This month we are pleased to feature PhD Candidate Rebecca Chen. Rebecca is an oral health practitioner, with public health training who is passionate about prevention. We asked Rebecca to tell us about herself and her research.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. I am currently serving in the role of an Associate lecturer (Education) at Sydney Dental School. My role focuses on teaching Bachelor of Oral Health students’ prevention approaches to dental caries (dental decay), a disease that still affect between 60-90% of children globally. My public health training allows me to see innovative and pragmatic opportunities for prevention of dental caries through early intervention. I have had the privilege to work with expert supervisors across the University to develop a part-time PhD program at Sydney Dental School, looking at the use of mobile Health (mHealth) interventions for the prevention and management of early childhood dental caries for children.
What is your research on? My PhD focuses on mobile health interventions for early childhood dental caries as it affects children between the ages or 0-6 years old, in NSW. Children who have dental caries at such a young age often require a hospital general anaesthetic admission in order for the dental treatment to be provided, this type of admission is a major contributor to the increasing number of preventable hospitalisations in NSW for children within this age group.
I am using data science – including the linkage of big data sets to identify the extent of the problem as it affects my target population, including the sociodemographic and uniquely the familial relationships that identify groups at higher risk of a preventable hospitalisation dues to dental caries.
This information will form the basis of a co-design process, inclusive of patients, parents, clinicians, dental clinicians, non-dental clinicians including early childhood nurses, as well as public health administrators to create a mobile Health intervention that will support and will be supported by the health system.
What are the real-world consequences of your research? The significance of this research is firstly to understand the extent of early childhood caries, a preventable disease as it affects the children of NSW. With this information I will be able to create a co-designed mobile health intervention that will bring together current opportunities technology has provided to support patients and parents with timely and evidence-based prevention and self-management support. The co-design process may also allow the use of technology to support an interdisciplinary network of clinicians for early detection and interdisciplinary care provision.
What does digital Health mean to you? Technology is ubiquitous ‘disruption’ that is affecting all areas of our lives. Digital health represents an opportunity to shape this technology for good, to be inclusive in innovation to develop solutions for better health outcomes. Digital health is a broad term and its benefits can intersect at various points of the care cycle, including prevention and improved health engagement.
I have used digital health to better understand disease patterns, as it affects population groups. This will allow me to understand and include their voice around their oral health concerns, so that targeted prevention efforts can be provided. I also see digital health as modality for greater connection and support, with patients and population groups who would otherwise not engage or access care due to cost or until symptoms are too much to bear, and it’s almost too late.
For me it’s a privilege to be part of the “co-creation” processes within the digital health innovation space. I want the voices of all end-users to be heard in the process, so that the end product is one that bridges gaps and provides evidence-based, sustainable, real-world solutions for our current and future communities.
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A very big thank you to Rebecca for being our October feature!