TTRA Develops New Resource with Webinar Series on Indigenous Health Research

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28 March 2023

The Targeted Translation Research Accelerator (TTRA) team has just wrapped up the latest webinar, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research: Implementation Science’, which tackled the challenge of translating knowledge and evidence into practice to improve health services.

The third in MTPConnect’s popular TTRA webinar series focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, the discussion reinforced how thoughtful, collaborative and systematic implementation into healthcare systems and communities is key for new products and health innovations to be effective, acceptable and sustainable.

Sharing their extensive experience and knowledge in the field were speakers Professor Gillian Harvey, Professor of Health Services and Implementation Research, Flinders University and Strength Lead, Implementation Science at the Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation (AusHSI), and Professor Ray Mahoney, Professor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Discipline Lead of Population Health Flinders University and Visiting Scientist, Australian eHealth Research Centre (AEHRC), CSIRO.

The webinar attracted a range of participants in the sector – from academic researchers, health professionals, and policy makers to health service administrators and others, with nearly 40 per cent of participants surveyed flagging they were not involved in Indigenous-specific health research. This demonstrates that the webinar will generate favourable impact in capability building for the sector where knowledge gaps exist in conducting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, which meets the intended purpose of the webinar series.

The series was developed to coincide with the TTRA’s third funding round, open until 28 April, supporting diabetes and cardiovascular disease projects that address the unmet health and medical needs of Indigenous peoples in rural, remote, regional, and urban centres.

Implementation Science – improving the quality & effectiveness of health services

Professor Harvey’s experience is formed through her clinical background in nursing, as a Matthew Flinders Fellow, and Professor of Health Services and Implementation Research in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Flinders University. She is Deputy Director (Knowledge Translation) in the College’s Caring Futures Institute and Co-Director of the Aged Care Partnering Program in the centre for Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia (ARIIA). She is also an Adjunct Professor of Implementation Science at Queensland University of Technology and an Affiliated Researcher at Dalarna University in Sweden.

Her presentation covered the principles of Implementation Science – what it is, why we need it and some key concepts. She said from the late 1990s onwards, there was increased policy attention on the evidence-practice gap, resulting in the emergence of ‘implementation science’ from 2006 with the launch of the journal of the same name. Implementation science is defined as: “the scientific study of methods to promote the systemic uptake of research findings and other evidence-based practices into routine practice, and, hence, to improve the quality and effectiveness of health services.” *

Professor Harvey said that studies consistently find that appropriateness of care, according to evidence-based guideline recommendations, is around 60 to 70 per cent and that we need to get better at connecting the ‘know what’ – evidence-based practice, clinical guidelines and systematic reviews, with the ‘know how’ – Implementation Science and strategies to promote the uptake of evidence in policy and practice.

Implementation is not a linear or rational process. Professor Harvey noted that the reality of implementation is complex, non-linear, multi-faceted, context dependent, unpredictable, and dependent on collaboration, networks and relationships. It is a social process, as much as a technical one.

Case studies, co-design and research translation

Professor Mahoney is a Bidjara man with family ties to Central West Queensland who has led cardiovascular disease research, particularly for Indigenous people. He has developed and implemented a range of research projects with key strategic Indigenous community-controlled organisation partners and Hospitals including establishing a multi-agency research partnership – an e-Health Research Collaboration focused on establishing a best practice framework to guide and inform culturally safe e-Health interventions with Indigenous people.

In his presentation he introduced the Indigenous Health Team he works with at the CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre, which is implementing co-designed research projects in Queensland including the far north, northwest and southwest, as well as central Australia in the Northern Territory.

He shared two case studies to illustrate the ‘What-Who-Where-How’ of Implementation Science: mHealth Hypertension, partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations (ATSICCHO) in Far North Queensland – Exploring Mobile Health Technology for the Management of Hypertension in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Sector; and St George Community Wellbeing Centre, Goondir Health Services, central west Queensland – better health, better living, longer life.

Professor Mahoney also covered co-design and research translation – he has led the codesign of Mixed Methods Evaluations with Indigenous community-controlled organisations.

In conclusion, Professor Mahoney said questions you need to ask when considering being involved in Indigenous research and implementation science include: Are you working with or for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community? and What is Indigenous leadership and decision making in research?

He said the challenge for researchers working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research is to determine where the co-design fits – in Implementation Science or in ethics? His tips included being flexible about everything from the start, investing time and resources into building and maintaining relationships, and including the lived expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People is critical in successful Implementation science.

A useful resource for best practice Indigenous health research

Acting Senior Director TTRA, Dr Mana Liao, says it has been a valuable and beneficial experience for MTPConnect and its TTRA program to work with the Lowitja Institute** and the Indigenous Advisory Panel to develop this Indigenous funding round for TTRA Research Projects.

“Partnering with the Lowitja Institute has ensured that the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are centred in every aspect of the process of determining the Indigenous-specific priority areas for this round, to deliver real benefits.

“We set out to create a useful resource for best practice Indigenous Health Research as part of our Round 3 funding opportunity and we hope the accompanying webinar series continues to inform those who are interested in learning more about Indigenous health research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities,” said Dr Liao.

Webinars in the Series
View all Webinars in this series, including ‘Principles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research and engaging meaningfully with community’, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research – Ethics and Reciprocity’, and the latest webinar ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research – Implementation Science’. The webinars are also available to listen to on the MTPConnect Podcast – episodes 142, 147 and 149 respectively.

TTRA Round 3 Open for Applications

TTRA’s third funding round for research projects will close for applications on Friday 28 April 2023 at 4:00pm AEST. Further information about the application process, project eligibility and selection criteria can be found here.

*Eccles MP, Mittman BS. Implement Sci. 2006;1(1):1

**The Lowitja Institute – a community-controlled organisation and Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research.