While respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are incurable, they can be managed and/or prevented. Our aim is to prevent, and better treat conditions caused by respiratory and sleep disorders.
We will innovate across disciplines and industries to solve high burden health problems. We will build capacity within and beyond our team to advance the prevention and treatment of disease. We will conduct large-scale research projects that focus on breathlessness, respiratory infections, sleep disorders, and environmental and occupational health. And we will translate this research into practice that reduces the burden of these diseases.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RSEOH CAG has recently seed funded eight COVID-19 research projects.
Over the last few years, we have been developing and implementing other projects that aim to improve the quality of life for people living with breathing and sleep disorders.
We are looking at how we can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses at home and in the community. The research of Dr Sacha Stelzer-Braid has been focused on investigating whether infections could be controlled through hygiene, isolation, or vaccinations. We have also invested efforts towards better diagnosis and management of patients with respiratory infections. Professor William Rawlinson has developed an innovative and rapid point-of-care testing method for respiratory viruses. Professor Guy Marks has been developing a decision aid for managing patients with acute respiratory infections.
Lung infections can lead to exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive and debilitating disease that makes it hard to breathe. Research has been underway by Dr Cristan Herbert to predict recurrent exacerbations in patients with COPD. A software for ambulatory monitoring and management of COPD in the community using an Android phone app has also been developed by Professor Branko Celler. There have also been efforts by Professor Sheree Smith to seek the consultation of COPD patients to co-design evidence-based primary care.
Led by Professor Christine Jenkins, we have been developing a digital algorithm, E-Breathe, to diagnose and manage breathlessness – with greater accuracy and speed. Our hope is that E-Breathe will lead to better outcomes for people with respiratory breathlessness.
We have also developed two projects relating to sleep disorders. Dr Zinta Harrington has been investigating how being hospitalised affects the sleep quality of patients, and what this means for their recovery. We aim to develop devices that will reduce the impact of ward noise and other disturbances on sleep quality. Dr Hima Vedam is also conducting a pilot study into pregnant women who have sleep apnoea to develop a model of care available to all pregnant women, identify the best device for monitoring sleep, and choose the best tool for intervening.
Environmental and Occupational Health
Led by Professor Brian Oliver, we have been investigating the role of environmental pollutants and diet in the respiratory health of unborn babies. The use of environmental interventions during pregnancy to reduce respiratory, vascular and metabolic conditions in infants are being studied by Professor Bin Jalaludin. In occupational health research, Associate Professor Deborah Yates is developing a respiratory surveillance tool that will monitor the lung health of coal miners to ensure any lung health issues are diagnosed early.
The local communities we serve are diverse in culture, language, historical origin, and burden of disease.
Our team includes primary care doctors and nurses, community and paediatric physicians, allied health workers, and public health physicians. They are experienced in dealing with problems of diverse communities, including remote and international communities.
We work in conjunction with primary care, community, and Non-Government Organisation health sectors and partner with pre-eminent organisations in this space, including:
- Asthma Foundation
- Lung Foundation of Australia
- Sleep Health Foundation
- The Woolcock Institute
- Sydney Health Partners
- The George Institute
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RSEOH CAG has recently allocated $80,000 towards seed funding eight COVID-19 research projects.
Over the last few years, the RSEOH CAG has seed funded five projects in 2017/18 and seven projects in 2018/19. Some of these projects have leveraged the seed funds to obtain further funding:
Evaluation of the effects of in-utero traffic PM exposure upon offspring lung health led by Professor Brian Oliver
The seed fund has been leveraged to obtain a $1mil NHRMC project grant.
Development of an innovative and rapid point-of-care testing method for respiratory viruses led by Professor William Rawlinson
The seed fund has been leveraged to obtain HDR student scholarship and $33,000 in-kind point-of-care test kits from an industry collaborator.
Pregnancy and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (POSA) led by Dr Hima Vedam
The seed fund has been leveraged to obtain $80,000/year of in-kind research nurse support from the Women’s Health initiative Translational Unit (WHITU) and a $36,000 equipment grant.
Can microRNA expression by nasal epithelial cells predict which patients with COPD will develop recurrent exacerbations? led by Associate Professor Cristan Herbert
The seed fund has been leveraged to obtain 0.1FTE of in-kind research support for 12 months.
The RSEOH CAG has been building capacity for health professionals through education and training in the following ways:
Content Development for A Curated Website of Educational Resources
Led by Associate Professor Maria Sukkar and Dr Ben Kolevski, the Education and Training Sub-Committee and particularly the Education Officer, Dr Sarah Dineen-Griffin, have been developing the content for a curated website of innovative educational resources that cater for RSEOH professionals across clinical and non-clinical roles tailored at various career and competency levels.
Education and Training for Non-invasive Ventilation
A key step in implementing a ward-based acute non-invasive ventilation service is to provide education to all key members of the healthcare workforce, including nursing staff, allied health staff, and medical staff. Our CAG members have been involved in several education and training programs which will be expanded to other centres without established non-invasive ventilation services such as Bankstown Hospital.
Competency-based Guidelines for Common Procedures Performed in Respiratory Medicine
Led by Associate Professor Jonathan Williamson in his role as the Convenor of the Interventional Pulmonology Special Interest Group of TSANZ, the Recognition of Competency in Fine Bore Intercostal Catheter Insertion, in Endobronchial Ultrasound Transbronchial Needle Aspiration and in Flexible Bronchoscopy for Adults Guidelines were published on the TSANZ website in April 2019. Training workshops in pleural ultrasound were also conducted to ensure that respiratory physicians could expand their skill base to keep up with advances.
There has been extensive collaboration between the RSEOH CAG and other CAGs in the following areas:
- Collaboration with key members of the Infection, Immunity and Inflammation CAG on projects relating to respiratory infections
Environmental and Occupational Health
- Projects on environmental health developed by members who are also active in the Healthy Urban Environments CAG
- Strong collaboration with the Women’s Health initiative Translational Unit (WHITU), a newly formed SWSLHD academic unit, on a sleep disorder project
- Working closely with the Sleep Group of Sydney Health Partners
- Developing collaborations with the Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing CAG on projects relating to sleep disorders
External partnerships have also been formed to achieve greater impact on health outcomes:
- Some CAG members are also members of external partner groups including the Centre for Air pollution, energy and health Research (CAR) and the CRE for Tuberculosis
- Close collaboration within Primary Care through the Primary Health Networks.