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Central Highlands health research partnership could one day have global benefits

Published:14 February 2018

Dr Mel Hayman (left) and Professor Desley Hegney are involved with Central Highlands health research, in collaboration with Central Highlands Healthcare Ltd, which operates the Emerald Superclinc.

Two new health research projects focused on the Central Highlands could have national and international benefits one day.

One project is adapting an established pregnancy fitness program to incorporate diet and lifestyle benefits.

The other is investigating factors to bolster the resilience of medical practitioners, reducing the potential for mental illness or suicide.

Both projects involve CQUniversity collaborating on research with Central Highlands Healthcare Ltd, which operates the Emerald Superclinc.

CQUni is contributing equal cash and in-kind support to jointly develop a research partnership, as part of a longer-term relationship developing with Central Highlands Healthcare.

Superclinic CEO Michael Bishop says Central Highlands Healthcare is looking forward to collaborating with CQUniversity researcher Dr Mel Hayman, to modify and extend her web-based Fit4Two intervention program, which is designed to encourage healthy habits among pregnant women.

Mr Bishop says his organisation will also work with CQUniversity’s Professor Desley Hegney and a range of other research partners associated with CQUni's new  International Collaboration for Occupational Resilience (ICOR), to progress the medical practitioner resilience project.

“We are putting our funding and support behind these projects at local level on the Central Highlands because these projects could develop to really make a difference at national or even at international level,” he says.

“These projects show how local rural communities can take responsibility and aim to make a difference without handouts from government or big business.

“Critical to the projects’ success will be CQUni’s ability to build capacity in the Central Highlands. The local presence is absolutely essential as it is local people who are funding the work.”

Mr Bishop says both of the current projects meet community needs and expectations:

“The healthy pregnancy project links to general community desires about healthy babies, acknowledging the role of exercise, diet and lifestyle in avoiding maternal obesity.  Emerald has a significant proportion of families and women of child-bearing age.  The project is critical to the community now and in the future.  It uses a primary healthcare and public health approach in dealing with a complex group of issues and has significant application for other communities.  It’s creative, funky, hopefully effective and based on good science!

“The rural medical resilience partnership is an acknowledgement of how highly we value our medical community and how devastated we feel when we lose one prematurely to suicide or burn-out.  The project is applying science to a complex problem and again, although it is locally generated, the information can have national significance.”

Professor Hegney says the Emerald study broadens the focus of ICOR from nursing and midwifery to medicine.

"We are continuing our work in nursing and midwifery but are aware that there is an urgent need for programs such as this in the whole health workforce," she says.

"Resilience in the health workforce should be a national and international priority to ensure their personal safety and well-being, along with a focus on workforce retention and patient safety.

"Our program is evidence-based and is one of only nine similar programs internationally.  It also has been trialled with the largest population of these similar programs.

"We have modified the program to meet the needs of the partners – we are including a buddy system in the program for the first time.  We believe that this is important as doctors, particularly rural doctors, work in relative professional isolation.

"We have had interest from several healthcare services who wish to trial the program across all of their workforce (admin and operational) as well as in the education field for primary school teachers."