Projects from the School of Health Sciences

There are a number of projects with Researchers from the School of Health Sciences within the following Research Concentrations:


Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity

ARENA4: Establishing optimal polling frequency and content for the use of EMA tools

Supervisors: Dr Francois Fraysse, A/Prof Marie Williams

Activity patterns and symptoms in everyday life are assessed either in real time (Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA)) or by asking people to recall activities over specified time periods (average over a day, week, month).   Newer forms of EMA use customizable smartphone apps which generate pop-up notifications at set time intervals and invite respondents to answer a series of questions (e.g current activity, level of sensations /symptoms). Whether smartphone based EMA reduces/increases participant burden is unclear. A tradeoff needs to be made between sufficiently frequent polling to ensure good time resolution, and reducing participant burden leading to drop-out / discouragement. The goal of the present project is to establish the optimal polling rate (time interval between notifications) as well as the optimal number of questions asked with each notification, related to the use of EMA mobile app tools. These optimal parameters will allow to collect as much information as possible while at the same time minimising the participant burden, to avoid participant dropout.

The student will require a healthy obsession with apps.

ARENA5: The perceived impact of use of the Merry Walker mobility device, from the care worker and family member perspective

Supervisors: A/Prof Gaynor Parfitt, Dannielle Post, Dr Kade Davison

Assistive mobility devices can support the maintenance of physical function, reduce falls risk, enhance activities of daily living, preserve independence and positively influence psychological well-being. The Merry Walker is an assistive mobility device with four wheels, a seat and a frame to the side and front, which enables the users to sit and propel themselves along, or stand and walk. Helping Hand Aged Care are currently using 10 of the devices in their residential aged care facilities. Allied Health and care staff perceive the devices have had a significant positive impact on residents. This project will formally evaluate this perception. Students will work with a research team and will have the opportunity to develop and refine many valuable and transferable skills. These include study design, literature review, data collection, data analyses and interpretation, academic writing, time management and presentation skills (verbal and written).

ARENA6: Evaluation of the Merry Walker as an assistive device to maintain mobility in older adults

Supervisors: A/Prof Alison Coates, Dr Mitchell Goldsworthy, Dr Ashleigh Smith

Assistive mobility devices can support the maintenance of physical function, reduce falls risk, enhance activities of daily living, preserve independence and positively influence psychological well-being. The Merry Walker is an assistive mobility device with four wheels, a seat and a frame to the side and front, which enables the users to sit and propel themselves along, or stand and walk. Helping Hand Aged Care are currently using 10 of the devices in their residential aged care facilities. Allied Health staff perceive the devices have had a significant positive impact on residents. This project will formally evaluate this impact. Students will work with a research team and will have the opportunity to develop and refine many valuable and transferable skills. These include study design, literature review, data collection, data analyses and interpretation, academic writing, time management and presentation skills (verbal and written).

ARENA7: The development of a needs-supportive physical activity coaching strategy for rural adults

Supervisors: A/Prof Jim Dollman, A/Prof Gaynor Parfitt

The further a person lives from a major city, the higher the risk of hospitalisation and death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly in rural South Australia.  SA Health data indicate that awareness of risk factors for CVD is no different between metropolitan and rural South Australians, suggesting that the wide disparity in the incidence of CVD is attributable to what does, or does not, happen after risk is assessed. The project will tackle this urgent public health challenge by developing and trialling a multi-faceted strategy that includes CVD risk factor assessment and follow-up contacts with participants to develop their confidence and internal motivation for maintaining regular physical activity.  

ARENA8: Establishing optimal polling frequency and content for the use of EMA tools

Supervisors: Dr Jocelyn Kernot, Dr Angela Berndt, A/Prof Carol Maher

One in five Australians will experience some form of mental illness each year, with mental illness being the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia. The aim of health promotion is to increase people’s ability to take control of their own health and wellbeing. While there are many opportunities available within the community to improve our physical health it can be more difficult to find ways of improving our mental health and wellbeing.  

Over recent years a number of websites and apps have been created which provide information and activities that can assist with improving mental wellbeing but they have limited opportunities for social interaction and support. Social networking sites such as Facebook are hugely popular and offer an avenue for social connectedness.

A mental health and wellbeing program delivered via a Facebook group is a novel way of giving people the opportunity to take control of their own health and wellbeing. The UniSA Facebook wellbeing program will focus on prevention (rather than targeting those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness) and will include physical activity, virtual community, occupation based and positive psychology strategies (e.g. mindfulness)

Given the novelty of this approach this honours research study will explore the feasibility of delivering a mental wellbeing program via a Facebook group.

It would be preferable that the student is an active facebook who has had experience using facebook groups, good IT skills and an interest in mental wellbeing

ARENA11: The development of a framework to guide objective assessment of cardiovascular health and function for clinical exercise services: A Delphi Study.

Supervisors: Dr Kade Davison, A/Prof Andrew Maiorana

Clinical decision making using the best available evidence is a critical component of any health care practice. Clinicians need to make decisions about what to measure to best inform their intervention. Whilst there is good evidence for the role of exercise in managing cardiovascular health and function, there is almost no evidence to support the process of clinical assessment and decision making. This study aims to convene a group of suitably qualified experts to develop a common framework to inform objective assessment of cardiovascular health and function. In the absence of real evidence this will allow educators and clinicians to utilise the collective experience and insights of leading practitioner and clinical leaders. 

