Research Capacity Building

The Centre of Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care (CRE) brings together an outstanding collaboration of researchers from Australia and overseas.  The CRE research program builds upon existing research activities, collaborations, and infrastructure.

The combined experience and expertise of our team of researchers provides a first-class platform upon which to further develop the research capacity in rural and remote regions of Australia.  The CRE brings together a wide range of skills from numerous disciplines including general practice, geography, epidemiology, biostatistics, nursing, allied health, health services research and health policy.

The CRE will also maintain close and strong links with the research activities being undertaken at the APHCRI ‘hub’ at the Australian National University, and with the other CREs funded through APHCRI.

Research capacity building activities are being tailored to the specific needs of postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early career researchers.  Direct one-to-one supervision and mentoring is complemented by seminars, journal clubs, workshops and visits from international experts through the use of interactive technology across all sites.

The CRE has appointed the following postdoctoral fellows with the aim for them to become accomplished primary healthcare researchers leading major national projects funded through competitive grants within its lifespan. They are:

Four PhD students are enrolled at Bendigo, Alice Springs and Broken Hill.  They are:

 The following workshops have been offered:

  • D. Perkins, D Lyle & JS Humphreys:“Getting your paper published” – Workshop at the Rural Health Research Colloquium – Sustaining Rural Health through Research’, 11th October, Dubbo, NSW. (7 attendees)
  • D. Perkins & JS Humphreys: “Thinking about doing a PhD – come and explore the possibilities” Workshop at the Rural Health Research Colloquium – Sustaining Rural Health through Research’, 13th October, Dubbo, NSW. (25 attendees).

The CRE Research Capacity Building Program also aims to build both individual and organisational capacity to undertake research that will benefit primary health care services in rural and remote Australia.  Following an invitation to nominate a participant from health service organisations across the country, two-year scholarships were awarded to eight participants. Their names and projects are listed below:

Carole Meade (through Monash University)

Brooke Street Medical Centre, Woodend

Project:  “General Practice in Residential Aged Care”.
Carole Meade is the Clinical Care Coordinator at Brooke Street Medical Centre (BSMC), a large multidisciplinary General Practice in Woodend, Victoria, Carole manages the Allied Health Team, organising systems for chronic disease management and education sessions. 
When GP shortages threatened BSMC’s capacity to provide services to patients in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF), they decided to implement a new model of care utilising a Practice Nurse.   Under the supervision of Dr Bernadette Ward, Carole’s project seeks to describe the model of “General Practice residential aged care utilising a Practice Nurse”. This model may more broadly benefit patients in RACFs and the care they receive from their General Practices.  A submission for ethics approval is in progress. Data collection will commence in the next few months.

Di Roberts (through Monash University)

Kyabram & District Health Services.

Project:“Health outcomes associated with participation in a rural diabetes self management education program”.
Di Roberts is the Coordinator of Chronic Disease Management at Kyabram & District Health Services. This program provides services and self-management support to people living in the community with diabetes, cardiac or respiratory diseases. Given that diabetes is highly prevalent, Di’s research focuses on evaluating the Diabetes Self-Management Education Program to identify the factors associated with participating in the program, and the resultant health outcomes. The research will help to inform how best to deliver diabetes self-management support and education in a primary care setting, and improve access to services for rural communities. Ethics approval for this study is currently pending, and data collection is scheduled to occur in early 2013.

Fiona Tipping (through Monash University)

Sunraysia Community Health Services, Mildura. 

Project:“School readiness of Pacific Island migrant children: The care-givers perception”.
Fiona Tipping is an Occupational Therapist at Sunraysia Community Health Services (SCHS) with a special interest and clinical skills in paediatric practice.  She has worked extensively with vulnerable populations including 10 years of employment in the Northern Territory where she worked with Indigenous communities. 
The early childhood period is a critical time in development where experiences prepare children for transition to full time school, and establish lifelong learning pathways. The allied team at SCHS provide multi-disciplinary assessment and intervention to children who have developmental delay or diagnosed learning disabilities. Recent service reviews have identified that the use of paediatric health services and enrolment at kindergarten programs, by Pacific Islanders is much lower than other population groups and that many of these children are deemed as ‘not ready’ for formal education when they commence primary school.  ‘Unreadiness’ is costly for schools and communities to address and comes at the expense of the individual child’s future potential in our society.
Fiona will be using photovoice methods to explore Pacific Islander parents’/caregivers’ perceptions of school readiness.  A submission for ethics approval for this research is in progress.

