Maintaining patterns of regular physical activity and good nutrition are important factors for developing good health in children. However, less than half of WA children are participating in the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of daily exercise. Research from a team at The University of Western Australia has led to the development of the KIDDO program, a platform that provides on-site and online resources and training programs for parents and educators of children, to understand the importance of physical literacy. The program aims to have children ready to move by the start of primary school and moving well and often by the end of primary school.
In 20-30% of breast-conserving surgery cases, cancer tissue is left behind, and patients require repeat surgery. This team at The University of Western Australia are developing a high resolution, hand-held device used by surgeons during breast-conserving surgery, to identify tumour tissue and get all the cancer out, the first time. The technology is on its way to improving the safety and reliability of breast conserving surgeries, with better health outcomes for patients and significant cost savings for our health system.
Liver biopsies are invasive, risky and painful. An MRI based non-invasive technology has replaced liver biopsies in patients requiring repeated measurement of the concentration of iron in their liver. The non-invasive procedure developed from The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) research is associated with almost no risk to the patient while the invasive procedure is associated with risks of significant pain, bleeding, bile leak, and death. To date, over 45,000 patient measurements have been made using the new non-invasive method which has been incorporated into clinical guidelines for the management of diseases such as thalassaemia.
Research into breast anatomy and physiology and human milk biochemistry at The University of Western Australia (UWA) has led to partnerships with Medela AG (Medela) resulting in innovative solutions for mothers and babies. Calmita® is an infant teat for preterm infants with an integrated vacuum-controlled valve. Calmita increases breastfeeding in preterm infants and reduces length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). UWA research led to the development of Medela’s breast pump: the Symphony. From 2011-2016 Medela extended that technology into four breast pumps designed for home use: offering solutions to mothers who are returning to work but wish to maintain lactation. UWA research is frequently used in Medela consumer outreach which relies on UWA’s basic research.
The MMEx platform is an award winning, evidence based and fully shareable web-based electronic health record system. MMEx was developed at UWA’s Centre for Software Practice and delivered to market by ISA Technologies. It provides practitioners with a patient management system that allows care teams to share information and be guided by risk-based decision support and other tools. Initially developed to manage healthcare for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley, MMEx has since been used to support the health care of large indigenous populations throughout Australia as well as highly specialised care in urban settings. MMEx has been used to collect research data for projects looking at chronic disease management practices, approaches to telehealth, and sexually transmitted infections.
Maternal dietary folate deficiency in the first weeks of life carries a higher risk that the fetus’ neural tube will not fuse, leading to the development of either spina bifida or anencephaly. For two decades Bower et al. followed a dedicated pathway to impact by lobbying the Australian Government’s Health portfolio’s statutory authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to introduce mandatory fortification of wheat flour. In 1995 voluntary fortification was allowed and in 2009 fortification of wheat flour with folate became mandatory. From 2011 to 2016, NTD births dropped, regardless of mother’s culture, age, educational attainment or choice of hospital system.
Insufficient physical activity by children are associated with poorer physical and mental health. The Child’s Play project, led by Associate Professor Wood and Dr Martin at the UWA School of Population and Global Health has generated community engagement with nature-play spaces in Western Australian schools and local communities. The researchers collaborated with Healthway, Rio Tinto, Kings Park Botanic Garden and Parks Authority, the WA Department of Education, Nature Play WA, Kidsafe, urban planners and architects, as well as local councils and schools to identify play space designs that were preferred by children and supported play. Collaborators have used UWA research to inform their strategies around open spaces and evaluate their new and existing parks and playgrounds.
UWA researchers have developed an innovative assessment method to enable schools to streamline school assessment processes across the nation. Brightpath is an online tool in which samples of students work can be compared with exemplars and used provide standardised feedback in order to positive affect educational outcomes.
Brightpath has been adopted by approximately 500 schools and used for 300,000 assessments of Australian students. In addition, the researchers have impacted Australian education communities through critical involvement with: (i) the National Assessment Programme—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) involving over 1 million student participants per year; and (ii) the high-stakes Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) affecting 26,000 high school students each year.
Indigenous suicide is a significant population health challenge for Australia. Suicide is a major cause of Indigenous premature mortality and is a contributor to Indigenous health and life expectancy gaps. Two national projects undertaken by UWA researchers – the National Empowerment Project (NEP) and The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) – have contributed significantly to the knowledge base on how to address this health challenge and have influenced Government policy. These projects have increased awareness in community based and Indigenous led solutions, as well as informing policy changes at the Federal level.