Rebecca Disler

University of Melbourne

What are some of the key findings, progress and discoveries you have made with your research to date – and how will this make a difference to patients with this disease?

As a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Rural Health at the University of Melbourne, and as a nurse, my research focuses on improving healthcare delivery and experience for people with chronic respiratory disease. I have led work to help better understand the barriers and how to better implement advance care planning and end-stage care, both here in Australia and in the UK. This work has been included in national guidelines and several clinical practice guidelines. I have also explored the influence of cognitive impairment on health behaviours in respiratory disease, and I am currently testing a Healthy Brain Ageing program. Finally, I have explored innovative approaches to care, including leading a Cochrane on non-pharmacological interventions, and looking at how online and telehealth approaches can help to deliver care to people isolated by physical and geographical barriers.

What do you hope to achieve with this research project?

The Healthy Brain Ageing program, as mentioned above, aims to use a personalised approach to address a cognitive change as a key barrier to self-management and quality of life in people who have both lung disease and cognitive impairment. Importantly, this program will enable patients to receive early identification and targeted intervention for early stage cognitive change, thereby offering the greatest opportunity to target modifiable risk factors for dementia and tailoring of chronic lung disease approaches to slow functional decline.

We also hope to secure funding to explore advance care planning and end-stage care delivery to people living with lung disease in rural areas. Despite significant symptom burden, people with chronic lung disease have limited access to advance care planning or palliative care. This has a marked impact on their ability to let their wishes for care be known if in future they are unable to speak for themselves. We hope development of a framework for advance care planning in chronic disease in rural areas will facilitate greater access and improve care delivery in the final stages of life.

How important was the funding from Lung Foundation Australia to your work?

Lung Foundation Australia has provided essential support in my career trajectory and my network development, but more importantly has facilitated the impact of my work for people with lung disease in the future. Specifically, Lung Foundation Australia provided support for my travel and presentation as invited speaker at the American Thoracic Society conference, in Washington DC, which is the premier international respiratory conference. I spoke alongside internationally renowned leaders on comorbidities in lung disease and was able to argue for implementation of routine cognitive screening in this international forum. As recipient of the Lung Foundation Australia/Cochrane Airways Group Scholarship I was also able to progress work on non-pharmacological interventions in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and similarly, this scholarship placed me in direct connection with leaders within the Cochrane Airways Group here and in the UK.

Do you have a message for Lung Foundation Australia’s supporters?

Lung Foundation Australia has a crucial impact on people living with lung disease. Supporters of Lung Foundation Australia are an essential part of this and provide support for the network of people living with lung disease, the provision of up-to-date clinical advice for health professionals caring for these people, and support for researchers to look for better ways of addressing lung disease.