This project would suit an accredited exercise physiologist with a keen interest in cardiovascular health and disease and evidence based practice.

ARENA14: Comparing two different spirometers for use in assessing lung function in professional metropolitan firefighters

Supervisors: Dr Kylie Johnston, Prof Alan Crockett, Flynn Slattery

Firefighters are at risk of developing respiratory disorders as a result of their regular exposure to smoke. The lung function of South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS) firefighters is currently being monitored in a longitudinal study by UniSA that commenced in 2007.

Prior to the next stage of data collection, scheduled for 2019, there is a desire to update the lung function testing equipment to a more modern and portable spirometer. To ensure this switch is valid, we would need to determine if there is a difference between measurements made by the two spirometers. 

The proposed honours study would involve performing lung function tests on approximately 25-30 full-time professional SAMFS firefighters and/or members of the general public, using both spirometers, approximately 30 mins apart. Differences between the two instruments would then be compared.

This project provides a chance to contribute to this important continuing occupational health study in SA professional firefighters.

ARENA15: Developing normative lung function data and reference equations for use in professional metropolitan firefighters

Supervisors: Dr Kylie Johnston, Prof Alan Crockett, Flynn Slattery

Firefighters are at risk of developing respiratory disorders as a result of their regular exposure to smoke. The lung function of South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS) firefighters is currently being monitored in a longitudinal study by UniSA that commenced in 2007.

When assessing lung function, an individual’s results are compared to normative data from the general population to determine whether they have normal or abnormal function. SAMFS firefighters have previously been shown to have larger lung volumes compared to age-matched general population controls (likely due to the high standard of health and physical fitness required to be recruited) which limits the usefulness of reference standards based on a normal population.

Using data previously collected on non-smoking SAMFS firefighters (2007-2016) without history of lung disease or asthma, the proposed honours study will involve forming a new set of predicted normal equations, for use in assessing the lung function of professional metropolitan firefighters, and other populations selected on their physical health and fitness.

This project provides a chance to contribute to this important continuing occupational health study in SA professional firefighters.

ARENA22: Is overheating really an issue when people with MS exercise?

Supervisors: Dr Michelle McDonnell, Jeric Uy and Margot Strelan

It is well established that the transmission of nerve impulses in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is impaired as body temperature rises. In Australia, our patient information includes this as a precaution, and a number of cooling devices are available to avoid the increase in body temperature that for some individuals will lead to dramatic loss of function. However, cooler climate countries do not encounter this issue, and have removed any mention of overheating from patient information brochures and clinical best practice guidelines, because of no evidence of harmful effect of exercising in warmer environments. A systematic review of the literature is required to resolve this disparity, to synthesise the evidence related to temperature control for people with MS. We will also complete a national survey of people with MS who are undertaking exercise programs to ask them about their experiences with overheating. This may have significant implications internationally.

It would be an advtange if the student had experience working with people with neurological disorders and enjoyment of writing reports/essays.

ARENA23: The importance of children’s voice: What do kids really think about physical activity?

Supervisors: Dr Tasha Schranz, Dr Gisela Van Kessel, Verity Booth

Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA) will ask Australian kids the What Why, Where, How and Who of physical activity through an Online Kids Physical Activity Survey that will be developed with the assistance of the AHKA Youth Advisory Council (YAC). This project will look to explore and interpret the answers captured by the survey such that the perceptions, motivations, understandings and behaviours of Australian children and young people with regards to physical activity and physical activity participation are better understood. Exploration of the survey responses will be done via qualitative analysis techniques in addition to consultation with the AHKA YAC for further interpretation and confirmation of findings. 

ARENA24: Gait variability and lower limb muscle strength of people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy & plantar foot ulcers

Supervisors: Dr Robert Crowther, Dr Ryan Causby, Dr Francois Fraysse

This project will involve a comparison of gait variability and lower limb muscle strength between individuals with type 2 diabetes and healthy controls. Patients with diabetes demonstrate changes in gait features such as reduced temporal-spatial gait parameters (e.g. reduced speed, increased contact with the ground) and changes in plantar pressure during walking however, little is known about the gait variability features of these patients and lower limb muscle strength. It’s been suggested that patients display restricted gait and this may mean a reduced variability in walking pattern which may lead to increased instability and reduce muscle contractions leading to muscle weakness over time. These two combinations could dramatically increase the risk of falls and maybe the cause of increased plantar pressure which is a precursor to plantar foot ulcers. 

ARENA26: Full body kinematic model design for baseball pitch and ball flight to be used in Augmented Reality: Proof of concept

Supervisors: Dr Robert Crowther, Dr Ross Smith, Dr Francois Fraysse

This project involves developing, testing and comparing a full body kinematic model for the baseball pitch task and baseball flight to be used in an Augmented Reality (AR) environment. Recently attention in artificial environments has shifted from virtual reality to AR due to developments in AR technology, in particular the Microsoft HoloLens. AR may provide efficiency in skill learning by providing visual representations in real world e.g. you can see a baseball pitch while at home. To develop such a visual representation a real-world capture of the pitchers’ angular kinematics during different pitches as well as the ball flight path need to be digitally captured, analysed and compared. This project is linked with the Wearable Computer Lab (School of Technology and Mathematical Sciences) where a potential Honours student from the Wearable Computer Lab under the supervision of Dr Ross Smith will take the completed kinematic data and develop a visual representation of the different baseball pitches and ball flight paths in an AR environment. 

