The Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics (RSFAS) is home to many novel applications of discipline-knowledge to societal contexts, such as health and wellbeing. This area forms one of the School’s key research foci and is an example of the wide-ranging impact that this work can have in the world outside academia.
Female health system costs
Dr Jananie William and Dr Bronwyn Loong recently published research on differences in the profiles of patients within the Australian mixed public-private maternal health system. The aim was to examine the risk that people with poorer health purchase private health insurance. The study shows that targeted government regulations in private health insurance have effectively counteracted this risk, even during the perinatal period of policyholders. The results highlight that private patients are characterised by higher socio-economic status, but increased access to maternal health services and “peace of mind” may also be reasons why individuals purchase private health insurance during childbearing years.
Jananie and Bronwyn are also actively engaged in a long-term project to analyse the lifetime health system costs of women who experience intimate partner violence. Preliminary findings show that women who experience intimate partner violence have substantially higher health system costs than other women and this cost differential persists over their lifetime. This crucial research is a cross-disciplinary collaboration with others from the College of Business and Economics and the University of Newcastle. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health provided linked data for this work and is funded by the Department of Health.
Grief and dying
Another researcher whose work is contributing to health-related outcomes is Associate Professor Wai-Man (Raymond) Liu. He recently examined the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of people undergoing trauma from the death of a close friend. He found that the effects linger for at least four years, which is far longer than previously thought.
These results mean that bereavement services and the medical system can improve their alertness to and consideration of those most likely to experience adverse consequences to the death of a friend. One such response would be to ensure this cohort has access to social networks or altruistic communities for emotional support. Such support is essential for fostering better bereavement adjustment, which reduces the likelihood of developing prolonged depressive and physical symptoms.
Raymond has also investigated improving palliative care outcomes in residential care for older people. The study sought to introduce a new proactive and integrative model of palliative care called Palliative Care Needs Rounds. These are triage meetings with care home staffs and clinicians, focusing on residents at risk of dying without a plan in place. The goal of this model is to help residents to live well in the care home until they die. It was originally conducted as a trial at four residential facilities, but as a result of its success, was later expanded in a second trial at 12 facilities. Raymond and his team also developed a checklist for the Palliative Care Needs Rounds model to provide staff with focused case-based education, maximise planning and reduce the burden of symptoms for residents at the end of their life. The model has shown a significant improvement in quality of death, lower hospitalisation and substantial cost savings for acute care.
RSFAS has many academics making important research contributions to their field and to society, but these examples highlight some of the most pressing areas and the fantastic outcomes already achieved.