Research work set to intensify in 2018

Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Western Sydney Local Health District’s Research and Education Network (REN) director Emeritus Professor Stephen Leeder has provided an insight into the Network’s goals for 2018.

The REN has been established to provide governance and nurturing of research and teaching within the Local Health District.

“Christmas is the one day of the year when we meet up again – often happily, but sometimes not – with family and friends whom we may not have seen all year. The extent to which children have grown (and adults, too – look at those BMIs!) often amazes us,” Prof Leeder said.

“I had a similar experience when I looked recently at the figures for our activities in research and education as we see them in REN.

“Tens of millions of dollars are brought into the district each year through grants for clinical research and the amount continues to grow as research workers at Blacktown, Mount Druitt and Auburn intensify and diversify their efforts.

“In 2010 the research budget was $16 million and education budget was $6 million. Now, the research and education budget is $62 million as handled through REN, including $50 million of research grants that fund 2,000 research studies across WSLHD and 300 research staff. Our projected net annual growth is $3-4 million. Our budget includes $8 million for clinical education services.

“You would be amazed (come and see us in REN and we will show you our books!) at how much external funding comes to the district each year for our educational activities.

“I emphasise that this is money coming into, not calling upon, the LHD recurrent budget which, as we all know, has been under stress. So if we aggregate our efforts in education and research just for the purpose of assessing cost and financial benefit, we have grown like one of those lanky teenagers we meet at Christmas!

“Of course the real question is the extent to which the additional activity this money buys is adding real value – better health, new insights into the best ways to manage common health problems, strengthening the skills of our workforce.

“We have no figures but many stories of immense benefit to patients – with cancer and other problems – that have come from not only research but better skilled staff. Think of staffing our various new facilities and really making integrated care work across the district with our colleagues in the Primary Health Network. Phew! What a challenge!

“Much to do – we need greater literacy in our community so that they can make the healthiest choices possible but also – and note this carefully – develop the knowledge and confidence to advocate with politicians and business to improve the healthiness of our environment – green space, walkability, safe play areas, good transport – more fresh food outlets than alcohol shops – so that we can all make easier choices that improve our health.

“So 2018 comes with great challenges in research and education. The encouraging thing is – we are growing!

“Very important to make sure it’s in the right direction! REN will be there to encourage and assist.”

For more information about the REN, visit the website here