A world-first initiative for better health and social care systems.
An ageing population, chronic diseases, health issues resulting from bad lifestyle choices and social isolation – we face a raft of wicked problems that medical interventions alone cannot fix.
That made Professor Alison Kitson realise that we needed a different approach, which led to the Caring Futures Institute – the world’s first organisation dedicated to the research of care.
“In a perfect world, both cure and care would be two parts of the solution. We’re looking at the care side of the equation,” says Professor Kitson, Vice-President and Executive Dean of the University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
The Institute brings together an eclectic range of disciplines and interests to investigate ways to improve people’s lives and enrich the community through care.
“We’ve got some great stars who are working in areas of high impact, which make a real difference to people’s lives,” says Professor Kitson.
The Institute partners with government, health systems and industry, and works in support of both professional carers and those who care for loved ones at home.
Alison Kitson is the inaugural Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Flinders University South Australia. Prior to this appointment she was Dean and Head of School at Adelaide Nursing School at the University of Adelaide.
Before moving to Australia in 2009, Alison worked at the Royal College of Nursing in executive leadership, education and research roles. She has published over 300 peer reviewed articles and in 2014 was acknowledged in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Thomas Reuters) list of high cite world researchers for her work on knowledge translation.
“We’ve got some great stars who are working in areas of high impact, which make a real difference to people’s lives.”
“We’re looking at a range of really practical things. For example, our researchers are developing apps that busy mums and dads can use to identify food services that provide healthy nutrition for their kids,” says Professor Kitson.
“We have a wonderful piece of work by our optometry team led by Dr Paul Constable, looking at the challenges of young people living with autism.”
A simple trip to the optometrist or GP can be a terrifying ordeal for someone with autistic spectrum disorder, as they enter a hostile clinical environment, which soon brings on sensory overload.
“Paul is developing and testing the benefits of sensory-friendly waiting rooms so that kids have the right sort of stimulation, and so are in a better frame of mind for whatever examination they are having.”
One of the most challenging forms of care is working with people with dementia and work that often falls to carers whose first language isn’t English.
“So you have multiple challenges – people from different cultures who speak different languages, who possibly have not had the educational opportunities they would have wanted, and they are expected to care for some of the most vulnerable in our community,” says Professor Kitson.
“Another of our researchers, Professor Lily Xiao, is developing training packages for carers from different cultures in their own language to make sure that they both understand what’s happening so that they feel much more involved and confident in their work.”
Professor Kitson admits that many of the solutions sound like common sense.
“But remember, people now believe it is common sense that smoking causes lung cancer. But it took more than 30 years from when the research was first produced for people to believe that connection. Our new Caring Futures Institute will help with the translation of this sort of knowledge into common sense solutions that make a difference to peoples’ lives.”
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