Student wins national health award

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Melanie Harris, a research associate and PhD student at the University of Adelaide, is one of six Australian health professionals to win the National Institute of Clinical Studies' (NICS) second annual Cochrane Users Award.

Established by the NICS, Australia's national agency for helping close gaps between best available evidence and current clinical practice, the award recognises health practitioners who make the best use of research evidence contained in the Cochrane Library.

The Cochrane Library is an on-line database of scientific research drawn from around the world and renowned as the best single source of reliable evidence about the effects of health care.

Ms Harris, who is with the Clinical Epidemiology and Health Outcomes Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Health Service, won the Student/Health Professional in Training category and a general category award.

"It's very exciting to be part of helping Australians to get medical care that is based on the best available research evidence," Ms Harris said. She will receive $5,000.

"Starting with a condition called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis - my group worked with patients to find out how they wanted information from Cochrane reviews presented to them.

"We asked clinical and Cochrane experts to extract key points from Cochrane reviews and worked with these experts and patients and carers to put these points into an easy and readable format.

"The result is a patient booklet called 'Talking to your doctor about COPD', that tells patients what the best research evidence says about treatments for COPD and helps patients to raise this evidence when they visit their doctor," she said.

Ms Harris' PhD project is a study of whether and how this booklet improves health care and quality of life for people with COPD.

In acknowledging the many who worked with her, Ms Harris said this was a collaborative project.

"For example, the idea of involving patients in putting evidence into practice came from my supervisor, Associate Professor Brian Smith, and he and others from the Cochrane Collaboration obtained funding from the Department of Health and Ageing to support development of the booklet. My PhD supervisors, Associate Professor Smith and Antony Veale (both of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital) helped greatly with the conceptualising and planning.

"Many patients and carers including the WestAir lung community support group and a wide range of health professionals and Cochrane workers from SA, Australia and UK were part of this booklet."


Contact Details

Ms Melanie Harris
Clinical Epidemiology and Health Outcomes Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Health Service
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8222 7933

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814