New funding to improve stroke, sepsis and burns care, and enhance healthcare efficiency

Four George Institute researchers have received funding as part of the Australian Government’s 2021 Investigator Grants to advance their work in delivering better treatments, better care and healthier societies.

Reducing sex disparities in stroke by evidence generation on risks and management patterns - Dr Cheryl Carcel

Worldwide, around 13.7 million people suffer a stroke each year, and as many as 5.5 million will die as a result. Moreover, there are some 80 million people living with the consequences of stroke, and women appear disproportionally more affected than men.

Dr Cheryl Carcel said that her previous research found that while men had a greater risk of dying from stroke, women suffered worse health-related quality of life after a stroke.

“The aim of this new project is to better understand why such differences exist and how best to provide sex-specific strategies to improve survival after a stroke,” she said.

“This will help better inform policy recommendations in Australia to address this important health issue so that both women and men are able to receive equitable, effective, targeted prevention and treatment strategies.”

A new systems approach to discharge and follow up care models for chronic conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children - Dr Julieann Coombs

Burns are one of the most common injuries requiring medical attention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. They are complex, resource intensive and costly to treat, often requiring long stays in hospital that can cause significant trauma to children and their families, impacting recovery and health outcomes.

In her previous research, Dr Julieann Coombs identified a lack of culturally integrated planning processes and barriers in access to burn aftercare in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

“My current focus is on developing a culturally safe discharge planning model of care for these children that takes into consideration diverse needs of the multidisciplinary care team, the family and child to facilitate a smooth transition from burn services to optimal healing for the child,” she said.

“The Safe Pathways project is currently being conducted with the Burn Services at The Children’s Hospital, Westmead, NSW. This, but this grant will allow me to expand this work to hospitals in Darwin and Townsville, so that more children can benefit from a culturally safe discharge model of burn care.”

Improving outcomes in patients with sepsis through precision medicine - Prof Bala Venkatesh

Sepsis is a time-critical medical emergency that arises when the body’s response to an infection starts to damage its own tissues and organs, leading to shock, organ failure and death if not recognized and treated promptly.

Treatment requires early recognition, administration of antimicrobials, controlling the source of the infection and supportive care. Corticosteroids have shown promise, but trial results have been inconsistent.

Applying a one size fits all approach to treatment, which doesn’t account for differences between patients and how they respond, has made it difficult to find new treatments for sepsis.

Prof Bala Venkatesh said this new research would build on recent advances that have led to a new paradigm called Precision Medicine, where therapies are personalised to the individual patient’s needs.

“My research will develop a precision medicine approach to this problem based on a range of clinical and genetic characteristics of patients, using large data sources and new ways to analyse this data.”

“This will allow us to identify which groups of patients respond better to which therapies and allow better design of clinical trials in which patients can be matched to appropriate interventions.”

Health workforce investment to incentivise universal health coverage - Dr Blake Angell

Health workers drive the effectiveness, reach and cost of a health system, but the financing and deployment of the health workforce is often not based on evidence. Investment is frequently directed to cost-ineffective models of care and skewed towards high-cost workers while inexpensive, cost-effective care goes unfunded.

Dr Blake Angell said that in low- and middle-income nations that can least afford it, these choices can result in large costs of lost health and wasted expenditure.

“This grant will help generate economic and behavioural economic evidence to build the case for more effective and efficient healthcare investment and allow me to work closely with government, and international organisation and NGO partners to put the findings into practice.”