Our research aims to improve health outcomes. We do this by considering several key steps in the 'discovery to care’ cycle.  We see our work as part of a continuous process of identifying barriers to optimal health, innovating solutions, testing those solutions and implementing the solutions that work.  We work alongside consumers of health care, deliverers of health care and an international network of researchers. Our innovation research uses a range of methods, including behavioural experiments, cognitive experiments, cross sectional and observational studies. Our translation research involves clinical trials, single case experimental designs, prognostic and longitudinal studies. Our implementation work involves small scale mixed methods approaches and large population health level strategies. As part of our implementation strategy, we currently deliver several engagement and outreach projects including Pain Revolution’s programs in rural and regional Australia, the iFarmWell project and community stroke and breathlessness programmes.

  • tree-green-growth Persistent breathlessness minus-thin plus-thin

    Persistent breathlessness

    No-one’s ever asked me about my breathlessness.”
    Demetrio, 64.

    Persistent breathlessness is common, disabling and invisible.  Most of us know a relative or friend -who might have a health condition- where breathlessness limits what they want and need to do. We might have chalked this up to ‘old age’, a specific disease, or being unfit.  Even when people receive the best medical treatments for their health conditions, daily breathlessness can persist.  You might think people just have to live with it and nothing more can be done; 40 years ago, we might have said the same about persistent pain. 

    We are incurably committed to understanding and finding new, low cost ways to lessen the effects of breathlessness on quality of life for people with breathlessness and their families. We equip health professionals with new understanding and skills, so this positive cycle continues.

    We are asking:

    • How does breathlessness feel and impact the lives of people living with this sensation and their families?
    • Does the way we talk about breathlessness make things better or worse?
    • Which low cost interventions reduce sensations of breathlessness and who do these work for?

    To answer these questions and others like them, we undertake physiological, social and behavioural ‘information gathering’ experiments in breathlessness science in our state-of-the-art laboratories, in clinics and hospitals, people’s homes and online.  These fact-finding missions aim to better understand the problem of persistent breathlessness

    A better understanding of these problems allows us to develop new solutions that we field test. We are currently investigating ways of explaining breathlessness, novel forms of exercise training and the impact of ‘over the counter’ products on sensations of breathlessness. 

    When these field tests tell us that a treatment is promising or where strategies have proven to be effective in other countries, we work with people living with breathlessness and health professionals to implement this in the real world. We are currently running implementation studies in home-based breathlessness services.

    We want to know about what workswhat else might work or what problems breathlessness causes that we haven’t yet started thinking about. We are always interested in hearing from people to help identify new problems and promote innovation.

    Connect with IIMPACT breathlessness researchers

  • thinking-mind Persistent pain minus-thin plus-thin

    Persistent pain

    “Learning how I can still have excruciating pain even though my injury has healed was the most important step in my recovery.”
    Sarah, 46

    Wherever records exist, they show that between 20% and 35% of people are challenged by persistent pain. It is, by many metrics, the most burdensome and expensive health issue we face. The Body in Mind Research Group is internationally recognised for outstanding and sustained contributions to the understanding, management and prevention of persistent pain.

    We are asking:

    • Why do some people with persistent pain feel other weird bodily feelings?
    • Do people with persistent pain learn and unlearn protective responses in a different way from people without persistent pain?
    • Does brain processing of sensory information relating to bodily threat differ between people and why?

    We are asking these questions and others like them using neurophysiological (EEG) and behavioural experiments – broadly termed ‘systems neuroscience’, in our state-of-the-art laboratories, in clinics and hospitals, and online. These experiments aim to better understand the problem of pain. 

    Increased understanding of these problems often allows us to develop new solutions that we then test in real-world based clinical trials. Initially these are small randomised controlled experiments, but if our predictions are confirmed, we do big (and expensive!) randomised controlled trials. We are currently running several trials, investigating knee OA pain, CRPS and back pain.  

    When clinical trials tell us that a treatment is effective, we then take on the challenge of implementing it. This aspect of our work is grounded in contemporary implementation science principles and a highly collaborative consumer and systems-based approach. We are currently running implementation studies in physiotherapy care for acute and chronic back pain, community education on pain and insurance-led management of musculoskeletal pain.

    A final, and critical, component of our work is to use our implementation studies to identify new problems and promote innovation. This completes our innovation – implementation – innovation cycle such that new problems and innovations are the focus of research to discover new solutions, and so we pursue a constant journey of discovery and improvements in the human condition.

