education for change in a postmodern world: redefining revolution., in Nurse Education Today 15 (5), 336-340

Other information

PhD Student Supervision

2008-2014: Marie Shepherd 'There is never, never a right or wrong answer': the co-construction of 'good mothering' ideologies and practices within child and family health nurses' interactions with low-income mothers, School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania. Degree awarded, August 2014. Co-supervisor

2009-2013: Michelle Newton Implementing caseload midwifery: exploring the views and experiences of midwives and key stakeholders. Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University. Degree awarded, March 2014. Associate supervisor

2008-2012: Terrance Cox Beyond Childhood Cancer - Bringing primary carers into focus. School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania. Degree awarded, August 2012. Co-supervisor

2006-2008: Emily Bishop I'm not a 'real' risk taker - constructing moral identities through sexual storytelling. School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania. Degree awarded, December 2008. Co-supervisor.

2005-2008: Jessica Whelan Turning the Tap - Drinking water governance and public health in Tasmania - A sociological study. School of Sociology and Social Work, University of Tasmania, Degree awarded, May 2008. Co-supervisor.