2019 has been an extremely productive year for the Health Services Research Association of Australia and New Zealand.
We ended the year with a record 290 individual members and 22 corporate groups and took advantage of having the Association's Executive Committee members (profiles) in Auckland for the 11th Health Services and Policy Research Conference to run a strategic planning session which identified three priorities for the Association for the next 3 to 5 years:
• To build on the conference as our flagship activity;
• To become the "go to" organisation advising funders on Health Services Research;
• To become the key partner for individuals and groups doing health services research.
Highlights from the 11th Health Services and Policy Research Conference
The year ended on a high with our 11th Health Services and Policy Research Conference in Auckland on 4-6 December 2019. This was an inspiring conference on the theme of "Addressing Health Service Inequities to Improve Health Systems Performance" and attracted a record number of delegates (373) for a New Zealand event. The program featured 4 keynote and 5 panel speakers, 27 organised symposia interspersed through the program, 209 oral scientific papers, 36 posters and unlimited networking opportunities. It is a credit to the Auckland convenors, Laura Wilkinson-Meyers and Tim Tenbensel and their colleagues.
Events in Auckland kicked off with two pre-conference workshops. (Full details)
The Indigenous Pre-Conference Hui (Workshop) facilitated by Dr Rachel Brown and Dr Braden Te Ao, University of Auckland.
The main themes of the Hui were the need for safe spaces for Indigenous researchers to decide priorities, the importance of gender roles and the need for greater connection. The next step will be a report/call to action to the HSRAANZ from the Hui.
The second workshop looked at "Achieving impact through research: An introduction to implementation science" and was presented by Professor Gill Harvey, Adelaide Nursing School, University of Adelaide, Australia and Professor Tim Stokes, Department of General Practice and Rural Health, University of Otago, New Zealand.
The opening morning of the conference was an uplifting and informative look at equity in health. Following the formal Pōwhiri (Welcome) we heard from Dr Ashley Bloomfield: Director-General of Health and Chief Executive, Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora, New Zealand, who spoke of equitable access, experiences of health care and health outcomes as the three imperatives areas of health services research. He identified funding models, workforce issues and complex and persisting challenges that need continued attention in NZ and that we couldn't afford to take our eye off the ball as it is the most disadvantaged groups who bear the brunt as seen in the current measles epidemic in Samoa. He argued that a vibrant research sector and use of data is key to us dealing with these health issues and that NZ has a great enabler for health research, with good data, and unique identifiers for patients nationwide and that the government is currently building a platform to access health data to inform policy.
Next up was Dame Tariana Turia DNZM asking "Why is there still health inequities in 2019" when, as she argued, "It's not that we don't have the answers, we always have, but the wheels of policy are too slow." She encouraged delegates to "be wise, be courageous and look for answers outside the latest tends". She also questioned why we continue to think that we can fix the problems of others? "Nothing about us without us", and highlighted the failure of the system to learn from past mistakes implementing Maori focused Whanau Ora initiatives.
It was great to have both Dame Turia and Dr Bloomfield take questions from delegates.
The morning's plenaries concluded with Carrie Bourassa, IIPH Scientific Director, College of Medicine, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan; Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada discussing "Noojimo Mikana (A Healing Path): Addressing Health Service Inequities". She kicked off by reminding us not to forget the spiritual components of health and that research done ethically is transformative and healing. She argued that communities need to drive health research not the academic aspirations of researchers and that access isn't just about geographical access it's about stigma, bias and systematic racism. Cultural safety is key to change and this should be led by patients. "Speak less, listen more and flip the power balance to patients."
Day two kicked off with Professor Richard Cookson from the Centre for Health Economics, University of York, UK on " Fairer decisions, better health - equity-informative methods of health services research ". Professor Cookson emphasised how the process of fair decision making on equity is complex and how we need to consider the distributional consequences of health policy not just the "average" effect. One delegate tweeted "A refreshing and amazing session …on equity and distributional analysis for making informed decisions."
The final plenary session was a panel about policy responses to health inequalities with Ms Sharon Shea, Shea Pita and Associates, Auckland; Dr Josee Lavoie, University of Manitoba; Prof Peter Crampton, The Centre for Hauora Maori, University of Otago; Dr Debbie Ryan, Principal, Pacific Perspectives; Prof Helen Dickinson, Public Service Research Group, University of New South Wales.
As well as concentrating on equity and with an emphasis on Indigenous research, day one featured our activities for early career researchers. Over lunch 8 mentors and 60 mentees gathered for a "speed mentoring" session and to close the formal events we held a 3 minute Ttesis competition with 10 participant. The winners Amy Brown (Judge's Choice) and Jonathan Kaufman (People's Choice) were announced at the welcome reception that evening. Events for our ECRs finished with a very competitive bowling evening. A big thank you to our Emerging Researcher Group Co-ordinators Dr Tilley Pain and Dr Braden Te Ao for putting together a great program for early career researchers.
