Thursday, 17 December 2015

Researcher Profile: Dr Jacqueline Boyle

We spoke with Dr Jacqueline Boyle from Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI) to learn more about her academic and professional career, her research and the interesting projects she is involved with.

Q: What is your role at SPHPM and what are the aims of the Indigenous and Refugee Women's Health Program?
A: My role is to lead the Indigenous and Refugee Health Program at MCHRI. We focus on working with communities, health services and government departments to improve health care and health services mainly in the areas of reproductive health, metabolic health and pregnancy across Australia.

Q: What are some of the public health matters facing Indigenous and refugee women in Australia today?
A: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience higher risks across the life course including increased risks in pregnancy (for example higher pre-term birth and low birth weight, increased perinatal and maternal mortality), increased obesity, higher rates of smoking, increased diabetes, chronic renal disease, cardiovascular disease, and increased mortality from cancer. The key to improving some of these are addressing the socioeconomic determinants of health and providing culturally safe health services.

Women of refugee background are also at high risk of social disadvantage, suboptimal preconception health and psychological trauma (including increased risks of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as anaemia and infectious diseases.

Q: What research/projects are you currently working on yourself? Your colleagues and students?
A: Areas my team are working in include:
National collaborative work with the Centre of Research Excellence for Integrated Quality Improvement using large scale quality improvement methods to improve pregnancy care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women around Australia;
Assessing diabetes in pregnancy across Victorian health services;
Implementing and evaluating a program to prevent excess gestational weight gain in pregnancy at Monash Health;
Implementing and evaluating a culturally appropriate screening program for mental health in pregnancy for refugee women;
MCHRI is leading a Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and I am co-leading the stream in implementation research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women including areas such as improving models of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with PCOS; Improving care to women with early and premature menopause; and developing mobile-health platforms for improved information and health care delivery for women's health.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background – how did you get here?
A: I trained in obstetrics and gynaecology in Melbourne. The time I spent in Zimbabwe as a medical student and the work I undertook with returned refugees in Central America as a junior doctor inspired me long term to work with groups of women who may not experience equitable access to care.

During my specialty training I completed a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University and then spent eight and a half years in Darwin where I did a PhD in PCOS with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women at the Menzies School of Health Research. I formed many friendships, community and work partnerships there, as well as a big love of the Territory! I am fortunate enough to be able to combine regular clinical work and research there as well as in Victoria.

Q: What does the future hold - pending projects?
A: We are building partnerships with primary health care providers in Melbourne working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to improve diagnosis and management of PCOS. We are particularly excited about using new technologies to provide improved health information and health care to women who may not otherwise access this easily; and to improve networks for researchers and clinicians across Australia.

One example is the Indigenous Health Infonet women's health yarning site that we have partnered with the Ian Potter Foundation and the Infonet to provide. This is an online forum that enables networking and information sharing across Australia in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women's health.

Q: Anything else to tell the readers?
A: An important role of research is ensuring it gets put into practice. I have a number of other roles that help to facilitate this including; Chair of Gynaecology Editorial Working Group for the Remote Practitioners Manual in the Northern Territory and roles in the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) committees including the Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee and co-chair of the RANZCOG national Indigenous Women's Health Meetings in 2008, 2011 and 2014.

Finally, building capacity and training for medical students, specialty trainees and higher degree research students is important to ensure high quality research that intersects with clinical need to improve health outcomes and is an important priority for all of us at MCHRI.

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