The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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29 Oct 2018

Australasian Epidemiological Association Annual Scientific Meeting 2018

By Royal Melbourne Hospital's Chelsea Brown, Epidemiologist for the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Doherty Institute.

The Australasian Epidemiological Association held their annual conference, AEA 2018, in Fremantle from 22 to 24 October 2018.

The focus of this year’s conference was ‘The Future of Epidemiology: Maximising the use of data.’  There were six pre-conference workshops on analytical techniques, electronic data management, and teaching epidemiology. Dr Karen McCulloch from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Doherty Institute presented in the workshop on ‘Location matters: The value of geo-spatial information and technology’.  Karen described her research on estimating patterns of human movement to get an idea of how far people might travel to access relevant health care services, motivated by the known inequities in health service access for people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia.

The AEA 2018 conference included streams focussing on data linkage, infectious disease epidemiology, mental health epidemiology, life course epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology and precision medicine, health economics, health services and health systems, analytical methods, cancer epidemiology, perinatal epidemiology, public health, environmental health and occupational epidemiology, and cardiovascular epidemiology.  A new addition this year was the inclusion of rapid-fire one-minute poster presentations.  These short tantalising snapshots were really engaging and resulted in presenters plugging their research and encouraging delegates to stop by their poster to find out more!

A standout plenary speaker was Dr Maree Toombs from the University of Queensland, who described ‘How working with Aboriginal communities towards health improvements will close the gap in health outcomes’.  Maree presented three projects that utilise participatory action research in Indigenous communities of South West and Central Queensland and demonstrated the importance of targeted, evidence-based community engagement at the outset as well as throughout a project to enhance health literacy, knowledge, and service delivery in Indigenous communities.  Other plenaries were given by Dr Siri Haberg from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health on the multipurpose use of national health databases in Norway, Professor Louisa Jorm from the University of New South Wales on the intersection between big data and epidemiology, Professor Mika Gessler from the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland on Nordic registers for research, Professor Rodney Jackson from the University of Auckland on using big data to improve vascular risk prediction and better targeted treatment, and Professor David Preen from the University of Western Australia on the future of epidemiology.

The Doherty Institute was represented by Associate Professor Sheena Sullivan from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza who presented on the ‘Appropriate use of the test-negative design for administrative data’. A/Prof Sullivan was on the meeting’s organizing committee and also chaired two sessions. The Doherty Institute was also represented by University of Melbourne students Jeremy Robinson and Eleanor Kerr who presented their Masters research projects on ‘Do first-line hepatitis B treatments prevent liver cancer and mortality?’ and ‘Improving understandings of Victorian influenza epidemiology: Inter-seasonal standardisation of laboratory-confirmed notifications’, respectively.

It was a privilege to represent the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis and the Doherty Institute at AEA 2018.  I presented on a state-wide retrospective data linkage study exploring morbidity and mortality associated with viral hepatitis in Victoria.  This research links disease notifications of hepatitis B and hepatitis C with liver cancer records in the Victorian Cancer Registry, deaths in the National Death Index, Emergency Department presentations and hospital admissions recorded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services across a 25-year period from 1991 to 2016.  This study is the first to ascertain the burden of adverse outcomes of viral hepatitis in Victoria, and demonstrates the substantial number of liver cancer cases and deaths in people affected.

I look forward to the AEA conference in Brisbane in 2019!