Day two of the conference saw a lunchtime session on the Harkness Fellowship in Health Care Policy and Practice and the HSRAANZ's Annual General Meeting.
In summary, feedback on the conference has been very positive with 90% of respondents saying that they would recommend the conference to colleagues.
2019 Non-Conference Highlights
Onto our non-conference activities, the Association endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart at the Annual General Meeting on 5 December. At the meeting Dr Kim O'Donnell, who is a Malyankapa/Barkindji woman, mother and public health researcher read and explained the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the call for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution.
Other notable activities and achievements for the Association this year include:
Publication of a special issue of the Journal of Health Organization and Management (JHOM) (Vol 33 (1) 2019) that featured the selected papers from the 2017 conference. A similar publication is planned for this conference and will feature opinion pieces from the keynote speakers. Thanks to Suzanne Robinson for her efforts.
The key findings of our commissioned research through Newcastle University into the state and potential of HSR in Australia and New Zealand were published in the Australian Health Review in February and presented to the HSRUK Conference in July.
We have continued to engage with the Commonwealth Government and the Australian Health Research Alliance (AHRA) (comprising the NHMRC Advanced Health Research and Translation Centres) to promote the value of funding high-quality health services research through the MRFF and the need for more clinical fellowships and comparative effectiveness research. The Association is represented on two AHRA working groups managing health services research and local level evaluation of healthcare.
Submission to New Zealand's first prioritisation vehicle for health research. Thanks to Janet McDonald.
Submission to the ABDC Journal List Review. In the draft list Health Policy Journal has been upgraded to A from B and Journal of Health Services Research and Policy upgraded from C to B
Submission of a proposal for a NHMRC Targeted Call for Research on the research question "Improve health and experience for individuals and communities living with a chronic disease and support research that uses an implementation science approach to avoid re-hospitalisation and emergency department presentations to receive integrated evidence-based care."
Early in 2019 we became a member of Research Australia and have been discussing with them how our two organisations can raise the profile of HSR. We have benefited from their advocacy expertise and we attended their Health Economics Round table. We were also able to make a nomination for their Research Awards and our nominee Professor Libby Roughead won the HSR Award for her leadership in managing adverse drug events and medication errors in Australia. The CEO of one of our corporate groups, Professor Kathryn North AC FAHMS Murdoch Children's Research Institute of Medical Research was also awarded the Peter Wills Medal.
Awards and Prizes
As part of our efforts to celebrate the best health services research we have continued to run our Awards and Prizes. This year we sought nominations for the best scientific papers and our prestigious HSR Distinguished Investigator Awards. The winners were all announced at the HSRAANZ Conference.
You can read all about our award winners at http://www.hsraanz.org/winners-of-past-awards-prizes/
In July we partnered with the Deeble Institute and AHHA to present a two-day short course on "Writing for Policy Makers". Numbers were limited to 25 and we had no difficultly filling the course. Combining theory with a strong practical focus, over the two days delegates received training on the fundamentals of writing for policymakers and communicating in the mainstream media. Practical sessions saw delegates translate a piece of their own research into a policy backgrounder and a media release, with ample opportunity provided for delegates to develop, present and receive feedback on their own work. (Read more)
Our mentoring program had 15 mentees and mentors during 2019 and we have a similar number of mentees looking for mentors for 2020. A small breakfast session was run for the new mentees at the 11th Health Services and Policy Research Conference. Mentees heard from Professor Jane Hall on her career and mentoring experience and received tips for successful partnerships from last year's mentors and mentees. We are always looking for nominations from members who are keen to give back to HSR by being a HSRAANZ mentor. You can register your interest in being a mentor here.
During 2019 we have maintained our activities to enable members to engage, interact and share their research. Our webinar series has continued, overcoming the geographic diversity of our membership. We have hosted 10 webinars this year. All have been well attended and the videos are available on the past events page of our website. We now have an extensive webinar library. These interactive webinars are a great way, along with the HSR Blog to share and discuss your research with colleagues beyond your state borders. We aim to continue the webinars next year so please send us suggestions for topics and speakers for the series or submit an abstract yourself. Or let us know if you have an overseas visitor who might make an interesting speaker. (Webinar Library)
Activities already planned for 2020 include a repeat of our successful Writing for Policy Makers short course or similar and a Joanna Briggs Institute Grade workshop in Queensland in July.
In coming to the end of 2019 and looking forward to 2020, I would very much like to thank all our members and our corporate groups for supporting the Association. I would like to thank the other members of the Executive Committee for their hard work in helping to further develop the Association. I would particularly like to thank my vice-president Dr Laura Wilkinson-Meyers for her incredible work in pulling together this hugely successful conference and our Executive Officer Sarah Green
Professor Rachael Morton, President