New publication: Rural health service leaders co-design state-wide research addressing an emerging health issue

  • Michael Field, Alison Buccheri, Olivia King, Jaclyn Bishop, Anna Wong Shee, Didir Imran, Jane Jacobs, Vincent Versace, Anton Isaacs, Keith Sutton, Nick Sourlos, Fiona Murphy, Melissa Kennelly, Elizabeth Wood & Laura Alston
  • Australian Journal of Rural Health. 2022;00:1–7. doi:1111/ajr.12915

The challenges facing rural health services are unique, and the important role of health service leaders in the research response is increasingly recognised. Poorly-designed research can contribute to research waste through reduced applicability of results to rural communities, and an opportunity exists to increase research co-designed with rural health services through the involvement of research users during study planning.

This commentary describes a case of how meaningful co-design between rural health service leaders and a health service-embedded research unit can identify emerging research priorities and optimise translation.

In early 2020, leaders at a rural Victorian health service approached the embedded health service research unit to request research be conducted on an emerging issue: rural staff well-being in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was based on their concern regarding the lack of available COVID-19-specific evidence to inform organisational policy. In collaboration with the rural health service executive, a translation-focused study of staff well-being with nine rural Victorian health services was developed. Key co-design activities of the project included involving research end-users as study investigators and conducting formal stakeholder engagement regarding study design and outcomes.

Meaningful co-design of research with health services is a multifaceted process that can assist researchers and end-users alike in identifying and responding to emerging health issues. In the rural setting where there is a vital need for impactful health research, researchers should consider employing co-design processes in order to minimise research waste and optimise the translatability of research findings.