Funding for new centre of research excellence hailed as a win for general practice

Amanda Lyons

13/08/2018 2:34:54 PM

General practice and women’s health score a significant win with the announcement of a $2.5 million centre of research excellence in women’s sexual and reproductive health in primary care.

The new centre of research excellence will be focused on women’s sexual and reproductive health in primary care.
The new centre of research excellence will be focused on women’s sexual and reproductive health in primary care.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the funding of a $2.5 million centre of research excellence (CRE) through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) during the Women’s Health Forum in Canberra last week.
The new CRE – to be known as SPHERE – will focus on women’s sexual and reproductive health in primary care and will be run by Professor Danielle Mazza, head of the Monash University Department of General Practice.
SPHERE represents a significant triumph not just for women’s health, but also for general practice, Professor Mazza told newsGP.
‘The fact that the NHMRC has funded this CRE means they recognise the integral role Australia’s GPs play in providing care to 5.5 million women of reproductive age across the nation,’ she said.
‘And if you think about the need in that number of women, the only health professionals that can deliver that kind of care are GPs.
‘It’s very rare to have CREs funded in primary care and NHMRC funding in primary care is hard to get. This is one of the first CREs to come out of a department of general practice.’

DANIELLE-MAZZA-7-Article.jpgProfessor Danielle Mazza is ‘proud and flattered’ to have the opportunity to achieve positive outcomes for women’s health and primary care.
Professor Mazza believes that despite their central role in the field, GPs currently face significant challenges in women’s health.  
‘Hospitals are slowly moving away from sexual and reproductive health service provision, and are closing down their contraceptive clinics, limiting or not providing abortion, and don’t engage in pre-conception care for women,’ she said.
‘So there is nowhere our medical students, our general practice trainees or GPs themselves can get exposure to these issues through their training and learn the essential skills they need to deliver quality care for women.
‘It’s becoming quite urgent that we really focus on GPs and their management of sexual and reproductive health issues.’
To fill such gaps, SPHERE will focus on three main areas – preconception, contraception and abortion. The aim is for the centre to maintain and deliver high-quality sexual and reproductive health services for women in primary care, and increase women’s access to these services.
Professor Mazza said she also intends that the CRE fill existing evidence gaps in relation to sexual and reproductive health areas.
‘We’re trying to bring together all these issues, break down the silos that have existed in general practice in the way we deliver this kind of care, and integrate them and improve their delivery in general practice to improve health outcomes for women,’ she said.
SPHERE aims to achieve these goals with a multi-disciplinary approach and collaboration with professionals from across the field.
‘We’re working together with key stakeholders, including the Jean Hailes Foundation, which is a partner on this proposal. We will work with them to disseminate our findings through their national gateway for women’s health,’ Professor Mazza said.
‘We’ve also got investigators from the Family Planning organisations and Marie Stopes. And our multi-disciplinary investigative team includes pharmacy, nursing, GPs, obstetricians, psychologists, epidemiologists and statisticians.
‘We’ve also got a big focus on health economics, because financial barriers are significant when it comes to contraception and abortion and we want to investigate that and hopefully come up with some potential solutions.’
Professor Mazza is hopeful that SPHERE, which will formally commence in 2019, will have a positive impact on women’s health in Australia, and on the GPs who deliver it.
‘GPs will have an opportunity to be involved in research and learn about the outcomes of that research through [SPHERE’s] well-planned communication and dissemination strategy,’ she said.
‘One of the outcomes I really hope for is that the CRE will be able to train the future GP leaders in women’s sexual and reproductive health in this country.
‘I’m very proud and flattered that I’ve been provided with this opportunity to be able to achieve some outcomes.’

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