About Us

Executive summary

The WAHTN represents a new, collaborative way for universities, hospitals, medical research institutes and health affiliated organisations to work together in Western Australia and to interface with the community. WAHTN will ensure that research is integrated as an essential element in the WA health system and that WA health research responds to system needs to ensure the highest quality care and health delivery for the population.

Vision

To ensure that health and medical research (HMR) are incorporated as essential elements of the health system in WA and that results are translated into policy and practice at the highest international standards, with the aim of that improving the health and well-being of all Western Australians.

Mission

To strengthen the health research translation enterprise in WA through innovative, integrated programs amongst partner institutions that:

  • Provide an overarching framework that is co-operative and inclusive, responding to the needs of the health system;
  • Build co-operation and collaboration at all points along the health translation continuum; 
  • Enhance research translation that is delivered at an internationally competitive level by catalysing, facilitating and unifying across the network;
  • Involve end-users, consumers and Aboriginal Australians in all  aspects of health research translation to recognise societal needs and ensure equity of opportunity; 
  • Provide opportunity for trainees and support of emerging researchers; 
  • Bring about a culture change to evidence-immersed practice across our health care organisations.

WAHTN has 4 major goals:

  • Goal 1: To build effective and sustainable relationships between partners, consumers, funders and government
  • Goal 2: To identify key areas of expertise, opportunity and need for health research translation and delivery
  • Goal 3: To enable research in an equitable, effective and efficacious manner
  • Goal 4: To build profile, public presence and outreach for health research translation
Introduction and Background

Health and medical research (HMR) plays a critical role in Western Australia in improving healthcare delivery and outcomes, in building the innovation sector and in growing the economy. Our vision is for a level of health care that improves health and wellbeing for all Western Australians and is equally accessible and effective across the State.

Our ability to improve health care depends on our ability to take findings from basic science discovery to inform new treatments, to take questions that arise in clinical practice to inform new basic and clinical research, to evaluate and assess methods of health care delivery and to ensure that the consumer is integrated and involved in all aspects of the health research and its translation.

These arrangements are enhanced by collaboration and co-operation between:

  •  Clinical and basic science researchers;
  •  Practicing clinicians, policy and decision makers involved in health care delivery;
  •  Ensuring juxtaposition of colleagues from other disciplines, including mathematics,  engineering, business and the arts;  
  •  Consumers and end user groups.

Thus partners within the education, knowledge creation and applied sectors have to come together in a supportive manner. Research is an essential ingredient of the health care system. This relationship benefits from close alignment with government priorities and consumer values as both drivers and recipients of health research. The partners require co-ordinated support from funders, including public, private, non governmental organisations and philanthropic sources. These arrangements benefit enormously from the informed involvement of various community groups and stakeholders.

One approach to achieve these different goals is through the development of a formalised partnership between universities, research institutes and the health care system through establishment of academic or integrated health translation networks. We are developing this approach in Western Australia.

Our present concept of the academic health sciences centre, linking medical research, education and clinical service is influenced by the model developed by Imperial College (UK) and its affiliated hospitals in the 1990’s. It follows those in North America, and other jurisdictions including arrangements such as the Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network (TAHSN) linking the University of Toronto with its major teaching hospitals and their integrated research institutes.

In Australia, the McKeon review of health and medical research, commissioned by the Commonwealth in 2011, recommended the establishment of Integrated Health Science Networks. Later, in 2014, NHMRC issued a call for entities to apply to be recognised as Academic Health Research and Translation Centres (AHRTC). These were defined as “Identifying and recognising the leading centres of collaboration in health and medical research, research translation, research infused education and training and outstanding health care”. Importantly, NHMRC stated that these should be operating “at an internationally competitive level”.

Context

The emphasis on translation is important. It is engrained within the mandate of NHMRC, along with discovery research. It recognises the importance of research outputs leading to improved health care, new health policies and new innovation and commercialisation opportunities; a mandate of improved health and wealth. It recognises the importance of research informing clinical practice, and of clinical practice informing research; of consumer, end-user and community involvement in the health research translation enterprise; collaboration, especially interdisciplinary interaction; of appropriate training opportunities and of the need to change the culture of health care and public health to one that is underpinned by new advances and new knowledge. It is driven from within the health care system and not the Universities or other research organisations. It is manifest as a consumer-focussed, rather than a clinician-driven system. It reflects the UK strategy of the translational thrust via the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), operating in parallel with discovery programs of the MRC, Wellcome Trust and other agencies.