ARENA29: Would knowledge of the prediction of poor upper limb function be acceptable to people following stroke?

Supervisors: A/Prof Susan Hillier, Dr Michelle McDonnell

The prediction of arm recovery following stroke has improved in recent years, with a number of poor prognostic indicators identified. However, physiotherapists do not routinely pass this information on to stroke survivors, who live in hope of recovery of arm use. In other aspects of healthcare, patients would be informed of the likely odds of recovery to enable them to make plans for the future. We will interview stroke survivors who have not had recovery of arm function, to understand whether provision of information related to prognosis would be acceptable to them. We envisage that earlier identification of a non-functional arm may enable support services to be put in place, which may assist with prevention of complications. However, we need to balance this with the risk of harm from extinguishing hope of some recovery. Understanding the perspective of the stroke survivor will assist with implementation of future prognostic models.

The student should have an understanding of stroke and experience working with people with communication difficulties

ARENA30: When people start an exercise program, how does their use of time change?

Supervisors: Prof Tim Olds, Dot Dumuid, Sjaan Gomersall

When people start an exercise program, they need to find time to do it. What do they do less of? Do they sleep less, watch less TV, or perhaps do less of other types of physical activity, like household chores? And does the way in which they change their activity pattern affect the benefits they get from their program, for example in terms of weight loss or improved fitness?

It would be helpful if the student had an interest in physical activity and health-related outcomes as well as some interest in novel analytical techniques

ARENA33: A feasibility study to determine whether Australian children aged 8-12 years will eat almonds for 8 weeks and the impact on cognitive performance

Supervisors: A/Prof Alison Coates, Dr Alison Hill, Prof Jon Buckley, Dr Ashleigh Smith

The proposed study is part of a 16-week (2 x 8 week phases) randomized, controlled cross-over feasibility study aiming to firstly investigate whether Australian children will consume 30g almonds on 5 days per week for 8 weeks and have cognitive function tested on 5 occasions.  As part of the larger project we will also assess cognitive function to determine an effect size for future studies.

To fit with the honours timeline the honours student would be involved in data collection during the first phase, washout and the start of phase 2. The student will develop skills in primary data collection from children and setting up a feasibility study.

The project would suit a student interested in nutrition and cognition. The student will be part of a clinical trial and will have the opportunity to work with a large collaborative team of researchers across two research centres and schools.

The potential student must have an interest in nutrition and cognitive function is important for this project. The student will need to obtain clearance to be able to work with children.  

ARENA34: Exploring the developmental history of female Australian rules football players

Supervisors: Dr Robert Crowther, Brad Keller, Dr Carl Woods

Expertise is hard to attain in all areas, particularly within the sporting domain. Sports scientists have identified a number of important factors that contribute to athletes excelling in a variety of sports. Training history (volume and type), specialisation/diversification, familial background and environmental factors have all been recognised as contributing to sporting expertise. Although Australian rules football has been long established at a local level for female players, it was only recently that an elite pathway was created, with the Australian Football League (AFL) forming the AFL Women’s (AFLW) competition in 2017. Due to the infancy of the sport at an elite level it is hypothesised that successful female players would have diverse backgrounds and developmental pathways. The proposed project will investigate the developmental history and background of female Australian rules football players. This project will be an industry based honours project in conjunction with Glenelg Football Club (SANFL).

The student must have a Bachelor of Human Movement degree or a similar degree. 

ARENA-CPHR1: Enhancing the social dining experience in older adults using augmented reality

Supervisors: Dr Catherine Paquet, Dr Ashleigh Smith, Dr Ross Smith, Dr Matthew Haren

Social isolation in older people contributes to a reduction in food consumption, with 40% of people over 70 who live alone estimated to be undernourished, putting them at greater risk of morbidity and mortality. Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive visualisation system merging digital content and real environment and offers new opportunities to engage with others in one’s own environment. This project seeks to investigate whether a state-of-the-art AR ‘dining booth’ developed by the research team can be used to socially engage older people with others at mealtimes and provide a more positive meal experience. The multi-disciplinary study will entail participation in the recruitment of study participants and observations and analysis of meal consumption and mealtime experiences (emotions, sensory perceptions, satisfaction) of participants either dining alone or using the AR dining booth. The project is a partnership between health and computer science researchers and a local social enterprise. 

The student will be expected to have an interest in nutrition, ageing and use of technology, as well as skills necessary to primary data collection.  


Body in Mind 

BiM2: Acceptability of brain stimulation as a therapy in neurorehabilitation

Supervisors: Dr Brenton Hordacre, Dr Tasha Stanton and Rachel Milte

Brain stimulation is a form of therapy where electric current is passed through the scalp to stimulate underlying neural tissue. It is capable of inducing a neuroplastic response with associated changes in behaviour. As a result, brain stimulation is well suited as an additional therapy for a range of neurological conditions. However, despite the potential benefits, it is unclear whether this novel therapy would be considered an acceptable treatment by both patients and therapists. While the opportunity to improve recovery appears attractive, there are several other factors that potential patients and therapists would need to consider when deciding upon a treatment- for example side effects, treatment time and risk of adverse reactions. While potential consequences of brain stimulation are negligible, it is unclear how patients and therapists perceive the potential risk-benefit ratio and whether particular characteristics of this treatment are more or less desirable than others.