Vicki Carroll (through Flinders University)

Kimberley Population Health Unit, Broome
Project:  Change Management: Re-orienting a remote acute care model to a primary health care approach”.

Vicki Carroll works with the Kimberley Population Health Unit, Northern & Remote Country Health Service in Broome, Western Australia.  She is Senior Project Officer on a State Health Research Advisory Council (SHRAC) funded project entitled “Translating primary health care policy into service delivery, a partnership between the Kimberley Population Health Unit and the Centre of Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care. 
Vicki’s project explores change management in a remote community where primary health care service is available in the local hospital.  Her findings will inform the development and delivery of effective primary health care services in other remote locations and will contribute to improved access to health services for Aboriginal people, with improved health outcomes as a result.  Vicki has completed her research proposal, developed questions, consent and information packages for key informant interviews, and has received ethics approval.  Interviews will be conducted during November.

Laurencia Grant (through Flinders University)

Mental Health Association of Central Australia, Alice Springs
Project:Aboriginal youth service referral pathways in Central Australia”.

Laurencia Grant is the Manager of the Mental Health Promotion Unit within the Mental Health Association of Central Australia in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and oversees the suicide prevention work of this team. Laurencia’s project explores the pathways of support for young Aboriginal people at risk of suicide in Central Australia. This is the second stage of a project that has been gathering qualitative data on suicide risk for Aboriginal youth and the system of support and referral in Central Australia.  Her research seeks to increase our knowledge and understanding of how young Aboriginal people are currently supported around suicide risk in Central Australia, the prevalence of suicidal risk among this population group, and the potential opportunities for education and training and improved systems of support.

Susan Daly(through The University of Sydney)

Far West Local Health District, Broken Hill
Project:“An exploration of the reasons for sudden death in restraint in mental health facilities”.

Susan Daly is the Director of Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol in the Far West Local Health District and is based in Broken Hill. Susan has a nursing background with extensive experiences in mental health nursing.  Sheheld a senior mental health advisory position in the New South Wales Ministry of Health and was a mental health senior nurse in the Illawarra region. Susan’s research project is based on deaths in restraint and seclusion of mental health patients. The study will build on the UDRH rural mental health integration work exploring the international literature to develop a conceptual model of the causative factors and examining the Australian database of patient deaths.

Catherine Sanford (through The University of Sydney)

Maari Ma Aboriginal Health Service, Broken Hill
Project:  “An exploration of the understandings of family violence of inmate’s in corrective services”.

Catherine Sanford works part-time as a Project Officer on a joint initiative between UNSW and Maari Ma Health.  She began her career in health as a Dietitian, but became interested in research and secured a position on the Community Safety Research Project (CSRP), where she has worked for the past 2 1/2 years. The CSRP is an innovative multi-phased, mixed methods project looking at violence, trauma and social-emotional well being in Indigenous communities.
Catherine’s project will explore the inmate’s understandings of family violence and may be valuable in guiding health and social programs, both within the organisation and to other organisations such as Corrective Services.  Currently Catherine is working on her review of the literature and getting her head around the workings of NVivo.
The Program commenced with a Short Course in Research Methods in Adelaide in June 2012, providing an opportunity for participants to meet other participants and CRE researchers/mentors.   The first six months of their program has been completed and it is useful to review their achievements to date, as well as some of the issues that the capacity building program has needed to address.  Several initiatives have been mounted to ensure their ongoing engagement and to overcome barriers to research progress.
  • Communication: All participants report regularly on their research progress via a monthly teleconference held across all geographical sites. The teleconference provides a useful mechanism for sharing learning experiences, addressing any issues and problems that might arise.
  • Time management: A major issue for practising health professionals is finding sufficient time to undertake research.  Participants are learning to structure their work around the research project, often by quarantining blocks of time for research.
  • The importance of ethical research: While most participants have received ethics approval for their project, some proposed projects required modifications.
  • Accessing research resources: Research capacity building staff regularly disseminate articles and resources which are useful to their research, and notification of relevant seminars and conferences.
As students complete their literature searches prior to data collection, CRERRPHC staff hope to run a second research methods short course for the group, focusing in particular on the acquisition of direct hands-on research skills associated with data collection, data management and analysis (such as NVivo, Endnote, SPSS), and the importance of theory to research.