Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Latrobe Valley team supports global health project

Helen Chambers (left) and Dr Hanan Khalil (right) based in Mode, operate one of 72 global research nodes. (Image courtesy Latrobe Valley Express)

Medical professionals across the world searching for answers about the management of chronic diseases are being supported by a research project in the Latrobe Valley.

The Centre for Chronic Disease Management is a collaboration between Monash University’s School of Rural health, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Latrobe Regional Hospital and Latrobe Community Health Service.

The centre scours the globe for the best available research and makes it available to clinicians who subscribe to the Joanna Briggs Institute, an international research and development facility through the University of Adelaide.

JBI has about 100,000 health care subscribers globally and the Moe-based centre is one of 72 JBI research nodes across the world.

The centre’s director, Dr Hanan Khalis, said the project’s objective was to improve patient care by educating clinicians.

Its efforts so far have been recognised by three international awards.

“It’s about bringing together all the research on a topic so clinicians have a better understand of how to help a patient. We take the best evidence that’s out there, critically appraise it and summarise the information. It then goes through a peer review process and is uploaded to the internet as an evidence summary resource for clinicians worldwide,” Dr Khalil said.

“If a clinician is presented with a question from a patient, such as whether vitamin B12 will help a diabetic with nerve pain, they can access this resource tool and find the answer.”

“If a clinician is presented with a question from a patient, such as whether vitamin B12 will help a diabetic with nerve pain, they can access this resource tool and find the answer.”

The centre has completed 150 evidence summaries with another 30 in the pipeline.  Some look at the impact of alcohol on conditions like asthma or depression, or how smoking affects respiratory conditions and mental illnesses.

Thirty one ‘recommended practices’, which instruct clinicians on how to treat a patient with a particular condition, are also available.

“We know there is a huge burden of chronic disease in Gippsland, especially in rural areas where people may not have access to specialist health professionals.  We believe that by targeting chronic disease, we may be able to help clinicians provide a greater level of care in this region and elsewhere,” Dr Khalil said.

Statistics from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the United States show chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease account for about 60 per cent of all deaths globally, with more than three quarters of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries.

One of the growth areas in the management of chronic diseases is in the use of over-the-counter complementary medicines or vitamins by patients looking for relief or an alternative to the side effects of traditional medicines.

Clinicians have been left to grapple with issues like whether the vitamin is safe or whether it has done anything at all to improve the patient’s health.

However, there are challenges in ensuring the evidence that has been gathered is of interest and relevant to clinicians across the world.

Helen Chambers who is a project officer for JBI and a research officer with the Monash University Department of Rural and Indigenous Health, said the evidence summaries and the recommended practices had to take into account the limitations faced by clinicians in other countries.

“We need to be aware that we may have been looking at studies from Western countries and the evidence summaries are being read by people from third-world countries where they may not have the resources to try a particular medical intervention,” she said.

“So we acknowledge in the summary that we have presented the best available evidence but it might not be suitable if there is a lack of resources.”

The evidence summaries are updated each year as further information is sourced and research uncovers new findings.

The Centre for Chronic Disease Management has recently had a paper accepted for publication in the prestigious international journal, ‘Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing’.

Dr Khalil is also the editor-in-chief and Helen Chambers the managing editor of another highly regarded publication, the International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare.

Originally published in the Latrobe Valley Express 11 May 2015

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