PhD project to investigate ear, nose and throat

As the Murray region has been identified as a hotspot for health inequality in ear, nose and throat (ENT) care, La Trobe University and Murray PHN (Primary Health Network) are collaborating on a PhD project to investigate the issue.

A 2016 report by the Grattan Institute titled ‘Perils of Place’ established that the Murray PHN region contained two localities identified as ‘hotspots’.  A hotspot is described as a ‘small area with relatively high risk or incidence of a particular health problem.’

La Trobe University has appointed Susan O’Neill to undertake the PhD research project, under its Industry PhD program. This is the second industry PhD project at La Trobe’s  Mildura Campus, with the first being  a project in partnership with Sunraysia Community Health Services.

Dr Deb Neal, Head of Campus in Mildura, said the Industry PhD program is an innovative way for local industry to help solve particular problems.

“La Trobe is committed to undertaking research that is relevant to our local community.  This partnership is a great example of two organisations coming together to help solve a complex health issue.  It’s also fantastic to welcome another PhD student to our campus.,” Dr Neal said.

Susan holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Science and said she always wanted to undertake further study, but did not have a clear idea of what research she would like to do.

“An Industry PhD is appealing as there is already a vested interest and identified need, with the opportunity for the outcomes to be applied in other rural settings experiencing ‘hotspots’” Ms O’Neill said. “Worldwide, hotspots are used to target and tailor health interventions with a focus on reducing the number of deaths, preventing unnecessary hospitalisation and providing adequate use of services.”

Murray PHN is the industry partner with La Trobe University and Susan will divide her time between both organisations. Murray PHN CEO, Matt Jones, welcomed Susan’s work on an issue that is particularly significant in rural and regional Australia.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with La Trobe University on this project, as it will increase our knowledge of the extent of the challenge and provide a basis for upskilling local health care professionals and improving regional care provision,” Mr Jones said.

Murray PHN regional lead, Donna Sedgman said that while the hotspots identified in the Grattan Institute report were Donald and surrounds and Swan Hill and surrounds, “this important work will inform health planning across the Murray PHN region and beyond”.

The Federal Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster, herself an alumni of La Trobe welcomes this partnership.

“Access to quality healthcare is a priority for our electorate. The people of Donald and Swan Hill have spoken to me repeatedly during the campaign about their concerns. I am very pleased that Murray PHN and La Trobe are working together to identify specific needs in inequality of healthcare as it pertains to ear, nose and throat services. I look forward to the research informing policy going forward.”


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