A research collaboration dedicated to understanding health and illness experiences, and using this understanding to transform healthcare in Australia.
Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Healthtalk Australia (HTA) is an interdisciplinary consortium of academic researchers from RMIT University, University of Sydney, UNSW and Monash University led by Professor Renata Kokanovic. Dedicated to improving health and social care for all Australians, HTA places the person experiencing illness at the centre of healthcare improvement and reform. HTA is a national leader in using qualitative accounts of health and illness experiences to directly support people experiencing ill-health and their family members and friends, and to inform improvement of health and social care services and policy. HTA lead researchers engage with a broad range of interdisciplinary academics and industry partners to address key health concerns in Australia.
Using rigorous qualitative methods, HTA researchers collect narrative interviews on film and audio from people experiencing illness, people supporting them, and health practitioners. We interview people from a wide range of backgrounds and with varied experiences of different health conditions (as ‘patients’, carers or health practitioners). The results of our research are used to contribute to healthtalkaustralia.org, a unique, publicly available, audio-visual online resource of health and illness experiences.
Our online resources provide support and information to people experiencing illness and their families. In combination with our academic outputs, our online resources are also a source of trustworthy evidence for health and social care service providers, policymakers and researchers about what is and isn’t working in the Australian healthcare system. A commitment to knowledge translation, research independence, research excellence, and respect for research participants informs our work.
Internationally, we work in collaboration with the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) at the University of Oxford and DIPEx International, a collaboration of academic institutions from over 15 universities across Australia, Asia, Canada, Europe and US dedicated to qualitative research to improve 21th century health and social care.
We have completed a range of research projects and associated online resources on:
- Experiences of ageing
- Emotional experiences of early parenthood
- Living with multiple medicines
- Experiences of depression and recovery
- Lives of Substance: Experiences of addiction, dependence or habit
- Mental health and supported decision making
- Mental health: Carers’ experiences
Research exploring experiences of early menopause and of severe asthma is currently in progress.
For each health condition we research, we typically conduct 40-50 narrative interviews with people concerning their personal experiences of living with that condition, or caring for another person with the condition. These interviews are usually conducted at participants’ homes and are video or audio recorded. We explore questions that matter to people experiencing illness, or caring for someone who is ill.
People with as many different experiences as possible of the health condition being researched are interviewed. We include participants from diverse socio-economic and ethno-cultural backgrounds, ages, sexual orientations, genders, and place of residence (urban or regional).
Thematic analysis is used for analysis underpinning the production of our online resources, while other approaches, including narrative or phenomenological analysis, are used for academic publications.
A key use of our findings is to develop publicly accessible online resources on particular health or health-related conditions to provide support and information for people experiencing illness as well as their families and other support persons. Each online resource features around 25-30 thematic summaries of what was important to the people interviewed, illustrated with video, audio and written excerpts from the interviews, and short overviews of each of interviewee’s personal story.
An Advisory Panel, comprising people with experience relevant to a given health condition, plays an important role guiding the development and conduct of the research. Members offer expertise and support to each project in relation to recruitment, research materials, feedback on thematic summaries written for the online resource, and dissemination of research findings.
Alongside the development of our online resources, research findings are published in peer-reviewed journals, disseminated at conferences and in the media, and reported to funding bodies.
HTA online resources are available for health professional education and professional development, and for informing patient-centred health and social care policy development.
Renata Kokanovic, Foundation Co-Director. Professor of Sociology of Health and Illness, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMIT University; Adjunct Professor, School of Social Sciences, Arts, Monash University
Lorraine Smith, Foundation Co-Director. Associate Professor, Pharmacy Practice, Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching, Faculty of Pharmacy, The University of Sydney.
Alex Broom, Co-Director. Professor of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales.
Professor Helena Teede, Senior Clinical Advisor. Director, Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI), Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences; Executive Director, Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre, Monash University.
Kate Johnston-‘Ata’ata, Coordinator. School of Social Sciences, Arts, Monash University.
Industry partners and organisations
Most of Healthtalk Australia’s research funding comes from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). HTA’s major industry collaborator is Healthdirect Australia, a national, government-owned, not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of health information and advice services, and hosts and helps produce HTA online resources. Other collaborators include beyondblue, NPS MedicineWise, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Mind Australia, Neami National, Wellways (former Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria), Tandem Carers, Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Monash Health, Breast Cancer Network Australia, Women’s Health Victoria, Endocrine Society of Australia, and Australasian Menopause Society. They have provided significant cash and in-kind contributions to past projects, and continue to support HTA.