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Health Research Insights

Discover more about the University of Canberra's Health Research Institute with these insights into the work our researchers are undertaking.

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Hi, my name is Nerida Volker. I’m a dietician by trade, I’ve been a dietician for about 20 years.
I’m currently a phd student and lecture here at the university of Canberra. 
My main research was around the Heart Link project and that was a project looking at how to identify people who are at high risk of having a heart attack or stroke and looking how we would better support them. 
I guess that research came about because in health we have a lot of evidence about what works.
Often the frustration though is the evidence is often not translated into everyday practice.
So we really wanted to look particularly at cardio vascular disease, because as a chronic disease these are big burdens to our community, people in our community, but also increasingly to our health budget as well. 
So we wanted to look at how we could take the evidence we know of how best to manage people with high risk of having a heart attack or stroke and see if we could develop an intervention to see if we could reduce that risk. 
We also identified a range of differt issues around the skills of GPs, practice nurses and allied health professionals around supporting behaviour change, so they’re certainly some other things that we would look at doing
We need to collaborate with disciplines across a range of different professions so we need a multidisciplinary approach, but you also need a intersectoral approach as well. 
We need the skills from a range of different people all coming together to work on these complex problems.
So the health institute provides a great opportunity, a catalyst if you like, to bring everybody together, to bring all of those stakeholders who we know need to be engaged umm to share their skills and expertise and their passions and then work with community.
I know in the pilot study that we did we really had some very powerful outcomes.
We really made quite a big difference to their lives and I think that’s why at the end of the day all of us are involved in this type of research and working in the health arena. 
My name is Roland Goecke and I’m a professor of affective computing at the University of Canberra. 
My research is in the area of affective computing which is about building systems that can detect emotions and mood in people. 
Now the practical application of that that we’ve been working on is in depression analysis. 
We work closely with psychologists to develop a diagnostic aid. 
Theres about 350 million sufferers of depression worldwide and at the moment their diagnosis heavily depends of the clinical opinion as well as self report. 
Both of those risk a very high amount of subjective bias. 
What we bring to the table is an objective tool, so something that basically measures what’s going on and quantifies that and presents that to the clinicians.
So it’s a tool that assists clinicians, not one that replaces them. 
Very much like a blood pressure monitor assists a clinician in making a diagnosis. 
It doesn’t make the diagnosis for them but it quantifies them and gives them a number from which we can work with. 
You would find it very strange if we went to our GP and our GP looks at us and says, I think your blood pressure is 120 over 80 today.
That is very much the situation at the moment in mental health care. 
So we are addressing this problem and thereby making it more objective by having a tool that basically measures what goes on and presents the facts to the clinicians so that they can make a more accurate diagnosis.
We believe that the same technology can also be applied to dementia, to schizophrenia, certainly bipolar disorder. 
So I think that is a very important problem to address and as with many of our problems today in the world are very much in an inter-disciplinary way.
The Health Research Institute is really a catalyst that allows us not only to work here on campus, but also to work with our external partners and to show that the University of Canberra is very much on focus in this area.
I am Reena Ghildyal, associate professor of microbiology at University of Canberra.
My work is on respiratory viruses, but with specific relevance to asthma 
Asthma as you know comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. 
Some have mild asthma, some have moderate asthma, some have very severe asthma and in that group of people with severe asthma there is actually a small group who are resistant to all our current treatments for asthma.
And the majority of the hospitalisations and the health care costs are related to this small group of asthmatics, which make up about 1% of the Australian population. 
What do we do? First thing in the morning we have to look at our cells. 
We do virus infections and we look at what the virus has done to the cell. Looking at how the virus infection has changed our cells and these cells are specific to the lung you see.
So we want to know what happens once the virus infects your lungs. And what changes it makes and how that relates to asthma.
So what we want to do is bring that diagnosis forward and be able to diagnosis people with this kind of asthma at their first visit to the GP. 
Once we’ve done that we then want to be able to offer them an alternate treatment regime. 
In our case it means collaborating with a biostatistician in New York, with an asthma researcher in the University of Newcastle and working with the Canberra hospital where we can get actual patient samples to work with. 
The health research institute gives us this huge opportunity to bring all these varied arms of biomedicine and actually maintenance and prevention and treatment of disease in one area and I think it is a fantastic initiative.
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