Barwon Health and Deakin University: enabling better health outcomes through education and research

Partnership story

Partnership highlights

  • A partnership between Barwon Health and Deakin University is leveraging Deakin’s research excellence and innovative education with Barwon Health’s clinical and healthcare expertise.
  • The partnership is committed to developing a vibrant culture of education, training and research that aims to have a significant impact on evidence-based practice and the quality and safety of patient-centred care in healthcare settings.
  • It is a critical capacity and quality generating initiative to meet the workforce and quality and safety demands of the future.
  • Since 2019, Deakin and Barwon Health have collaborated on over 100 research projects to enable better health outcomes for the Geelong and international community – a figure that continues to grow.

Driving better patient outcome

Barwon Health and Deakin University are working closely together to address some of the community’s biggest health challenges. As partners, we bring together clinical and academic teams to tackle important clinical issues to benefit the community.

As Victoria’s largest regional integrated healthcare provider, Barwon Health addresses the health needs of individuals at all stages of life through a comprehensive range of services. These services include outpatient care, emergency, acute medicine, surgery, mental health, primary care, community services, aged care and sub-acute care and rehabilitation across 21 sites.

Clinician researchers with conjoint Deakin and Barwon Health appointments have led the development of the research partnership over the past ten years, supported by a great number of quality researchers at Deakin University.

Since the establishment of the Deakin School of Medicine over ten years ago, the research partnership with Barwon Health has continued to develop and grow.  The partnership aims to drive workforce development, recruitment and retention of key staff, better patient health outcomes, including shortened hospital stays, reduced mortality and optimised staff and cost efficiencies.

Throughout our years of collaboration, this partnership has led to significant advances in health and wellbeing. From quality audits, to patient experience surveys and a randomised controlled clinical trial, research is being translated directly to improved care at the hospital bedside.

Partnership projects

Research projects within the Barwon Health Deakin University research partnership include:

The Barwon Infant Study (BIS)

A unique and internationally-recognised study, the Barwon Infant Study (BIS) is a birth cohort study being led by Barwon Health in collaboration with Deakin University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). The study has closely followed over 1,000 Geelong mothers and their children, collecting samples and measurements geared towards unlocking the early life secrets of disease and health. The resource that has been built is formidable, comprising a collection of over 500,000 biological samples – arguably the most complete early life ‘biobank’ in the world.

The Mental Health Adult General Trial Network (MAGNET)

MAGNET is Australia’s mental health clinical trial network. It is headquartered in Geelong and is also a partnership between Barwon Health and Deakin University. It is supported by a $12M MRFF grant. With a focus on adult mental health research MAGNET will provide a nationwide system including a one-stop shop of specialised support platforms and lived experience capacity to support clinical trials in the sector. This national network will empower Australian researchers working on adult mental health to launch the large-scale, definitive studies needed and deliver the required clinical evidence that will change practice, deliver new and improved treatments, and enable better patient care.

Curbing Anxiety and Depression using Lifestyle Medicine (CALM)

The CALM trial is a group-based, telehealth clinical trial designed to support positive lifestyle changes aimed at improving mental health for adults experiencing psychological distress in the new COVID-19 context.

CALM is based on well-established evidence around diet and exercise interventions as effective strategies for the improvement of mental health symptoms and commonly- associated physical health conditions. The Geelong based trial, by the Barwon Health Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services (MHDAS) and Deakin’s Heart and Mind Research Group at the Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT), will deliver an eight-week, group-based, CALM telehealth program, designed to reduce the mental health symptoms in adults with elevated psychological distress. The trial, funded through a Medical Research Future Fund COVID-19 Mental Health Research grant, will directly evaluate the health impacts and the cost-effectiveness of the CALM program in comparison with established psychotherapy in-patients presenting to Barwon Health via the Emergency Department or MHDAS.

Change to Improve Mental Health (CHIME) translational research partnership

The Change to Improve Mental Health (CHIME) Translational Research Partnership is a newly formed partnership between Deakin University and Barwon Health aimed at accelerating the translation of mental health, drug and alcohol research into clinical practice and ensuring the voices of people with lived experience of mental illness are embedded in service design, implementation and evaluation.

Through CHIME, Dr Philip Roös, Director of the Live+Smart Research Laboratory at Deakin University is leading a collaborative research program, using biophilic design science to assist Barwon Health in the planning and design of new mental health facilities. Badly designed spaces in buildings can have a direct negative impact on mental health and wellbeing and can cause an increase in stress levels, anxiety, lack of concentration, tension, anger, fatigue, confusion and total mood disturbance. Biophilic design uses the concept of ‘biophilia’: that humans hold a biological need for connection with nature on physical, mental, and social levels. Empirical evidence in research has shown exposure to biophilic-designed elements supports psychological and physiological health and wellbeing. Incorporating biophilic design elements into future capital works aims to create spaces that will have a positive contribution to mental health and well-being of consumers, carers and staff. The ongoing research program will also seek to evaluate the ongoing benefits of these design elements on well-being.

Our partnership with Deakin University is crucial. It enables us to assemble interdisciplinary teams with skills in nursing, allied health, medicine, health services, laboratory sciences, biostatistics, computer science, public health, health economics, implementation science, and policy. Fit-for-purpose multidisciplinary teams are essential if we are to tackle the many challenges facing our health system. Together, we can and will work across the stages of life, from pregnancy to aged care, to create and translate new knowledge.

Professor Peter Vuillermin

Director of Research, Barwon Health

A partnership based on innovation

For Barwon Health, partnering with Deakin was always the obvious choice given Deakin’s location, the fact that it is Victoria’s only non-metropolitan based medical school and its reputation as a leading research institute.

But Deakin brings so much more to the partnership. As a relatively young university, Deakin is dynamic and innovative, with excellent capacity in areas that are important to the modern research environment, including artificial intelligence, health economics, systems theory and health transformation.

The Barwon Health and Deakin University partnership leverages Deakin’s research excellence and innovative education with Barwon Health’s clinical and healthcare expertise. Over the next decade, the vision for the partnership is to make internationally-recognised contributions to discovery, evaluation and implementation science that will have a measurable impact on public health. Success will be built on community collaboration integrated with clinical care research to solve important research questions.

The partnership has also been able to support the growth of the next generation of clinical academics by offering up to five PhD scholarships supported by $10, 000 of project funding in year one. These scholarships will be made available each year through the Barwon Health and Deakin University Research Partnership PhD Program.

Research funding

Collaborative research projects are funded through many sources such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), the Australian Research Council (ARC) and other sources, including philanthropic funding bodies.

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