Reaching out to rural and remote areas through research

Friday, 12 March 2021 - 1:07pm

Local Tasmanian researcher Dr Suzi Claflin has always been passionate about health, especially in areas away from major population centres.

After growing up in a rural corner of Vermont in north-eastern USA, her passion for local research has always been strong, and the great news is that Tasmanians will benefit from her current research, with Suzi now calling Tassie her home.

Since arriving in Tasmania six years ago, Suzi has studied multiple sclerosis as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, where she has pursued a particular interest in access to care and health education for those folk living with this chronic condition. This year Suzi and team have been awarded funding for a vital research project with the RHHRF titled “Improving access to healthcare for Tasmanians living with multiple sclerosis in remote areas.”

Regional areas are defined by their remoteness, meaning how far away they are from resources and population centres. Because they are further away from resources, people living in regional and remote areas in Australia have less access to healthcare than those living in cities which results in poorer health outcomes.

Tasmania has the highest number of people living with MS per capita in Australia and is also the most regional Australian state. This research it particularly vital.

 Dr Claflin said although there is currently no cure for MS, researchers have developed several medications that help treat MS and greatly improve the outlook for many people living with MS.

“However, to reap the benefits of these treatments, people with MS have to be able to access them. Living in regional and remote areas may prove particularly challenging for people living with complex health conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) as it can limit their access to healthcare - we want to see this change,” she said.

This important local project will see a collaborative research team from across the state explore the impact of living in regional and remote areas on the lives of Tasmanians living with MS. The team is led by Dr Suzi Claflin and includes Prof Bruce Taylor (RHH MS Clinic, Menzies Institute), A/Prof Des Graham (MS Limited, UTAS), and Dr Lauren Giles (LGH MS Clinic). We’re delighted to note that the Johns Group, which is highly active in redeveloping the Miena Village area of our central highlands, has generously provided full funding to the RHHRF which enables this vital study to proceed.

Recruitment for the project is underway and the project survey will roll out throughout 2021.

What is MS

MS is a condition that causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack the central nervous system (e.g. the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves). MS causes a range of symptoms, which vary from person to person, and can include fatigue, difficulty walking, and vision problems.

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