Landmark partnership connects LHD to research network

DOTTED LINE: Western NSW Local Health District chief exective Scott McLachlan and Western NSW Health Research Network chair Catherine Hawke sign a three-year agreement on Tuesday. Photo: DANIELLE CETINSKI
DOTTED LINE: Western NSW Local Health District chief exective Scott McLachlan and Western NSW Health Research Network chair Catherine Hawke sign a three-year agreement on Tuesday. Photo: DANIELLE CETINSKI

INDIGENOUS health will be the primary focus for a three-year research partnership.

The Western NSW Local Health District (WLHD) and the Western NSW Health Research Network (WHRN) formalised the agreement during a ceremony at the University of Sydney’s School of Rural Health headquarters at Bloomfield on Tuesday.

WHRN chair Associate Professor Catherine Hawke said clinicians would be put in touch with researchers to drive research direction.

“By people working at the coalface of the local health district, they can identify issues that need research,” she said.

“If a clinician wants to try a new model of care, which is more appropriate to rural care than a model of care that’s used in a metropolitan area, we’d be able to support them in evaluating it and see if it really works – a good idea is no idea without the evidence to actually support it.”

Associate Professor Hawke said the network had already secured funding for a study into the social and emotional wellbeing of young Aboriginal people and more money would be pursued.

A good idea is no idea without the evidence to actually support it.

Associate Professor Catherine Hawke

She said the region’s large geographical area, isolation in some cases, level of disadvantage, cultural ideas and lifestyle meant health faced different challenges than metropolitan areas.  

“We want to work together to understand these differences,” she said. 

WLHD chief executive Scott McLachlan said only 1.1 per cent of research was conducted on rural people in rural regions and hoped the partnership would feed into the LHD’s goals for the first 2000 days of life to bring faster progress. 

He said health played a role in ensuring school attendance and performance in Indigenous communities.

“We play a really critical role in getting kids to school with good eyesight, hearing, speech, the ability to learn in a classroom, but also converse with classmates as well,” he said. 

“There’s a real challenge in front of us, it’s going to rely on all the partners working well together to look at what things are happening around the world and how we adapt them for our backyard, but also things that we can design in our own backyard.”

But he also said research could stretch to palliative care, cancer, surgery and even best practice for GPs.

Three universities, Orange Aboriginal Medical Service and Live Better are among the network’s partners. 

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