The student must have an interest in neurorehabilitation.


International Centre for Allied Health Evidence

iCAHE1: The management of a paediatric intoed gait pattern - A Delphi study.

Supervisors: Hayley Uden, Cylie Williams

Children regularly present to primary health care clinicians with an intoed gait pattern. Parents often report that this ‘pigeon-toed’ gait appears to increase their child’s clumsiness, and are concerned that it may affect their lower limb development. Whilst common opinion suggests a natural resolution of this gait pattern and a non-pathological prognosis, this is by no means an evidenced-based finding, nor does is quell parental concern. There is very little literature to guide the clinician in the management, or indeed non-management, of this common presentation.

The aim of this study is to determine how a paediatric intoed gait pattern is managed in clinical practice and if consensus exists on how, when and for what aetiology this management is prescribed. To determine this, a group of experienced physiotherapists and podiatrists will be approached and asked to complete a series of survey rounds via an electronic platform (e.g. SurveyMonkey®).

The first round of the survey will ask participants to offer rationale as to how they manage an intoed gait pattern. Whilst the second and subsequent rounds will establish agreement on this rationale. The final outcome will be a ‘consensus-based recommendation’ tool to establish current practice on how, when and for what aetiologies management is prescribed to children with an intoed gait pattern. This tool will then be used in future research to develop clinically appropriate protocols to investigate the outcomes of the suggested interventions.    

The student will need to be comfortable interacting with health professionals, have appropriate written skills and be ofay in the use of computer technology. A developing understanding on paediatric lower limb biomechanics would be expected. Student should also be able to search and review current literature in a systematic manner with guidance from the supervisory team. Student also must be able to maintain accurate and timely records of all study details.

iCAHE2: Thumb proprioception in generalised joint hypermobility syndrome

Supervisors: Dr Nicola Massy-Westropp, Dr Steve Milanese, Dr Arjun Burlakoti

Adult acquired flatfoot deformity (AAFD) is a painful condition that frequently involves posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction (PTTD) as well as other forms of muscular, ligamentous or skeletal concern. AAFD results in a ‘collapsed’ medial foot arch and decreased lower limb function. Management of AAFD includes surgical or non-surgical interventions dependant on the severity of the condition. Non-surgical management includes the use of strengthening and stabilising exercises and/or foot orthoses or alternative bracing. Medical imaging modalities, such as ultrasound or MRI, are the gold standard method for diagnosing AAFD; however, several clinical tests exist which are frequently used by practitioners to determine the presence of AAFD ‘in house’. Little is known about which clinical tests are frequently used, or if differences exist in the testing methods used between professions such as physiotherapists, podiatrists and orthopaedic surgeons.

The aim of this study is to determine which clinical tests are routinely administered by a range of clinicians to determine the presence of AAFD and if consensus exists on when, why and how the tests are used. To determine this, a group of physiotherapists, podiatrists and orthopaedic surgeons will be approached and asked to complete a series of survey rounds via an electronic platform (e.g. SurveyMonkey®). The first round of the survey will ask participants to report on the clinical tests they frequently use to determine AAFD, the second and subsequent rounds will establish group agreement on which tests should be universally adopted for AAFD screening in clinical practice. This list of tests will then be compared to current evidence to develop a consensus based tool based on the best available evidence to direct practitioners on the clinical assessment methods for detecting AAFD. 

The student will need to be comfortable interacting with health professionals, have appropriate written skills and be ofay in the use of computer technology. A developing understanding on paediatric lower limb biomechanics would be expected. Student should also be able to search and review current literature in a systematic manner with guidance from the supervisory team. Student also must be able to maintain accurate and timely records of all study details.

iCAHE5: What is the optimal Functional Movement Screen score cut-point for identifying junior Australian Football players at increased risk of injury?

Supervisors: Dr Steve Milanese, Dr Samuel Chalmers, Dr Joel Fuller

Australian football (AF) is a contact sport that features a high injury rate at both junior and senior levels. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a method of movement screening that could be used to identify AF players who are at high risk of injury due to dysfunctional, asymmetrical, or painful movement. This project will investigate the relationship between preseason FMS results and injuries sustained during the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) under-18 competition. The project supervisors have an ongoing successful research relationship with the SANFL and have completed FMS and injury data collection in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. The SANFL is supportive of collecting additional data in 2018. Data from each year will be combined to form a dataset of approximately 1500 players. By taking on this project, the student will gain skills related to the assessment of functional movement and surveillance of AF injuries.

Students will require knowledge regarding the demands and dynamics of Australian football as a sport and a willingness and interest in learning about sports injury prevention. Training will be provided regarding the specific skills and knowledge required for functional movement screening, and those needed to conduct injury surveillance and maintain a large database.  


Centre for Population Health Research

ARENA-CPHR1: Enhancing the social dining experience in older adults using augmented reality

Supervisors: Dr Catherine Paquet, Dr Ashleigh Smith, Dr Ross Smith, Dr Matthew Haren

Social isolation in older people contributes to a reduction in food consumption, with 40% of people over 70 who live alone estimated to be undernourished, putting them at greater risk of morbidity and mortality. Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive visualisation system merging digital content and real environment and offers new opportunities to engage with others in one’s own environment. This project seeks to investigate whether a state-of-the-art AR ‘dining booth’ developed by the research team can be used to socially engage older people with others at mealtimes and provide a more positive meal experience. The multi-disciplinary study will entail participation in the recruitment of study participants and observations and analysis of meal consumption and mealtime experiences (emotions, sensory perceptions, satisfaction) of participants either dining alone or using the AR dining booth. The project is a partnership between health and computer science researchers and a local social enterprise. 

