George Institute researcher wins award for health impact

Senior Research Fellow Rohina Joshi was announced a winner of The Sax Institute Research Action Award at their annual awards evening hosted virtually today, November 11.

Associate Professor Joshi was recognised for her work to improve the quality of death certification of home deaths in the Philippines.

The Sax Institute Research Action Award was first established in 2015 to recognise early- to mid-career researchers whose work has had a significant impact on health policy, programs or service delivery. Each winner receives a certificate and a prize of $5,000.

In the Philippines, as in many developing countries, most deaths occur at home rather than in a medical facility. A death certificate is needed for burial, but doctors may have very little to go on to identify the cause of death, which is often reported in vague terms such as “old age” or “respiratory failure”.

Associate Professor Joshi and her team worked closely with the Philippines Department of Health to develop a software decision support tool for verbal autopsies, called SmartVA. The tool provides the doctor with a series of standardised questions to ask a relative of the deceased, which then gives recommendations for causes of death.

In several Philippines municipalities it is now a requirement for physicians to use SmartVA to certify deaths where there is no access to medical records.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding to see our work have such a significant impact on the quality of health data collected in the developing world. Thanks to its success in the Philippines, we’re now rolling out SmartVA in a number of other countries, including Papua New Guinea, Peru and Colombia,” said Associate Professor Joshi.

Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman said A/Prof Joshi’s work showed the power of Australian-based research to drive positive change in the delivery of health programs and services, not just in this country but across the world.

It is so encouraging to see early- and mid-career researchers showing such talent and determination in bringing about the change we need,” she said.

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