In Australia, the potential of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to effect transformational change to the health and medical research and translation enterprise is huge. This strategic framework document will position WA to respond effectively to the opportunities generated by this rapidly changing environment. Western Australia has recognised the importance of this evolving strategy. Over the last decade, WA began to focus its health research and translation activities at two major metropolitan sites, in the north around the QEII campus and the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and in the south of Perth at the new Fiona Stanley Hospital campus. More recently, recognition of the obvious advantages of collaboration across and between universities, hospitals and the newly emerging and established medical research institutes has helped to shaped key features of the health research enterprise. Coordination and collaboration across this sector has led to the formation of the WAHTN.

This strategic framework document reflects and informs our responses to this new environment. It is a document for discussion that will help steer the forward path. It epitomises the “Team WA” approach of WA’s Chief Scientist, Professor Peter Klinken and the pragmatism of WA’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Gary Geelhoed that “it is simply the right thing to do”.

Reviews of the health research enterprise in WA in the period 2010 to 2013 painted a picture of mixed characteristics. The WA proportional share of NHMRC funding was in decline; there appeared to be a proliferation of separate research centres with similar objectives, and many inter-institutional relationships were visibly strained.

On the other hand, there were signal achievements;

  • The Nobel prize to Professor Barry Marshall and Professor Robin Warren; 
  • The awarding of two Australian of the Year to WA health researchers, Professor Fiona Stanley and Professor Fiona Wood;
  • Data linkage capacity that was renowned internationally; 
  • Established patient cohorts that went back decades allowing longitudinal studies;
  • Excellence in governance and ethics; and
  • Nation leading translational research in areas such as respiratory science, ophthalmology, child health and cardiometabolic research.

Under the guidance of Professor Fiona Stanley and Professor D’arcy Holman, WA had developed a consumer and community participation program, based at the Telethon Kids Institute (then the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, TICHR) and the School of Population Health at UWA that was first in country and a model for international jurisdictions.

Substantial investment of over $7billion from State and Commonwealth governments, the universities, philanthropic and private sector led to the development of new hospitals, new research institutes and recruitment of scientists and clinicians who were international leaders in their fields. A growing spirit of collegiality and co-operation across institutions resulted in the formation of the WAHTN in 2014. The goal of WAHTN was to address earlier differences, and build upon the many foundations of strength that existed in the State.

The WAHTN represents a way forward for WA in translational health and medical research. It is intended to ensure that:

  • Research is integrated as an essential element in the WA health system;
  • WA health research responds to system needs to ensure the highest quality care and health for the population;
  • An environment is created that promotes development of new research teams, research platforms and improved research outcomes; 
  • Community and consumer involvement is enshrined in WA health research translation; 
  • Health researchers work closely with the allied health professions, build upon established network programs and strategic planning of the WA Department of Health, and develop a strong discipline of health services research.

Investment by the State Government through the Future Health WA fund has been crucial, not only for those programs supported, but also as a further tangible indication of government support and commitment to this sector.

It is the intent that the WAHTN will evolve not only as an enabling entity, helping to drive research and research translation, but also has the potential to act as a single voice across partners, taking the “honest broker” role in discussions with government and other agencies.

The ecosystem of health research is changing rapidly and this framework document should have the flexibility to respond to that change. For example, structural change in funding physician investigators (activity based funding) and a previous emphasis on “soft funded” fellowship positions for full time researchers is counter to the need for stability and sustainability. The WA health care system is itself undergoing change with formation of new Health Service Boards in July 2016. The addition of a new Medical School at Curtin University training MBBS direct entry students may be seen by many as being complementary to MD programs at UWA and the University Notre Dame. There are obvious opportunities for common principles and approaches to teaching and research across these programs. There will be a need to provide “translation training” for each of these academic and new student groups, likely with uniquely identified outcomes.

However, enormous inequities still exist in access to health care across the State. Levels of disease in some population groups are unacceptably high. The availability and provision of health care to these groups is often unacceptably poor. Access to high quality health care for all Western Australians has to remain a societal right, and WAHTN has a role to play in helping achieve that objective.

Going forward, there is a huge opportunity for the creation of two super campuses for WA hospitals, both renowned for excellence that comes from health research and with a physician-researcher culture that is highly valued. There are huge opportunities for WA through its proximity to Asia, a common time zone with one third of the world’s population, the Pawsey computing centre designed to handle the enormous data handling capacity of the Square Kilometre Array. Health and Medical Research are listed amongst the Premier’s five high profile areas of science for economic development. By taking a broad lens to the definition of health research translation, WAHTN can promote these areas and assist in demonstrating the value of health research as a major economic contributor.

