How a WSLHD three-month exercise program for adults with heart failure could reduce hospital admissions

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Senior Research Fellow at the Centre Chronic & Complex Care Research, Dr Julee McDonagh, is determined to improve quality of life for adult patients with heart failure.

Her dynamic approach to this important issue has seen her recently awarded the NSW Office for Health and Medical Research (OHMR) Cardiovascular Capacity Early-Mid Career grant for her work.

As a result of this impressive achievement, Julee is now leading a project titled ‘RESIST-HF: A pilot-feasibility study of a co-designed, nurse-coordinated Resistance ExerciSe program to Improve frailty and phySical funcTion in adults with Heart Failure’.

This work is focused on how to improve the management of frailty in older adults and people with cardiovascular disease, primarily heart failure.

Heart failure affects one to two per cent of the Australian population, resulting in a significant number of hospital admissions and placing a huge burden on the NSW health system. 

Approximately half of those with heart failure will also develop frailty, a devastating syndrome of ‘accelerated ageing’, putting them at even greater risk of adverse events and hospitalisation.

“This resistance exercise program aims to make people with heart failure feel stronger, improve their physical function, and keep them out of hospital,” Julee said.

“After the three-month exercise program, group discussions will be held to obtain feedback on how people think the program will work in the long term.

“Following this pilot study, a larger randomised controlled trial will be conducted across multiple hospitals.”

Julee started a full time Senior Research Fellow position based in the Centre for Chronic and Complex Care Research (CCCCR) at Blacktown Hospital in January 2023.

“I am so grateful to receive this funding from the Office of Health and Medical Research which will allow me to undertake this important research at Blacktown hospital designed to improve the frailty and quality of life of adults with heart failure,” Julee said.

“I love working at WSLHD where I am lucky to have the support of several wonderful colleagues and mentors, who will work on this project with me.”

The CCCCR is a research partnership launched in 2023 between WSLHD and the University of Wollongong.