This month we spoke with Professor Colette Browning, Director of the RDNS Institute, our latest corporate member.
As Australia’s largest not-for-profit, RSL Care + RDNS employ more than 6,000 staff and 400 volunteers to work with more than 25,000 customers every day. Care is provided in the community setting, with more than 4 million home visits made to clients every year. Domestic and health care support is provided to 24,000 veterans annually.
The RDNS Institute has forged a unique place in the field of primary and community care research. By translating our research into improved services for our clients and the community, we have grown a reputation for high impact community health and aged care service research. Our research assists our clients to gain more independence, comfort and choice in relation to their healthcare and helps them to remain at home, living fuller and more satisfying lives.
The RDNS Institute comprises a multi-disciplinary team of research staff with a range of clinical qualifications and is underpinned by a strong governance framework including an ethics committee. One of the bigger goals for the RDNS Institute is to build research capacity within the existing health and aged care workforce. This is done via secondments, supervision of postgraduate studies and inclusion of clinical staff in our research to ensure outcomes that are amenable to research translation. Much of our research commences with review of existing RDNS client data so as to understand the community health service needs of our clients and to provide a solid foundation of evidence to drive research programs.
Our approach to research is to identify pressing community based health service issues and to design studies that examine these issues from system, organisation, staff and consumer perspectives. We do this by listening to our clients, expert clinicians and by leading research collaborations with national and international researchers, universities and centers in the areas of ageing, chronic illness, health economics, mental health and disability.
The RDNS Institute areas of expertise:
I was familiar with the work of RDNS and some time ago had conducted a review of the allied health workforce at RDNS. For most of my career I have worked as an academic in the university sector and it was timely for me to bring those skills to a service organisation where I felt I could make a real impact in research translation.
Healthy ageing is truly on the global agenda. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is developing a Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health: through our membership of the International Longevity Centre Australia we are contributing to the consultation process. Using current health care costs analysis to predict future costs and impacts is only one way to anticipate future health and aged care service needs. We need to think broadly about what future older populations will look like, and what their health and aged care needs will be. We don’t really know what the future will look like – there will be more people in the older-old category (actually they are us) but they will be healthier. A 75 year old in 1980 paints a very different clinical picture than a 75 year old in 2015 thanks to superannuation, better lifelong health care, less manual labour and dangerous working conditions, better dental care, education and nutrition. Half of the people who have ever been 75 years old are alive right now!
To respond to population ageing and improve the quality of life of older Australians we need research across a number of areas including the biomedical, clinical, psychological, social, policy and health and aged care services domains. We also need to incorporate different methodologies into our research that capture both quantitative and qualitative data. Ageing is a complex phenomenon and one discipline or approach cannot supply all the answers.
Australia leads the world in many areas of medical and health research but we need to do better at taking our findings and translating those into practical, cost effective solutions.
The alignment of health and aged care services is a key research area for RDNS Institute as ageing impacts both areas. The health ageing concept has been around for some time and I have argued that good health in old age should be seen as a basic human right beyond its potential to address fiscal issues associated with population ageing. Translational research is a key for the Institute focusing on appropriate services to support healthy ageing.
I see our membership with HSRAANZ as an opportunity to build a network of health service researchers across disciplines and focus on finding solutions for common issues such as ageing, health care access and health system design.