Research in Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Prosthetics and Orthotics

Researchers in the Department of Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Prosthetics and Orthotics are making a difference to health and wellbeing

Addressing metabolic syndrome

Research has revealed that two-thirds of patients undergoing community rehabilitation for a primary health complaint also have metabolic syndrome – but don’t realise it.

“Metabolic syndrome, a precursor to chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, can be reversed with lifestyle intervention,” says lead researcher, Dr Casey Peiris.

The research team discovered that only 2% of the patients with metabolic syndrome knew of their status, and many had undiagnosed risk factors like high blood pressure.

“Allied health clinicians in rehabilitation are ideally placed to identify and manage metabolic syndrome through health promotion and lifestyle intervention,” explains Peiris.

“We are now working with industry partners and consumers to develop tools for screening and managing metabolic syndrome, and sustainable lifestyle interventions to prevent progression to chronic disease.”

Read more.

Preventing falls

Research has shown that patient education and staff training is key to reducing hospital falls and injuries.

The meta-analysis, led by Academic and Research Collaborative in Health Director, Professor Meg Morris, with Professor Kate Webster and team, reviewed a range of interventions to determine how best to prevent patients falling in hospital and injuring themselves.

Educating patients and health professionals was clearly associated with a reduction in falls, while some of the other interventions - including chair and bed alarms, grip socks and wearable sensors - did not show significant benefits.

“Hospital falls are a debilitating and common problem that can be associated with injuries, increased length of hospital stay and distress,” explains Professor Morris.

“Our research also demonstrates the value of a multi-factorial approach to falls prevention. We are now working with colleagues on world clinical guidelines to incorporate these findings on education for falls prevention in hospitals across the globe.”

Read more.

Assisstive technology

Leigh Clarke, Dr Emily Ridgewell, Louise Puli, Dr Sarah Anderson and Professor Michael Dillon have contributed to the development of the ‘Global Report on Assistive Technology’.

The Report, led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), recognises enabling environments as a precondition for people in need to realise their human rights.

PhD candidate and CEO of the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association, Leigh Clarke, led the collaborative research which describes the role that workforce regulation can play to improve access to safe and effective orthotic and prosthetic services, as well as grow the orthotist/prosthetist workforce globally. The research team also contributed to the Global Consultations that occurred throughout the reports development.

“We are excited to have contributed to this important global report, particularly given the anticipated global momentum and impact that will result,” says Clarke.

Read more.

Comfortable footwear

Comfortable footwear gives us a sense of wellbeing, assists physical activity and may reduce injury. But what makes a shoe comfortable?

New research has reviewed 100+ studies on footwear to determine what makes a shoe comfortable, including design, insoles, sole flexibility, temperature and humidity.

The review, by Professor Hylton Menz and Dr Daniel Bonanno, found that while footwear selection is influenced by economics, culture and function, the most important consideration, comfort, is dependent on the footwear design, and physiological and psychological factors.

“Studies indicate that well-fitted, lightweight shoes with soft midsoles and curved rocker-soles are generally perceived to be most comfortable,” says Professor Menz. “How other features, including sole flexibility, insoles, temperature and humidity impact comfort was less clear, and varies according to the population, setting and utility.”

The team also found that perception is important. While there was no association between footwear cost and comfort, for example, red insoles were perceived to be more comfortable than identical white insoles.

“It’s important to better understand the relationship between footwear features and individual physiological attributes, so that we can improve comfort,” adds Professor Menz. “However, comfort needs to be balanced with performance and injury risk – for example, it might feel better to leave the top eyelets unlaced in a running shoe, but this is less stable and may increase the risk of injury."

Read more.

Find out more about the Department of Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Prosthetics and Orthotics on the website and LinkedIn.