The student will be expected to have an interest in nutrition, ageing and use of technology, as well as skills necessary to primary data collection.  

CPHR1: Physical activity and cognitive function/mental health: genetic studies towards precision in prevention

Supervisors: Prof Elina Hypponen, Dr Ang Zhou, Anwar Mulugeta

Genes influence our health, but genes are not our destiny. This project will work to establish whether higher levels of physical activity can help to overcome genetically determined increases in disease risk, providing evidence base for future ‘precision medicine’ approaches to prevention.  We have up to two projects to offer, and based on the interests of the student, there are two separate focus areas to choose from. The student may choose to work to establish if physical activity can help to overcome the adverse genetic effects on 1) cognitive function or 2) depression/anxiety.  The project will be based on the UK Biobank with over 500,000 participants, and benefit from earlier work done on data cleaning and management.  Student will be expected to conduct literature reviews,  to conduct statistical analyses (closely supported and advised by the NGE team), and to prepare a full manuscript draft, complying with standards of high quality research reporting.  

This is an exciting opportunity for a high performing student to join the Nutritional and Genetic Epidemiology group based at the SAHMRI campus. The student will need to be research orientated, and interested in developing strong skills in statistical analyses and research reporting. The supervisory team will consist of Prof Elina Hypponen, Dr Ang Zhou and Mr Anwar Mulugueta (PhD student). It is expected that the project will lead to publication of at least one research paper in a rebuttable journal.

For a medical radiation science student, the project can be modified to focus on an aspect of neuroimaging data, such as hippocampal volume.

Student will must have initiative, interest and aptitude to statistical analyses; good writing and communication skills 

CPHR2: Vitamin D and type 1 diabetes: genetic evidence for a causal association

Supervisors: Prof Elina Hypponen, Dr Ang Zhou, Anwar Mulugeta

There is evidence to suggest that adequate vitamin D intakes can help to prevent type 1 diabetes.  This association is supported by evidence from in vitro and animal experiments,  as well as ecological correlations and observational studies in humans. However, clinical trials, which are required to demonstrate a causal effect of vitamin D on type 1 diabetes risk, are still lacking. This project will use ‘Mendelian Randomisation’, which is also called the nature’s randomised trial, to examine evidence for a causal effect of vitamin D on type 1 diabetes. In MR, we use genetic variations as a proxy indicators for differences in circulating vitamin D concentrations. This will allow us to overcome many of the methodological problems affecting other types of observational studies, allowing us to obtain independent evidence for true effects of vitamin D on type 1 diabetes.

This project is well suited for a high performing student who enjoys writing and who is considering post-graduate studies. The student will learn skills both in systematic reviews and data analyses. She/he will be guided through the project, data analyses and reporting with a view of producing at least one high quality scientific publication.  

CPHR3: Investigating variation in surgery and radiotherapy patterns of care in South Australian rectal cancer patients

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Buckley, Dr Michala Short, Lettie Pule

Despite an increasing number of Australians being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, survival after diagnosis has improved significantly in the past 30 years. This improvement can be partly attributed to advances in treatment including radiotherapy.

Previous research has indicated variation in broad treatment patterns and survival according to sociodemographic characteristics of people with colorectal cancer in South Australia. Perhaps surprisingly, some colorectal cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have poorer survival than similar patients who receive no radiotherapy. Potentially, variations in radiotherapy received by patients could explain some of these differences in survival.

This project will describe the radiotherapy received in rectal cancer according to various sociodemographic characteristics including age, sex, socioeconomic status and remoteness of residence.

As the data are already collected, this project is ideal for a student that wishes to have flexibility for Honours work around clinical or other commitments. The supervisory team brings a wealth of experience in medical radiations, cancer epidemiology and statistical analysis to the project and are committed to providing a productive and enjoyable Honours experience.


Other non-affiliated research

HLS1: Clinical reasoning and decision making in occupational therapy driver rehabilitation and complex vehicle modification programs

Supervisors: Dr Angela Berndt, A/Prof Stacey George

Driving is an important means of mobility that enables people to engage in activities of daily living.  Conditions such as acquired brain injury, stroke or spinal injury can interrupt a person’s capacity to drive safely.  However, many people return to driving successfully by participating in driving rehabilitation programs.  Driver trained occupational therapists (DTOT) design, prescribe and evaluate the success of individualised, case by case driving rehabilitation programs, often including complex vehicle modification (VM) prescription, which is a rapidly advancing field.  People with disability who may not have been able to drive a motor vehicle in the past, may now do so due the availability of advanced technology solutions.  Investments in VMs are set to rise, for example, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIA) Assistive Technology Strategy (2015) actuarial forecasts estimate expenditure of $56.8 million on vehicle modifications at full scheme in 2019 – 20.  However, there is little primary research of the implementation methods or outcomes of driving rehabilitation.  