    Connect with IIMPACT pain researchers

  • medical-call-consultation-telephone Rural Health minus-thin plus-thin

    Rural Health

    “I am driving for 3 hours to get treatment. By the time I get home again, things are probably worse. Just accessing the best treatment is a nightmare.”
    David, 54

    Thirty percent of all Australians live in rural and remote areas, yet they experience poorer health, wellbeing and reduced life expectancy compared to people living in metropolitan areas.

    The UniSA Department of Rural Health (DRH) seeks to determine what causes these health inequities and how to overcome the barriers rural and remote Australians face in accessing healthcare, including allied health services, using innovative models of care.

    We are asking:

    • How do we attract and retain a rural health workforce for South Australian rural and regional communities?
    • How can we prepare the future workforce to be rural health practitioners?
    • What strategies lead to meaningful improvements in health and wellbeing in rural settings?

    We know that a stable and sustainable health workforce is vital for supporting healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities in rural South Australia.

    We work in partnership with rural communities and our academic partners to promote “Healthy Rural Futures”. Our research framework is underpinned by three research pillars:

    • Rural workforce development
    • Developing and testing models of care
    • Understanding rural health and wellbeing.



    DRH Research Framework

    Connect with IIMPACT rural health researchers

  • question-mind Stroke recovery minus-thin plus-thin

    Stroke recovery

    I felt like my stroke completely uprooted my life; I became passive and a “stroke victim”. Now I have realised I need to take control again.
    Michelle 43

    The UniSA stroke recovery and rehabilitation group aims to further our understanding of how people best recover after life changing events such as stroke and head injury. We do this by working together with people who have survived a stroke, their supporters and advocates, clinicians and health services. We are a multi-disciplinary group of allied health professionals who span the recovery pathway from acute injury to the community.

    We are asking:

    • How does the brain recover after stroke? 
    • How can intervention improve recovery after stroke? 
    • How can life after stroke be improved with low-cost effective strategies?

    We answer these questions using a variety of research methods that include:

    • formally testing the integrity of brain pathways using neurophysiological techniques as well as key behavioural measurement so that we can understand and track recovery more accurately;
    • devising new approaches to rehabilitation that include technology and novel therapies as well as behavioural approaches to promote self-efficacy and self-management;
    • we use partnering and co-design with stakeholders to ensure our studies and trials are robust and relevant;
    • we investigate best practice in service provision and are particularly energised by exposing and addressing inequities in access to best rehabilitation care.

    These types of research are underpinned by a commitment to ensuring everything we learn and do is able to be implemented in the real world – being based from the start in real-world challenges.

    There are over 400, 000 Australians living with stroke, which is more than the number living with dementia.

    Connect with IIMPACT stroke researchers

  • team Child health minus-thin plus-thin

    Child health

    Every child has the right to reach their full potential. Yet, a range of developmental and chronic conditions pose a serious challenge to children’s health and wellbeing in the short- and long-term. We know for instance, that around 1 in 4 Australian children are overweight or obese (which is a risk factor for many chronic conditions in adulthood), and that more than 160,000 Australian youth have a developmental disability.

    UniSA’s child health team are committed to helping children with a range of developmental difficulties or chronic conditions to thrive – this means optimising their health and wellbeing, and helping children to move well and move more. We explore novel and best-practice assessment and intervention approaches, working with children, families, caregivers, educators and clinicians.

    We are asking:

    For children with developmental difficulties or chronic conditions, how can we;

    • improve movement and physical function?
    • enhance assessment and management?
    • use technology to enhance movement-related interventions?
    • enhance service delivery?
    • build the capacity of caregivers?
    • build allied health workforce capabilities?

    We answer these questions using a variety of approaches such as;

    • Systematic and scoping reviews of the literature to inform assessment and intervention approaches
    • Studies looking at factors associated with key movement outcomes of interest to identify possible targets for assessment and intervention
    • Investigating best-practice assessment methods
    • Developing and piloting intervention approaches (e.g. use of technology, task-orientated, student-led interventions etc.)
    • Development and testing of tools/resources to support implementation into allied health clinical practice
    • Using interviews, surveys or other approaches to explore stakeholder perspectives
    • Paediatric curriculum mapping/innovation and professional development

    Connect with IIMPACT child health researchers

  • document-file-paper Research posters minus-thin plus-thin