Funding, resources, and the future of rural health research were discussed by key health research bodies in Orange, New South Wales, on 16-17 August at the 5th Western NSW Health Research Network (WHRN) conference, Celebrating research partnerships in the bush.
The Western NSW Health Research Network (WHRN) is the peak body for health research in Western New South Wales. WHRN was established in 2013 and has over 250 members. WHRN is a collaboration between four universities, the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD), the Western NSW Primary Health Network, community managed organisations and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs).
During the two-day conference, keynote addresses were presented by Tony Penna, Executive Director, Office for Health and Medical Research, NSW Ministry of Health; Scott McLachlan, Chief Executive, Western NSW Local Health District; Professor Sally Redman AO, Chief Executive Officer, Sax Institute; Professor Garry Jennings AO, Executive Director, Sydney Health Partners; and Sabina Knight, Director, Mount Isa Centre for Rural & Remote Health.
“Health research has a direct influence on improving health outcomes and reducing health inequalities in our rural communities”, said Dr Alice Munro, Deputy Chair of WHRN and Research Manager for WNSWLHD.
“Addressing the health inequality experienced by rural and remote Australians is a stated aim of the Australian Government. While National Health and Medical Research Council funding for rural health research has increased over the past decade, at 2.4 per cent by value, it still appears very low given the extent of the health burden faced by the 30 per cent of the Australian population who live in rural Australia.
“We welcomed the attendance of key research organisations who came to our conference to listen and talk to rural health researchers and clinicians about the importance of building research capacity in Western NSW”, Alice said.
The Western NSW Local Health District live-streamed Day 2 of the conference on to nine health facilities at Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Cobar, Condobolin, Cowra, Dubbo, Forbes, Mudgee and Orange.
The launch of Western NSW Local Health District’s first Research Strategy was also a feature of the WHRN conference. This strategy maps WNSWLHDs vision for embedding a vibrant research culture over the next four years to ensure healthier rural people in Western NSW communities.
Western NSW Health Research 2018 awards were presented to:
Dr Georgina Luscombe, Senior Lecturer in Medical Statistics, School of Rural Health, University of Sydney - Health Academic Research Leader of the Year;
Catherine Bourke, a graduate from the 2013 Rural Research Capacity Building Program and influential in improving autism diagnosis and management in Western New South Wales - Emerging Researcher of the Year; and
Dr Matt Thomas, Senior Clinical Psychologist at Bloomfield Hospital and Adjunct Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Charles Sturt University, who led the implementation trial of a cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) program for adults with schizophrenia in both inpatient and community mental health settings in Orange - Clinical Research Leader of the Year.