Health Sciences

Allied Health research at ACU

The third consecutive Faculty of Health Sciences Research Conversation, held on May 22 showcased a selection of innovative research being undertaken by staff in the School of Allied Health.

The School is multidisciplinary in its research profile and activities, encompassing the disciplines of social work, public health, speech pathology and occupational therapy. This workshop covered presentations from three of these disciplines, presenting conversation opportunities around research and evidence based practice in the fields of occupational therapy, speech pathology and public health.

Professor Christine Imms, National Head of School, chaired the session. The three presenters were Dr Helen Bourke-Taylor, Dr Erin Conway and Dr Michael Taylor.

Dr Helen Bourke-Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, presented on her over three year study titled Investigation of the self-reported health and health related behaviours of Victorian mothers of school-aged children. Undertaken in collaboration with Monash University, the project investigates health issues faced by Australian mothers. 262 mothers aged between 29-58 years participated in the study which assessed scales of depression, anxiety, stress and health promoting activities. The research findings indicate that many mothers suffer from mental health conditions such as depression and this tends to be higher following the postnatal years. Dr Bourke-Taylor has been running the Healthy Mothers Healthy Families program for women. The implications of her research show that all women need health care in the later years of motherhood and that health promotion programs are crucial to improving their well-being.

Dr Erin Conway, Lecturer in Speech Pathology presented on her study: Supporting quality care for people with dementia through person centred communication skills training for community care staff. This research project is undertaken in collaboration with the University of Queensland and funded by Queensland University of Technology. The challenge for dementia care practice is to recognise and incorporate communication as part of care. From pilot findings, Dr Conway has contributed to the development and delivering of training programs on how to help staff become comfortable in developing communication strategies (called “MESSAGE”) when caring for people with dementia. The outcome of the study has shown that training has had a positive impact on staff. Staff are now ready and able to manage communication during care. Conversation is part of care and improving staff communication has the potential to improve the quality of care.

Dr Michael Taylor’s presentation covered the preliminary findings of his research project titled Measuring quality of inpatient care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The study is funded by The Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research. Data gathered from 2009–2011 from hospital long stay (2 days or more) admissions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people looked at multi-morbidity incidences and commonly observed patterns. Among the findings, the results showed differences in the rate of unspecified diagnoses between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-indigenous people. Can a coding algorithm be developed that identifies particular diagnoses that are potentially impacted by the cultural competency of health services? Questioning the cultural competency of health services, this research project highlights the lack of systematic evaluation of the potential health benefits of cultural competent services.

Research Conversation workshops are presented via videoconference to all ACU campuses, serving as a platform for the exchange of research interests and projects among the Faculty and wider University staff, postgraduate and higher degree research students. Previous workshops have covered topics on Cognitive Psychology and Environmental Science.

The School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine will be presenting at the next Research Conversion on 26 June at 3:30 pm. The ACU Videoconference room venues are Melbourne campus – Rm 5.30; North Sydney campus – Tenison Woods House Lvl 16; Brisbane campus – Ac.22, Strathfield campus – Rm E2.45; Canberra campus – Rm 110 and Ballarat campus – Rm 503.