ACU (Australian Catholic University)

ACU Alum

Issue 4, Autumn 2013

ACU Research

Art on the margins

Associate Professor Lindsay Farrell spent two months as a visiting scholar at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, investigating the effectiveness of art as a means of social inclusion and promoting wellbeing for people on the margins.

“For some years I have worked with art in prisons, hospitals and marginalised communities, and I have developed approaches for evaluating art as a means of social inclusion and wellbeing,” said Associate Professor Farrell.

“The effect art has on the community is very relevant to museums, not least because museums are constantly challenged with providing contexts for a range of people, including the marginalised, to engage with ‘life world values’ through art.”

The project, Museums on the Margins, investigated social inclusion perspectives, policies and practices and was primarily focused on the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum where the project was based.

The research also investigated how museums and the experience of art affects people on the outer.“Art is an important contributor to the wellbeing of the community, and internationally research is highlighting the importance of art as a means of learning and community engagement.

“This research has significantly advanced knowledge in the development of methods to measure the way art helps with social inclusion and wellbeing on a national and international scale.

“Often those on the margins use art to make meaning and sense of their lives. Thus this project investigated the social experiences and meaning-making of people engaging with art on the margins.

Art is a passion for Associate Professor Farrell and he is committed to his research, art and inspiring others.

“For 18 years I have challenged, motivated and inspired marginalised communities to express themselves and develop as artists and researchers through Museums on Margins strategies, appreciative engagement, and art collaborations.

Thinking in threes

Stroke is caused by a clot or a bleed in the brain, and is Australia’s second biggest cause of death and a leading cause of disability.

One in six Australians will suffer a stroke. Should you or a loved one experience a stroke, you would expect the care given by nurses to be based on proven studies. According to Peta Drury’s PhD research, this may not be the case.

“For the past 10 years we have known that while a patient suffers irreversible brain damage as a result of the stroke, there is potential to salvage surrounding brain tissue and limit the damage by effectively managing fever, blood sugar and swallowing,” Peta explained.

“I examined the medical  records of over 700 patients and found that over 75 per cent of patients did not receive Panadol to treat a fever, over 50 per cent did not receive insulin to treat high sugar levels and over 60 per cent did not receive a simple swallow test when they were first admitted.”

The results of Peta’s study illuminated the need for improved management protocols. The second part of her research was to implement a randomised control program which divided 19 hospitals into two groups: one that received a protocol for the management of fever, sugar levels and swallowing, and one that did not.

“I found that patients who were admitted to the hospitals using the management protocol were less likely to develop fever, less likely to have high sugar and more likely to receive a swallow test.”

Significantly, the study also revealed that those patients who were treated using the management protocol were 16 per cent more likely to be alive and independent three months after their stroke.

“The results suggest that changing nurses’ behaviour can be just as important as any medical breakthrough and we must continue to investigate simple approaches to help get up-to-date with what we know works.”

The heart of cardiac care

Investigating changes to nursing practice is at the heart of the St Vincent’s Centre for Nursing Research (SVCNR) – a joint venture between ACU and St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. SVCNR – led by ACU Professor Linda Worrall- Carter and a team of committed researchers and clinicians – has been involved in a study focusing on Aboriginal health and heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Rates of cardiovascular disease are up to three times greater in indigenous people than in the general population and they experience lower rates of treatment. They are also more likely to have cardiac complications later in life.

ACU research fellow and cardiac nurse Karen Daws, together with Aboriginal Liaison Officer Mandy Punch, are conducting research into improving cardiac care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at St Vincent’s Hospital. Their aim is to establish a culturally safe space for Aboriginal cardiac patients – helping them to develop confidence in the hospital environment and its support services.

Ms Daws said many Aboriginal people were not comfortable in hospital environments due to negative experiences in the past. “Mandy and I are trying to change all that by building a model of best-practice care with Aboriginal cardiac patients,” she said. “At its heart it is a quality improvement process. If we can improve our hospital processes, then word of mouth will travel and this will improve the uptake of treatment and rehabilitation.”

Ms Punch said the study, which is in its final stages, was already showing promising results.

“A highlight of the project is the increase in the number of Aboriginal patients attending cardiac rehabilitation programs. Sixty-one per cent of patients seen by Mandy and me have attended cardiac rehabilitation.”

The project has received funding from the Department of Health and is also supported by the Heart Foundation and Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.

Academic appointed to ACB

Dr Roger Lord, Lecturer in Medical Science at ACU has been appointed as a member of the Advisory Committee on Biologicals (ACB).

The ACB provides independent medical and scientific advice to the Minister for Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration about cell and tissue therapy products. As one of 12 committee members, Dr Lord will provide expert scientific advice to the board to help protect the Australian public from unsafe biological products.

With a background in both infectious disease and organ transplantation, Dr Lord’s research has already made significant input to health improvement with his contributions to the development of a vaccine against malaria and in immunological mechanisms involved in liver transplantation tolerance. Dr Lord emphasised the importance of this appointment, both individually and for ACU.

“The appointment is an opportunity to see the latest biological advancements, which will ensure my teaching in the Faculty of Health Sciences is at the cutting edge of  developments,” he said.

“Often in science, the developments are faster than the law. This is a unique opportunity to see what is coming on to the market and I’m in a role that allows me to help safeguard the health of the Australian community.”

Dr Lord is currently involved in research in the emerging science of proteomics and treatment strategies for chronic wound healing, and provides expertise in the fields of organ and tissue transplantation and infectious diseases.

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