Goal: Higher and faster rates of return to full functioning, work and other social roles

Research focus: Return to work, return to functioning, return to social roles

Program leader: Associate Professor Venerina Johnston

The focus of this programme is to understand the recovery journey for injured claimants, to identify those at greater risk of not achieving their recovery goals or non-return to work, and to develop interventions to improve the individuals’ functioning, working life and social roles. This programme has two key areas:

  1. Understanding the recovery of functional, social  and occupational outcomes of people who experience minor, moderate and severe injuries following a compensable injury in particular those involved in a road traffic crash
  2. Working with health services (e.g. Metro North and South Hospital and Health Services), to develop innovative models of care and interventions to restore or improve the individual’s functioning, working life and other social roles

Below are some of our projects.

Understanding current models of care, functional and vocational recovery after injury:

  • A longitudinal cohort study collecting information from 100 injured persons from soon after injury to 12 months post injury (Metro South and Townsville Hospital and Health Services, Mater Hospital). The results will help identify individual or injury related characteristics that are associated with greater risk of non-recovery or non-return to work. The results will also be used to validate a screening tool to identify those at greater risk of not achieving their recovery goals or non-return to work; 
  • Two qualitative studies with focus groups and interviews with injured persons, employers, health professionals, insurers, vocational rehabilitation providers to understand the current pathways, challenges and enablers to return to work after brain injury and after minor to moderate musculoskeletal injuries;
  • Two observational studies evaluating recovery of physical activity in those with brain injury during the acute (e.g. while an inpatient) and subacute phase (e.g. when in transition to home) of recovery;
  • An observational study evaluating physiological impairment following mild and moderate traumatic brain injury by using heart rate monitors;
  • Two validation studies evaluating devices and techniques to measure physical activity and sedentary behaviour in free-living and hospital settings in individuals with brain injury and common medical conditions recruited through The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH);
  • A qualitative study to explore the challenges people with a pain condition experience during driving;
  • An evaluation using existing databases at the RBWH to determine the prevalence, impact and management of chronic pain post trauma;
  • Two systematic reviews evaluating work outcomes after musculoskeletal injury from a road traffic crash. One review will evaluate the observed progression of these outcomes, the other review will explore whether these outcomes improve after specific interventions and models of care;

Innovative models of care and interventions to restore or improve the individuals’ functioning, working life and other social roles

  • Digital health interventions to improve physical activity and community participation for those with brain injury, disabling pain conditions, and minor to moderate musculoskeletal problems;
  • A health app that uses self-management principles to engage, educate and enable the injured person to promote recovery;
  • A feasibility intervention to increase physical activity after brain injury in a hospital setting;
  • An intervention to evaluate sit-stand desks and guidelines for postural variation to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms in the workplace;

Our research agenda is developed in conjunction with end-users to ensure it is relevant and translatable. We work with clinicians in health services, consumers with health conditions, insurers, regulators, and employers. We have specific expertise and skills in:

  • Conducting randomized controlled trials, cohort studies and pre-post studies to test the effectiveness of interventions;
  • Using activity trackers to measure physical activity in clinical populations, in the workplace and in the community;
  • Conducting narrative reviews, scoping reviews, systematic reviews and meta-analyses;
  • Conducting and analysing interviews, focus groups and Delphi studies (consensus development);
  • Evaluation of work outcomes and productivity in the working population;
  • Development of digital interventions to educate and build skills for self-managing recovery after injury including work, physical activity and community participation;
  • Workplace-based exercise and health interventions to reduce risk for, and management of musculoskeletal symptoms.