DTOTs are advanced practitioners.  Clinical reasoning literature suggests advanced practitioners use a variety of integrated reasoning and decision making processes in their practices.  This study proposes to analyse the clinical reasoning used by DTOTs in driving rehabilitation intervention in order to define the critical factors of successful driving rehabilitation programs.  Information regarding use of outcome measures will also be collected in order to inform subsequent larger scale outcome studies.

The candidate will gain skills in primary data collection, analysis, synthesis and writing for publication.  

An occupational therapy background is desirable. The student will need a basic understanding of the core attributes of qualitative methods and have good communication and self-management skills.

HLS5: Identifying patient information needs about the practical aspects of receiving radiation therapy treatment for breast cancer 

Supervisors: Donna Matthews, Dr Michala Short and Sue Merchant

To identify unmet patient information needs about the practical aspects of receiving radiation therapy treatment for breast cancer. Women who have previously received radiation therapy for breast cancer will be invited to participate in semi-structured interviews. The aim of the interviews will be to gather qualitative data detailing participants’ experiences and their understanding of the practical aspects of radiation therapy. In particular, the aim will be to uncover any perceived unmet information needs. Interviews will include both open-ended and closed-ended questions and as such, thematic analysis will be used to analyse participant responses. Literature searching and critical appraisal of published works, forming research questions and understanding qualitative research methodology, writing ethics applications, interview skills, importance of rigour and data credibility in qualitative research, writing and communication skills.

The student needs to have good knowledge of radiation therapy treatment rationale and the importance of information provision in radiation therapy. Experience with the VERT system is desirable, as are excellent communication and organisation skills. 

HLS6: Reliability of the weight-bearing lunge measure of ankle dorsiflexion in a paediatric clubfoot patient population

Supervisors: Dr Emily Ward, Auburn McIntyre

Ankle range of motion (ROM) measures are an important assessment tool in many paediatric conditions such as clubfoot, haemophilia and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Decreases in ROM can be an early indicator of a deteriorating condition.  It is therefore important for ankle ROM measures to be reliable and clinically relevant.  The weight-bearing (WB) lunge test is a functional measure of dorsiflexion ankle range of motion and has been shown reliable in a healthy paediatric population 7-15 years, however its reliability has not been confirmed in a patient population. There have also been no published studies looking at whether a trained parent/carer can reliably measure ankle ROM at home using the WB lunge to allow early detection of deterioration of a condition. This study aims to investigate both of these factors within a cohort of children who were born with clubfoot. This project is in in collaboration with the orthopaedic department of the Women’s and Children’s hospital. 

The student will need to be comfortable interacting with health professionals, have excellent written and verbal communication skills which are adaptable to children and families. A developing understanding around functional paediatric lower limb biomechanics and an emerging knowledge of Clubfoot is expected. The student should be able to search for and review current literature in a systematic manner with guidance from the supervisory team. Have a rudimentary understanding of quantitative research and data. However specific training in statistical analysis for repeated measure trials will be provided. Student must be able to maintain accurate and timely records of all study details.

DCSI Child Related Screening and National Police Clearance Required

HLS7: Reliability of the weight-bearing lunge measure of ankle dorsiflexion in a paediatric haemophilia patient population

Supervisors: Dr Emily Ward, Auburn McIntyre, Helen Banwell

Ankle range of motion (ROM) measures are an important assessment tool in many paediatric conditions such as clubfoot, haemophilia and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Decreases in ROM can be an early indicator of a deteriorating condition.  It is therefore important for ankle ROM measures to be reliable and clinically relevant.  The weight-bearing (WB) lunge test is a functional measure of dorsiflexion ankle range of motion and has been shown reliable in a healthy paediatric population 7-15 years, however its reliability has not been confirmed in a patient population. There have also been no published studies looking at whether a trained parent/carer can reliably measure ankle ROM at home using the WB lunge to allow early detection of deterioration of a condition. This study aims to address these factors within a cohort of children with haemophilia.   

The student will need to be comfortable interacting with health professionals, have excellent written and verbal communication skills which are adaptable to children and families. A developing understanding around functional paediatric lower limb biomechanics and an emerging knowledge of Haemophilia is expected. The student should be able to search for and review current literature in a systematic manner with guidance from the supervisory team. Have a rudimentary understanding of quantitative research and data. However specific training in statistical analysis for repeated measure trials will be provided. Student must be able to maintain accurate and timely records of all study details.

DCSI- Child Related Screening and National Police Clearance required

HLS8: Advancing radiotherapy predictive models to incorporate nanoparticle radiosensitization

Supervisors: Prof Eva Bezak, A/Prof Ivan Kempson, Dr Wendy Phillips

During radiation therapy for cancer, the majority of cancer cells are relatively easy to kill. However, small numbers of cells can be resistant to treatment and thus lead to tumour recurrence and patient mortality. As a result novel approaches are required to eradicate these resistant cell sub-populations. This project will assist to understand how nanoparticle-based sensitization could assist in achieving an effective cell kill and therefore tumour control.

Supervisors Phillips and Bezak previously published a stochastic method to incorporate tumour properties into a computer model designed to improve dose prescription and fractionation [1]. The model could successfully predict tumour control through individual cell kill following irradiation.

Developing this model further to incorporate probabilistic factors associated with nanoparticle delivery and radiobiological effects could similarly be used to optimise design of radiotherapy treatments with nanoparticle-based radiosensitization. However, the necessary data has not existed until now, as result of collaboration between Kempson and Bezak [2].

