When Moosa Al Subhi successfully gained a PhD scholarship with REFRESH he had no idea it would mean a year spent at home in front of his computer on the other side of the world from his supervisors.
But that’s the reality he faced when the pandemic hit, stalling his plans to relocate from his home in Oman, in the Middle East, at the start of 2021 to RE-FRESH’s base at Deakin University’s Burwood Campus.
“It’s certainly not what I expected,” he said. “But it did mean I was at home with my wife and our four children (two sons, 12 and 9, and two daughters, 7 and 3) – that was the only benefit of COVID,” he said.
Despite the challenges of existing in an online world in a different time zone to Australia, Moosa successfully gained confirmation of candidature in November 2021.
Moosa’s PhD is focused on the understanding that voluntary changes to the retail environment to increase healthiness must also meet commercial needs. His research will investigate which business outcomes are important to retailers and how they can be included in cost-effectiveness analyses – filling an important gap in the current assessment of the economic credentials of healthy food retail interventions.
He will run workshops with retailers to determine the business outcomes relevant to various food retail settings, perform experiments to assign a value to these outcomes, and conduct economic evaluations incorporating these business outcomes into cost-effectiveness analyses.
The project has been described as “crucial to the REFRESH program of work” by one of Moosa’s three supervisors, Dr Miranda Blake.
She said that current economic evaluation methods didn’t adequately quantify the impacts of healthy food retail interventions on outcomes that were most important and relevant to retailers.
“Moosa’s work will therefore help provide retailers with the information they need to implement retail changes that produce both favourable health and business outcomes.
“By taking a comprehensive health economics approach, Moosa will help move this field from a value-based discussion to a rigorous science.”
It’s an area Moosa is very committed to, and passionate about.
“Economic evaluation in health is a new stream in the last 20 years; it’s very interesting to see how it can improve the health system. The professors in RE-FRESH are leaders in the field; working with them and getting experience from them is an honour.”
Dr Blake celebrated Moosa’s dedication, willingness to learn and “follow the research on the path it takes – all the way to Australia”.
“Despite the difficulties of beginning his PhD long-distance, Moosa has displayed a great deal of maturity in his approach, and a can-do attitude,” she said.
Supervisor Jaithri Ananthapavan agreed.
“Moosa is an engaged and enthusiastic student who is eager to learn and develop his research skills in Health Economics.
“Despite starting his PhD from Oman, Moosa has shown consistent engagement and dedication to his studies. He often joins PhD meetings and RE-FRESH forums many hours before sunrise!”
Moosa’s research builds on years of related work and study, having studied a Bachelor of Health Sciences and Medical Degree over seven years in Oman before working for nine years from 2009-18 with the Ministry of Health there – akin to the Australian Government’s Department of Health.
He is in his second period of study leave from his position as Vice Director of Health Investment with the national government department, first being granted two years’ leave to undertake a Master in Health Economics with Deakin University, on campus from 2018-2020.
In accepting his employer’s support for a second period of study leave to undertake his PhD, Moosa has committed to establishing a national department for health economics upon his return, before looking towards further research.
Moosa arrived in Australia in February 2022 on one of the first flights when the international border re-opened. He is now living in Burwood – and now has the challenge of having his family on the other side of the world.
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