Prof. Ron Borland

Professor Ron BorlandRon Borland is currently the Nigel Gray Distinguished Fellow in Cancer Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria (since 2004). Also a Professorial Fellow in both the School of Population Health and Department of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne.

He's worked as a research scientist at the Cancer Council since 1986, including Director (Co-Director) of the VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control (2000-2003), and before that various positions within its Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer.

Ron has published around 280 articles in peer-reviewed journals (mostly the top international journals in the field) and has over 100 other publications. He was senior Editor on a prestigious IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) Handbook on Cancer Prevention (Handbook 12, 2008). He had an H index of 47 as at June 2012.

Ron has made plenary presentations at major international meetings including the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, 1997 (Beijing), 2006 (Washington, DC), The Society for Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 2007 (Austin, Texas), and International Harm Reduction Conference, 2006 (Belfast). In 2010 he gave the inaugural in-house seminar to the new US FDA Tobacco Regulation Unit on learnings from Australia, particularly around health warnings and product labelling.

His past research has contributed to the development and improvement of mass-media based public education campaigns for tobacco control (e.g. Borland & Balmford, 2003, Tobacco Control), to the development and implementation of better health warnings on tobacco packaging (Borland, 1997, Addiction, Borland et al 2009, Tobacco Control; Borland et al, 2009, Addiction), to demonstrating the benefits to smokers and non-smokers of smoke-free policies (Borland et al, 1990, Am J Public Health; Borland et al, 2006 Tobacco Control).

In the area of smoking cessation, Ron has led seven major RCTs examining aspects of the effectiveness of various mass-disseminable interventions. These have shown among other things that Quitline callback counselling increases cessation rates (Borland et al, 2001, Addiction), that additional callbacks beyond the first month don't add value (Segan, et al, Health Education and Research), that active referral by GPs of smokers to a Quitline enhances cessation outcomes over in-practice management (Borland et al, 2008, Family Practice); that some forms of automated advice program don't work (Borland et al 2003, Addiction), but that others do, including the QuitCoach, an automated, personalised, tailored internet-delivered cessation aid, which he developed (Borland et al 2004, Addiction).

The QuitCoach is part of Australia's suite of cessation aids and is available via the web address that's part of the health warning information on cigarette packs. Ron has also developed a text messaging intervention, currently being used by Quit South Australia as part of their suite of cessation services (Quit Victoria implemented 2011).

Ron has also published on models for the future of tobacco control and on the need for more systemic thinking about what's required to have effective tobacco control policies and programs. He's also published on models for understanding and potentially speeding the resolution of the tobacco problem (e.g.; Borland, 2003, Tobacco Control; Borland et al, 2010, American Journal of Public Health; Young, Borland et al, 2010, American Journal of Public Health).

Current research falls into four main areas:

  1. The evaluation of tobacco control policies, which mainly focuses on the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation project (see below).
  2. Formative research to aid policy development, primarily focusing on the potential of standardised or plain packaging to reduce tobacco use and the types of health warnings most likely to discourage use. 
  3. Research on developing better models for understanding tobacco use at both societal and individual levels. This work includes a focus on the different strategies required to maintain, as distinct from initiate, attempts to change behaviour, and the identification of barriers to successful cessation – some of which are linked to social disadvantage.
  4. Developing and trialling more effective mass-disseminable cognitive behavioural interventions to use in conjunction with or as alternatives to pharmacotherapy to assist smoking cessation. This work includes optimising the use of text messages for smoking cessation and the role of structured planning.

Ron is 1 of 3 Chief Principal Investigators on the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Study, a large multi-country survey of cohorts of smokers active in 20 countries. This study has and continues to be funded by a wide range of funding sources, most importantly the US NIH, largely through NCI (Ron has been lead investigator on one project, and either co-chief or associate investigator on several others), from the Canadian Institutes of Public Health (Co-investigator on several) and from NHMRC (CIA on three).  

Research, reports & publications