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Campus News : March 2010
Health risks of detention centres Asylum seekers and other detainees who are held in Australian immigration detention centres for long periods are more likely to require medical attention for mental health problems than those detained for a shorter time, according to the results of research published in the Medical Journal of Australia in January. UOW Health Services Research Professor and Centre for Health Service Development Director Professor Kathy Eagar and her co-author and Senior Fellow Janette Green conducted an analysis of the health records of 720 people in detention in the 2005-06 financial year. The analysis showed that both the reason for, and time in, detention had a significant effect on the rate of new mental health problems among detainees. A significantly higher rate of mental health problems was present in those arriving in unauthorised boats seeking asylum and those detained for more than 24 months compared with those who were released within three months. Professor Eagar said that overall the incidence of a range of health problems among detainees also varied by reason for, and time in, detention, with the highest rate of new health problems recorded in those designated as asylum seekers (unauthorised boat and air arrivals) and detained for more than 24 months. The most common types of problems included dental and respiratory conditions and lacerations. Among those detained for more than a year, mental health, social and musculoskeletal problems were common. "The health of people in immigration detention has attracted considerable attention," Professor Eagar said. "In particular, there is almost universal criticism of the policy of detaining asylum seekers, particularly in terms of the mental health implications." In an accompanying editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia, Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Community Health at the Australian National University Dr Christine Phillips wrote that the UOW study is the largest Australian study of the health of people who have been in detention. BG 1300 367 869 www.uow.edu.au University of Wollongong Campus News April 2010 7 280 health professionals join research network FOCUS ON RESEARCH More than 280 health and medical professionals from across the Illawarra region have accepted an invitation to join a new research network based at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI). They include specialist clinicians, nurses, allied health professionals including osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors, and managers of a number of the Illawarra region's health organisations who will work with academic researchers on community-based health and medical research projects. IHMRI Executive Director Professor Don Iverson, who is also the University of Wollongong's Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health), launched the research network at a special presentation to the region's health and medical fraternity in December last year. He described the response from the region's health and medical fraternity as "overwhelming". "The response is probably four times bigger than I had anticipated," Professor Iverson said. "It is very exciting to have this level of interest, as it gives us an incredible pool of talent and resources -- an army of researchers out in the community." Professor Iverson said with such a strong response, he was now looking forward to the challenge of following up with the people who had registered, and engaging them in research programs. "It is great that so many of the people working in this field are interested in and committed to research. It is a previously untapped resource, and gives us the opportunity to do a level of research in our community that we could never have dreamed of," Professor Iverson said. "This is the start of a journey that will deliver great long-term health benefits to the community in the years ahead." IHMRI was established in 2008 and is a partnership between UOW and the South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service (SESIAHS). UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton and SESIAHS Chief Executive Officer Terry Clout both attended the launch along with parliamentarians, NSW Minister for Transport and Roads David Campbell and Minister for the Illawarra and Ports Paul Mcleay. Professor Iverson said IHMRI's $30 million headquarters, nearing completion in UOW's main Wollongong campus, would provide clinical research and trials facilities not previously available in the region. He paid tribute to Mr Campbell, who as the previous Minister for the Illawarra had played a pivotal role in ensuring State Government support for IHMRI's establishment. "We already have world-class research going on in and around Wollongong, but we want to expand this through fostering new collaborations between academic researchers, clinicians and other health professionals," Professor Iverson said. "The Institute is about improving the lives of people in the Illawarra through top quality health and medical research. Our hope for the research network is that it will help bring together people with different skill sets who, by working together, will be able to achieve much more than they could apart. Also, by conducting research within the community, we are more likely to be able to apply the research findings throughout the community." For more information on the IHMRI Research Network, and to register on-line, go to ihmri.uow.edu.au NH UOW Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health) Professor Don Iverson (left) speaking at the launch of the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute's research network at the Innovation Campus.