Finger on pulse: Research that tackles worlds biggest health problems

UniSQ research to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians

From providing greater access to quality care and treatment for children experiencing mental illness to integrating artificial intelligence to enhance disease prevention and early detection, the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) is tackling health problems from all angles.

Professor Sonja March, Director of the University’s Centre for Health Research, said health systems across the globe were facing unprecedented challenges.

“We’re seeing increasing rates of mental illness, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and these are all worse in regional areas,” Professor March said.

“As our population continues to get older, not only are we going to see more of the diseases that come with older age like dementia, but we are also going to see more people living longer with illness, living with cancer and living with mental illness.

“We must find ways to support them through the long-term effects of chronic conditions.

“We’re also living in an ever-increasing digital world, and we have yet to figure out how to effectively integrate digital technologies into our understanding of health and healthcare systems.”

To respond to this urgent need, UniSQ has made health one of its research flagships.

“We aim to understand, prevent and support the management of health conditions, especially for our regional populations,” Professor March said.

“We do this by tackling the underlying factors associated with chronic illness and disease, by improving lifestyle behaviours and other individual and community factors associated with illness and by delivering new solutions for health services.”

Professor March said industry and community partnerships were an integral part of their research work.

“We are on the ground working with our health partners like West Moreton Health and Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service to develop and deliver solutions that meet the community needs,” she said.

“We have focused research programs that address some of our most common illnesses and chronic conditions, including a program dedicated to improving cancer care and survivorship in partnership with Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia.

“We are working closely with our local primary health network to deliver an older persons and aged care collaborative, helping to improve the quality of life for people in the region.

“We’ve also got AI and IT researchers working with Goondir Health Services to help streamline health care to First Nations communities in the Western Downs and South West Queensland through implementing cutting edge AI techniques.”

To help further strengthen its commitment to building stronger, healthier communities, the University has launched a suite of new allied health and wellbeing degrees starting next month.

They include occupational therapy, speech pathology, social work and strength and conditioning, while physiotherapy is among the new degrees offered in 2024.

These programs allow UniSQ to expand its research capabilities in more disciplines to meet the community’s growing and new health needs.

“Bringing in these allied health disciplines and degrees means the University will now conducting research with a more interdisciplinary view to the management and support of health conditions in our area,” Professor March said.

Learn more about UniSQ research.

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