The WAHTN Allied Health Platform was formed in 2018 in response to concerns raised by Allied Health professionals in relation to the limited opportunities to undertake research and contribute to research knowledge translation. The aim of the WAHTN Allied Health Platform is to promote research capacity-building among the many professions recognised as Allied Health.
Allied Health is the second largest professional group in Western Australia’s healthcare system. The term Allied Health is used to describe a broad range of health professionals who aren’t doctors, dentists or nurses. Allied Health professionals comprise of university qualified practitioners with specialised expertise diagnostic, technical and therapeutic skills used to improve the health and well-being of community members. Some are referred to as regulated professions and registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Others are referred to as self-regulating professions, which involves professional peers establishing and monitoring professional standards. Further information on Allied Health professions can be found at the Allied Health Professions Australia or Office of the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer.
The Allied Health Platform team is led by representatives from WAHTN and its member organisations, including the WA Department of Health, Western Australian universities and private hospital providers. If you are interested in being involved contact WAHTN.
National Allied Health Conference 2021
From the 9th – 12th August the WA Chief Allied Health Office hosted the 14th National Allied Health Conference . This conference is the preeminent Australian conference for allied health professionals, attracting professionals from across the country and internationally. With the challenges presented by COVID-19, the conference was held virtually for the first time attracting more than 800 delegates and 400 abstracts submissions.
The conference provided an opportunity for professionals to showcase their great work as well as discuss key issues relevant to allied health including national reforms in the rural health and aged care sectors, digital and technological innovation and the allied health response to challenges presented by COVID-19. Additionally, it provided an opportunity to hear from some of the leading speakers and experts on these issues.
One of the highlights was keynote speaker Sam Bloom, 2 x World Para Surfing champion, author, and inspiration behind the movie Penguin Bloom, who shared her story and spoke of her positive experiences with allied health professionals.
WA is scheduled to host the 15th National Allied Conference in August 2023.
Enabling Allied Health Research Capacity 2020
The Chief Allied Health Office of the WA Department of Health partnered with the WA Health Translation Network in 2020 via two initiatives to progress early stage research and provide clinicians with time for research development. The combined value of $236,979 for these two initiatives was delivered through the Allied Health Enabling Platform. The 2019/20 Allied Health Early Stage Funding Grant recipients received a combined total of $128,979.
Below are some examples of the valuable contributions made by recipients to the development of a research culture within their services and embedding research and knowledge translation into clinical practice across the WA Health system.
Yin Hung Lau (Fion) - Senior Physiotherapist, East Metropolitan Health Service
Via an international survey of physiotherapists and respiratory therapists, this project investigated current governance structures for PLUS in intensive care units (globally) and the identified barriers to its use, and explored possible solutions to the barriers.
Outcomes of the project included development of an international therapists’ support group/newsletter for therapists using PLUS, completion of an abstract for submission to the 2021 Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) conference and creation of the “Diagnostic Lung Ultrasound use by Physiotherapists in Critical Care” policy to provide physiotherapists working in ICU within the Armadale-Kalamunda Group with a guideline on the training requirements and the practice standards applicable to the use of lung ultrasound in adult patients requiring critical care.
The effect of dietary resistant starch on the gut microbiome and maternal glycaemia in gestational diabetes
Cathy Latino - Senior Dietitian, Fiona Stanley Hospital
This research aimed to characterise changes to the maternal gut microbiome and its metabolites resulting from a high dietary intake of resistant starch consumed for diagnosis of gestational diabetes. It investigated whether a diet-induced change in gut microbiota is a mechanism to improve glycaemic control in women with gestational diabetes.
Grant funding enabled access to adequate data to achieve statistical power within the research, which in turn strengthened the quality of subsequent grant applications with the aim of undertaking further laboratory analysis.
Completion of this research activity also saw the recipient move into a research mentor role within her organisation, which has inspired at least two other Dietitians to undertake research. A manuscript for a protocol paper has been submitted to the peer-reviewed journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.
Functional outcome following orthopaedic surgery for gait correction in children with cerebral palsy
Maxine Fong - Senior Physiotherapist, Perth Children’s Hospital
This project aimed to identify the best and most appropriate assessments for use in a clinical setting to measure gait, functional activity and participation in daily activities of ambulant children with cerebral palsy following gait correction surgery and to determine the functional impact of surgery by analysing data collected pre-operatively and at 6 and 12 months post-operatively.
Grant funding to support this quality improvement project has also provided the opportunity for the participant to enrol and develop the project as a higher degree by research (Master of Philosophy).
An abstract on the results of the project has been submitted to the International Australian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AusACPDM) conference, March 2022.
Improving telehealth delivery of eating disorders treatment based on outcomes and patient experiences during COVID-19
Bronwyn Raykos, David Erceg-Hurn, James Hill, Bruce Campbell and Peter McEvoy - Centre for Clinical Interventions, North Metropolitan Health Service
Eating disorders are usually treated using face-to-face psychological therapy, but the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the mode of therapy having to rapidly switch to telehealth. The study found that this had little impact on treatment outcomes at a WA government outpatient clinic that specialises in the evidence-based treatment of eating disorders. Patients reported telehealth treatment to be acceptable and experienced large improvements in their symptoms.
The findings were presented at the Australian and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders National Conference in August 2021, and published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Suzanne Spitz - WA Country Health Service (WACHS)
WACHS established the AHRC Program in collaboration with the WA Centre for Rural Health.
The purpose of the Program is to support allied health staff who work in a clinical capacity to develop and apply research and practice improvement skills. The program will target “grass roots” emerging research, supporting staff with limited or no research exposure to apply research methodologies to a practice improvement project in their local service context.
Projects will commence at multiple WACHS sites in 2021 including Bunbury Hospital, Geraldton Population Health, Kimberley Health Services, Bunbury Community Health, and Northam Hospital.
Enabling Allied Health Research Capacity 2021
Following on from the success of the 2020 grant round, the Chief Allied Health Office of the WA Department of Health has again partnered with the WA Health Translation Network in 2021 to continue building allied health research capacity at the North Metropolitan Health Service via $36,000 in funding. This research capacity building initiative aims to strengthen the standard of grant applications and to embed a translational research culture across allied health and health science professions. This will help to prepare allied health researchers for future funding initiatives, such as the Future Health and Innovation Research Fund, including Research Translation Project rounds.