Leading role in high-level NHMRC research partnership
HammondCare has a leading role in a new $25 million research partnership established by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) which will focus on ‘dealing with cognitive and related functional decline in the elderly’.
Other partners include service providers Brightwater Care in Western Australia, Helping Hand Aged Care in South Australia and Alzheimer’s Australia. All will contribute funds and in-kind support to the partnership.
HammondCare Chief Executive Dr Stephen Judd applauded the Federal Government’s announcement of the new partnership which he described as a decisive move to realign research with the actual delivery of care and improved quality of life for people in need.
Many unaware of partnership's significance
Dr Judd said that while the announcement had been widely reported since just before Christmas, it was possible many in the sector were unsure of the significance of the partnership.
He said the new Partnership Centre complemented HammondCare’s already extensive research activity and was an opportunity to look at the relationship between evidence, policy and regulation.
“Research is a vital part of our organisation as we continue to find ways to put new and existing evidence into best practice for the benefit of the people we care for. We want to contribute thought leadership across the health and aged care sectors and involvement in this initiative fits well with that aspiration,” Dr Judd said.
“More broadly, this is an opportunity to ask, what are the impediments to seeing that the knowledge available in dementia care is expressed in practice? And what are the financial and policy drivers that can encourage and promote these better outcomes for Australians with limited or declining cognition?
“A lot of funding is allocated to increasing knowledge but that doesn’t necessarily change practice. For example, if you are talking about design of the environment – what is good design for people with limited cognition - then you will find there is a fair bit of knowledge and evidence, both nationally and internationally.
“You can go to experts in Australia and internationally and you will get a similar answer. So why don’t we see that knowledge reflected in design in residential care? Why doesn’t the sector get that message?”
New direction for NHMRC - research priorities from sector
The architect of this new research direction for the NHMRC is eminent international health policy and services researcher, Professor Jonathan Lomas.
Professor Lomas said that what makes this initiative different to traditional research is that the research priorities will be established from the perspective of the people working and practicing in the sector itself.
Likewise, the research work itself will be conducted jointly involving both traditional academics (Research based Investigators) and people working in the field and dealing with real issues day to day (System Based Investigators).
“The big difference here,” said Professor Lomas, “is that, as opposed to the usual model where researchers develop an idea and test it and try to sell it to the people in the system, this is an approach where you sit down together – and where the people who work in the field get to say, 'these are the problems and this is what we want to see done'.
“It’s a partnership between the people who are doing [the research] and the people who use it. So it mandates the research to be packaged in a way that it is relevant.”
Researching models of care is good for those in need
To that end, Dr Judd said HammondCare had nominated Head of Residential Aged Care, Angela Raguz, and Senior Dementia Consultant, Meredith Gresham to be System Based Investigators as part of the investigative teams being formed.
“For HammondCare, the research provided through this partnership presents the opportunity to explore our interest in models of care. To answer questions such as what is a financially sustainable, evidence-based, psycho-social model of care... in other words, given we have our existing models, do they work and are they effective?
“We want to show that psycho-social models of care, where quality of life benefits from building design, freedoms and choice, and social interaction, has better clinical and financial benefits than models that rely heavily on medication - no one has ever done that.
“And then research could consider regulatory and policy impediments to a social model of care.” Dr Judd said. “This is the kind of research people working in the field are crying out for and this new partnership will provide it, for the ultimate benefit of people living with dementia and their families.”
Not enough capital, not enough people
Dr Judd said that the impetus to properly research models of dementia care was twofold. In the next 30 years there would not be sufficient capital to build enough residential services to meet demand and at the same time, there are not enough people to deliver services in people’s own homes.
“So what are the models that work and are sustainable into this future? We need more than hunches to guide aged and dementia care - we need evidence put into practice. And this partnership will go a long way to providing it. That's the way we work right now and that’s why we are involved in this partnership.”
The Partnership Centre will be overseen by a board consisting of representatives from the NHMRC and industry partners with Dr Judd representing HammondCare. While a major focus will be dementia, it will extend to other causes of cognitive decline such as acquired brain injury and Huntington’s Disease.
Applications from cross-jurisdictional, multidisciplinary groupings of investigators to become the team which compiles and performs the five year work plan for the Partnership Centre closed on February 24, 2012.
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