For this research, the student will develop a methodology to ascribe probability distributions to model Au nanoparticle effects in fractionated radiotherapy. 

An understanding of radiotherapy or radiation biology. A sound ability in mathematics/computing, specifically C++ programming knowledge, would be an advantage.

HLS12: The feasibility of delivering integrative health care in rural and remote South Australia

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Martin Jones, Dr Marianne Gillam

Integrative health care (IHC) is a comprehensive and holistic approach to health care in which all health professionals work collaboratively, including biomedical and complementary medicine professions, in an equal and respectful manner, to safely and effectively meet the needs of the consumer and community. While there has been an increasing push internationally for an integrative system of health care, this agenda has largely focussed on models of care appropriate to urban centres. In light of the health workforce maldistribution in rural Australia, it is probable that these models of care may be neither appropriate nor acceptable to health care settings in rural Australia. The Integrative health care Model development and Evaluation – rural (TIMEr) project attempts to address this knowledge gap by exploring the feasibility of delivering IHC in rural and remote South Australia. The project draws from previous work in this area to explore consumer and health stakeholder perspectives of IHC using a cross-sectional survey design.

The applicant must hold a qualification in a health discipline.

HLS13: Health and wellbeing and the use of health professionals in regional Australia

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Marianne Gillam, Dr Martin Jones

Approximately one third of Australia’s population live in regional areas. The rates of chronic disease and mortality in these areas are higher than in metropolitan areas, and there is poorer access to health services and greater social disparity. Conversely, there are reports of greater life satisfaction and better self-reported mental health with increasing remoteness. Unfortunately, the association between social determinants of health and health status, and the use of health professionals in regional areas has to date not been compared with metropolitan areas. A greater understanding of this association will help to inform strategies to address inequalities and improve rural health and well-being. This population based cohort study will use data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey to examine the association between social determinants of health, health status and the use of health professionals in regional and metropolitan areas.

Applicant must hold a qualification in a health discipline and must have basic skills in use of statistical software (Stata/SAS/SPSS/r)

HLS14: The quality and effectiveness of cognitive behaviour therapy based mobile apps

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Marianne Gillam, Dr Martin Jones

Australia has one of the highest rates of use of smartphones in the world; in 2016, 84% of the population owned a smartphone and this use is increasing. In theory, mHealth offers a promising solution to improve health care in regions of Australia with poor access to health services. Thousands of apps are available that promise to improve health and wellbeing and to change behaviour; however, there is a lack of scientific evidence regarding the quality and effectiveness of these apps, and little discourse on the implications of their use in regional settings.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective intervention for mental disorders (i.e. anxiety, depression) and chronic pain. Thus, CBT-based apps may provide an opportunity for people to self-manage these conditions; although, the evidence base for such apps is uncertain. This project aims to investigate the evidence of effectiveness of CBT-based mobile apps, as well as the quality of such apps, and to explore the implications of these findings for regional Australia.

The applicant must hold a qualification in a health discipline or psychology

HLS15: The quality and effectiveness of mobile apps for managing chronic disease

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Marianne Gillam, Dr Martin Jones

Australia has one of the highest rates of use of smartphones in the world; in 2016, 84% of the population owned a smartphone and this use is increasing. In theory, mHealth offers a promising solution to improve health care in regions of Australia with poor access to health services. Thousands of apps are available that promise to improve health and wellbeing and to change behaviour; however, there is a lack of scientific evidence regarding the quality and effectiveness of these apps, and little discourse on the implications of their use in regional settings.

Several apps exist that aim to assist individuals with chronic disease to monitor disease progression, adhere to treatment, and to prevent relapse; however, the evidence base for such apps is uncertain. This project aims to investigate the evidence of effectiveness of mobile apps for managing chronic disease, as well as the quality of such apps, and to explore the implications of these findings for regional Australia.

The applicant must hold a qualification in a health discipline.

HLS16: The quality of mobile apps and their effect on physical activity

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Marianne Gillam, Dr Martin Jones

Australia has one of the highest rates of use of smartphones in the world; in 2016, 84% of the population owned a smartphone and this use is increasing. In theory, mHealth offers a promising solution to improve health care in regions of Australia with poor access to health services. Thousands of apps are available that promise to improve health and wellbeing and to change behaviour; however, there is a lack of scientific evidence regarding the quality and effectiveness of these apps, and little discourse on the implications of their use in regional settings.

Physical activity is important to health and wellbeing. Apps aimed at increasing physical activity using behaviour change techniques do exist, but the evidence base for many of these apps is poor. This project aims to investigate the evidence of effectiveness of mobile apps for increasing physical activity, as well as the quality of such apps, and to explore the implications of these findings for regional Australia.

The applicant must hold a qualification in a health discipline.

HLS17: The feasibility of utilising non-conventional health providers to address health service gaps in rural and remote South Australia

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Marianne Gillam, Dr Martin Jones

Every Australian has the right to access quality health care services. However, for people living in rural and remote South Australia, timely access to the services that they need and/or desire may not always be possible because of distance, transportation issues, and service availability. Although attempts have been made to improve service availability in rural Australia by reducing the health workforce maldistribution in the region, getting health providers to the areas where needed is not always possible. This suggests that a different approach may be required to address the health service needs of rural Australians. Learning from the experiences of other countries in tackling this issue, the Addressing health service gaps through non-conventional health providers (ASHINE) project explores whether the utilisation of non-conventional health providers would be a feasible solution to addressing the health service gaps in rural and remote South Australia.