The WAHTN represents a new, collaborative way for universities, hospitals, medical research institutes and health affiliated organisations to work together in WA, and to interface with the community. The organisational diagram shows that considerable progress has been made in developing cross cutting facilitating platforms in several areas. But there is much more that has to be done. The time to do so is the present; to capture this excitement and cultural change in this State. An ability to catalyse and unify across partners has been developed. The administrative core of WAHTN has taken responsibility to drive forward a series of common platform initiatives led by key individuals within the relevant community. We have been able to move forward with a combination of vision and financial support.

Vision

To ensure that health and medical research (HMR) are incorporated as essential elements of the health system in WA and that results are translated into policy and practice at the highest international standards, with the aim of that improving the health and well-being of all Western Australians.


Mission

To strengthen the health research translation enterprise in WA through innovative, integrated programs amongst partner institutions that:

  • Provide an overarching framework that is co-operative and inclusive, responding to the needs of the health system;
  • Build co-operation and collaboration at all points along the health translation continuum; 
  • Enhance translational research is delivered at an internationally competitive level by catalysing, facilitating and unifying across the network;
  • Involve end-users, consumers and Aboriginal Australians in all aspects of health research translation to recognise societal needs and ensure equity of opportunity; 
  • Provide opportunity for trainees and support of emerging researchers; 
  • Bring about a culture change to evidence-immersed practice across our health care organisations.
Our Approach

1. WAHTN does not “undertake” research itself. That activity lies within the expertise of the partner organisations. However, WAHTN recognises 4 major themes of health research in WA; life-course and non communicable disease; genetics and inherited disease; infection and immunity; public health including health promotion

2. The role of WAHTN is to enable the health research translation enterprise to operate more effectively and respond to the needs of the WA health system. It does this through core principles; Catalyse new research and new initiatives; Facilitate the conduct of translational health research; Unify partnerships and partners across the network.

3. To achieve this approach, we have developed a series of enabling platforms. In a patient-centred delivery model, these serve to empower people; promote research; build translation; and ensure health awareness.

Strategic Goals and Objectives

Goal 1. To build effective and sustainable relationships between partners, consumers, funders and government

  • Objective 1: To change the culture of health care institutions to one in which research and translation are recognised as the basis for exemplary clinical care, policy evolution and patient management;
  • Objective 2: To establish WAHTN as an effective and sustainable entity to drive WA health research translation and delivery; 
  • Objective 3: To achieve recognition of WAHTN as an Advanced Health and Research Translation Centre of the NHMRC, operating at international standards of excellence;
  • Objective 4: To solidify relationships with all stakeholders, including state and commonwealth government, funding agencies and consumers; and
  • Objective 5: To develop new opportunities for research translation training, particularly in designated areas.

Goal 2: To identify key areas of expertise, opportunity and need for health research translation and delivery

  • Objective 1: To promote the proud records of success in medical research translation across WA; 
  • Objective 2: To expand upon core principles; catalyse new initiatives, facilitate research and unify partners through enabling platforms;
  • Objective 3: To promote translation and training, from research to policy, practice and consumer engagement and from clinical practice back to research;
  • Objective 4: To align the strategic directions of WAHTN to facilitate the goals of partner entities, including universities, medical research institutes, health care providers and government;
  • Objective 5: To build collaborative, inter-institutional and interdisciplinary teams of researchers, clinicians, trainees and consumers; 
  • Objective 6: To promote specific activities such as personalised medicine, wellness, commercialisation and innovation and an ability to respond to priority health delivery needs.

Goal 3: To enable research in an equitable, effective and efficacious manner

  • Objective 1: To facilitate building national and international networks engaging physicians, investigators and consumers; 
  • Objective 2: To ensure that core values of ethics, good governance, training in basic skill sets and evaluative expertise are embedded in the HMR enterprise;
  • Objective 3: To develop a program of consumer involvement in HMR translation that becomes the international standard; and
  • Objective 4: To recognise the responsibility to bring equity in access and opportunity of HMR translation.

Goal 4: To build profile, public presence and outreach for health research translation

  • Objective 1: To serve as the common voice and “honest broker” for all aspects of HMR to agencies of government, funding and private sector supporters;
  • Objective 2: To develop mechanisms that increases the public appreciation, interest and involvement with HMR; 
  • Objective 3: To ensure strategies for economic evaluation are embedded in all aspects of health translation research and delivery.

WAHTN Partners