A champion for women’s health

Professor Liz Eckermann

As an international leader in public health research, Professor Liz Eckermann (1949-2019) has helped to empower poor and marginalised women around the world.

During her lifetime, Professor Eckermann (BA(Hons) ’77, MA(SocSc)(Res) ’85, PhD(SocSc) ’94) was focused on gender and health, reproductive and maternal health, violence against women, and developing quality of life and health status indicators within developing countries.

After achieving her PhD in Social Sciences at Flinders University in 1994, Professor Eckermann undertook a research project at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific Regional Office to develop gender sensitive indicators of health status.

A year later at the UN Conference on Women in Beijing, Professor Eckermann contributed significantly to the gender and health agenda. She later conducted WHO workshops in Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Samoa, Fiji and Laos to help implement important recommendations from the conference.

Professor Eckermann attended the first World Conference on Quality of Life in 1996 and became a foundation member of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS). In 2003 she was awarded a Distinguished Research Fellow status by ISQOLS for her contributions to gender and quality of life, and her social indictors research.

In 2005 Professor Eckermann conducted a major evaluation of the Bolikhan Maternity Waiting Home in Bolikhamxay Province of Lao PDR with WHO. During her research she developed research tools to enable the voices of local illiterate women to be incorporated in the measurement of the effectiveness of the interventions aimed at improving their health. This resulted in significant improvement in reproductive and maternal health outcomes for women in the region.

‘Dr Eckermann’s energy, enthusiasm, compassion, humour and scientific rigour encouraged a highly productive, congenial and exciting work environment.’ says Dr Giovanni Deodato, WHO. ‘Her leadership style was democratic but highly focused on the task at hand and she managed teams with a generous, supportive style that engenders absolute dedication to the task on behalf of all team members.’

In 2014 Professor Eckermann set up a research team to work with local non-government organisations on an Alcohol Harm Reduction project among the Kadazan-Dusun communities in Sabah. The project aims to reduce foetal alcohol syndrome, reduction in domestic violence as well as general health improvement through reduced-alcohol consumption and alternative community behaviours. Professor Eckermann’s legacy will continue to be felt throughout the region with the project being funded into the 2020s.

As Associate Editor of Health Promotion International journal, Professor Eckermann was able to extend her influence on policy agendas for women’s health.

When she was diagnosed with brain cancer in February 2018, Professor Eckermann was President-Elect of ISQOLS. She died peacefully on 13 May 2019, in the presence of her husband John and son, Simon.

Professor Liz Eckermann was posthumously awarded a 2019 Flinders University Distinguished Alumni Award for her outstanding international leadership in health research to improve the quality of life for underprivileged and marginalised people around the world.

Read the full list of 2019 Alumni Award recipients

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