By Dr Harriet Hiscock
The Australian Paediatric Research Network (APRN; http://www.aprn.org.au/) is a network of over 400 Australian paediatricians who are keen to contribute to research into common, high impact child health problems such as obesity, autism and ADHD. Two core problems drive our Network:
- the substantial cost of secondary care, in the face of a weak evidence-base as to its effectiveness; and,
- an under-utilised capacity of Australian paediatricians to participate in research that could improve this evidence base. Established in 2007, APRN conducts research to inform best practice, training and policy initiatives.
A number of core activities underpin our research program. These include:
- An annual online Multi-Topic Survey of member’s practice in specific disease/health domains. Topics to date include ADHD, infant colic and food allergy (where we found that many paediatricians are unaware of the indications for prescribing adrenaline autoinjector pens and almost a third do not diagnose IgE-mediated food allergy appropriately). Data from this survey inform further research and training activities and many topics are lead by advanced trainees for their College research project.
- Delphi survey to establish member’s research priorities. Our first survey took place in 2008 and will be repeated this year. Top priorities include management of obesity and its comorbidities, long term outcomes of ADHD and impact of early intervention services on autism spectrum disorders. All three areas are being addressed by current APRN research projects.
- First national, prospective audit of paediatric casemix outside hospital settings where most paediatric practice takes place. 18% of all consultations were for ADHD! Rates of comorbid anxiety (8%) and oppositional defiant disorder (15%) in children with ADHD were lower than expected, suggesting some diagnoses are missed. We have data on over 8,500 consultations which have informed project feasibility and pilot studies (e.g. first Australian longitudinal study to determine long term health and educational outcomes in children with ADHD). This audit has also streamlined recruitment for current projects as we can target paediatricians who commonly manage conditions of interest. We will repeat this audit in 2013.
In addition to these core activities, the APRN is developing a suite of online research tools for use by RACP trainees and Fellows. These include our “How to conduct research” interactive toolkit (available on the APRN and RACP websites) and our “Translation Toolkit” to foster translation from the start (rather than at the end) of a research project, in line with NHMRC recommendations. We are also developing a library of online child and family health measures to encourage data harmonisation across APRN and other child health research projects.
Membership is open to all paediatric fellows of the RACP. We welcome new members and new ideas! You can join up via the website (http://www.aprn.org.au/) and membership is free.