Monash University approves funding for 7 digital health strategic projects

Monash University Malaysia has approved funding for seven digital health strategic projects totaling more than RM2 million. The Monash University Malaysia ‘Network for Equity through Digital Health (NEED) Grant Scheme is in its inaugural year will focus on research in the following areas: neurosciences and mental wellbeing; digitally-enabled care models of the future; improving health access and wellbeing of underserved populations; and cardiovascular health and wellbeing. 

Aligned with Monash University’s vision for global impact, NEED is an interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from Monash University in Australia and Malaysia and relevant partners which aim to use digital health as a vehicle to address health and wellness inequalities.

NEED will target less developed and underserved communities in Australia, Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asian regions which have low access to technology and digital literacy.

“Our Malaysia campus sits at the heart of Southeast Asia, and we hold strong relationships with many healthcare organisations and government agencies. This means we are well-placed to drive positive change in surrounding communities through innovation and leadership. The opportunities to influence through the multidisciplinary field of digital health research align closely with our strategic priorities. By investing in this area through NEED, we can bring our vision to life,” said Monash University Malaysia President and Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof Andrew Walker.

All seven research projects were from the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, School of Information Technology and School of Pharmacy, and are due to be completed in 2023. They are:

  • Despite a sizable number of deaf people, healthcare professionals are mostly unprepared to understand or serve the needs of these patients due to their lack of training in sign language. Associate Professor Uma Devi Palanisamy and her team are addressing the health communication needs of deaf sign language users with an app – Deaf In Touch Everywhere (DITETM). The app allows a deaf person to book sign language interpreters by appointment during their health consultation and communicate with them via video conferencing using smartphones.
  • The interdisciplinary team lead by Karen Golden proposes to conduct a mixed-methods needs analysis to adapt existing Australian-UK digital health parenting interventions into an online platform. This platform will be optimised for use in Malaysia. It can facilitate future adaptations to foster youth mental health in marginalised populations and strengthen existing Australia-South-East Asia links with the Turner Institute.
  • Diabetes mellitus is a major non-communicable disease in Malaysia. Dr. Chong Chun Wie and his team will be designing a program that enables remote consultation, self-monitoring, and real-time intervention to help alleviate the load of highly congested government healthcare facilities. The project will draw on scientists across different expertise within Monash University in Malaysia, Australia as well as industry partners such as Caring Pharmacy and Bionime (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.
  • Professional burnout is one of the many causes of mental and physical health issues among healthcare workers. Professor Tin Tin Su and her team aim to determine the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary efficacy of a culturally sensitive and fully automated conversational agent (Chatbot), in delivering Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to nurses in Segamat district who self-identify as having symptoms of work-related stress and burnout.
  • There is a lack of information and documentation about the immunisation status of undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and the stateless population. Dr. Yatinesh Kumari and her team of researchers will be focusing on the development of an accessible digital solution that will encourage immunisation uptake and support the large-scale data collection of immunisation records in the refugee population in Malaysia.
  • Another interdisciplinary team’s research proposal was motivated by recent trends experienced among the younger generation worldwide. Led by Associate Professor Anuja Dharmaratne from the School of Information Technology, the team will explore the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in analysing the behaviour of individuals. The team aims to assist psychotherapists and special needs teachers by recording long durations of behaviour monitoring exercise during treatment sessions and analysing them automatically.
  • Epilepsy is a neurological disorder affecting about 65 million people around the globe. To date, there is no device that is drug-based nor non-invasive to prevent seizures. Dr. Mohmad Farooq Shaikh and his team are proposing a device that will detect early seizures and prevent it from happening. The proposed project will combine health sciences, engineering, AI & machine learning along with formulation and material sciences for improving patient’s quality of life.

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