The applicant must hold a qualification in a health discipline.

HLS18: Factors driving consumer use of complementary and alternative medicines or services in Rural Australia [COMMANDER]

Supervisors: Dr Matthew Leach, Dr Marianne Gillam, Dr Martin Jones

More than two thirds of Australians use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and around one third consult CAM practitioners, with relatively higher levels of use reported in rural Australia. The estimated cost of these interventions to Australians in 2004 was AUD$1.8 billion. For some of these interventions, there is good evidence of effectiveness. For many treatments, however, evidence of effectiveness is lacking. The paucity of evidence in this area, and the publication of unfavourable research findings for some interventions (e.g. homeopathy), does not appear to have constrained public interest in CAM. This suggests that a consumer’s decision to use CAM is not influenced heavily by best available evidence, but by other factors. The Complementary and Alternative Medicine Drivers in Rural Australia [COMMANDER] project will explore the factors that drive rural Australians to use complementary and alternative medicines and/or services in order to gain insight into the needs of this population. This will be explored using a cross-sectional survey design.

The applicant must hold a qualification in a health discipline.

HLS19: Exploring Indigenous governance models that enhance Aboriginal people’s control and use of social, health and economic data

Supervisors: Dr Natasha Howard, Dr Odette Gibson, Dr Gisela van Kessel, Kim Morey

Aboriginal Health Workers deliver primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.  They are essential to promoting the health of Indigenous Australians and to achievement of the Council of Australian Governments’ targets to Close the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage.  As a workforce, Aboriginal Health Workers were once considered para-professionals but have undergone a process of professionalization with increasing numbers of Aboriginal Health Practitioners registered through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.  This project will explore the sociohistorical context of professionalization and determine the current status of Aboriginal Health Workers in South Australia in relation to demographics, qualifications, training and support needs.  The challenges and opportunities of professionalization will be explored through interviews and focus groups to develop a series of recommendations for the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia regarding how best to support the professionalization of Aboriginal Health Workers.

HLS22: Can sonographers offer an accurate scan for deep infiltrating endometriosis in a specialist obstetric and gynaecological ultrasound practice? A clinical audit of comparison between ultrasound reporting by sonographers, and surgical findings, for quality assurance

Supervisors: Dr Nayana Parange, Dr Jessie Childs, Brooke Osborne

Deep Infiltrating endometriosis (DIE) is a painful condition, and complex to diagnose on a routine ultrasound and requires special expertise and training for ultrasound diagnosis. A systematic review and meta-analysis has demonstrated that transvaginal ultrasound is an accurate test for non-invasive, presurgical detection of DIE (Hudelist 2011) hence it is now the modality of choice for clinicians to evaluate DIE. In Australia, sonographers perform ultrasounds. Sonographers write their worksheets and sonographer reports, which then informs the final report written by the radiologist. While some studies have demonstrated that sonographers had high accuracy and strong agreement with the findings of radiologists,  (Lo et al 2003, Dongola et al 2003, Riley et al 2010, Hofmann 2013), there is a paucity of literature documenting accuracy and effectiveness of sonographer reporting in comparison to surgery, in DIE.

A clinical audit is essential to ensure safe and effective practices for patient care. A clinical audit of sonographer reporting will be conducted to provide a process of review and learning for the sonographer that contributes positively to continuing professional development. 

The student needs to be a fully qualified and experienced accredited medical sonographer currently performing diagnostic ultrasound scans which include scans for deep infiltrating endometriosis.

HLS27: Feasibility of using Remind Me Care in Australian Residential Care Facilities

Supervisors: Dr Shylie Mackintosh, Dr Michelle Guerin

There is a growing body of research exploring the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance the lives of people living with dementia.  One application which has received considerable attention is the use of ICT to support personalised reminiscence.  Reminiscence typically involves using visual & auditory prompts to stimulate discussion around past events & experiences, and facilitate engagement with others.  Prompts generally include pictures, photos, videos, music, and audio-recordings.  ICTs provide the opportunity to present this information in new ways, they enable the remote engagement of others, facilitate the sourcing of content, and can be personalised in ways not previously possible.

Despite this growing interest, the use of ICTs in practice to support reminiscence remains limited and more research is needed to advance this.  This project will examine the acceptability and feasibility of using a personalised reminiscence software tool (Remind Me Care) in Australian residential care facilities.

HLS28: What reasons do older women (aged over 60) identify for participation in dance classes?

Supervisors: Dr Caroline Adams, Dr Janette Young

This project will look at the self-identified reasons that older women over the age of identify for participating in dance classes. Traditionally dance classes, particularly classical ballet have been the domain of the young however increasingly older people are participating too. There is some research showing the value of dance for older people especially in regard to falls prevention and other physical benefits, however there is little research exploring the motivators and outcomes that these older dancers self-identify. While physical benefits may be part of these women’s motivations, understanding their intrinsic motivations is important in further promoting such healthful behaviours. Qualitative methods including semi structured interviews will be used to gain rich data into a small number of older women dancers motivations for participating in dance classes.

Areas of study and research

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