General Practice Overview

Our research is firmly based in general practice and primary care and focuses on the provision of primary, comprehensive and continuing care. The social model of health, the doctor-patient relationship and the primary care team are all embedded within our work.

Overview

The Department of General Practice is home to the Primary Care Research Unit (PCRU). The PCRU is recognised for rigorous research programs, strong national and international collaborative research and a vibrant program of research higher degree training. PCRU brings together researchers from a diverse range of academic backgrounds including medicine, social sciences, science, psychology, statistics, computing science, nursing and allied health.

Our research is firmly based in general practice and primary care and focuses on the provision of primary, comprehensive and continuing care. The social model of health, the doctor-patient relationship and the primary care team are all embedded within our work.

Our current research focuses on building an evidence base and translating this evidence into primary health care including practice and policy, quality and safety, models of care delivery and clinical research within primary care. Our five major research areas are: Abuse and Violence (led by Professor Kelsey Hegarty), Cancer (led by Professor Jon Emery), Chronic Disease and Equity (led by Dr John Furler), Mental Health (led by Professor Jane Gunn) and Young People’s Health (led by Associate Professor Lena Sanci). We have launched a series of short courses for researchers in these areas. We are also involved in the development of the ‘virtual clinic’ and the use of new technologies in health care, for example mobile phone applications and self-monitoring devices.

The quality of our research and training has been recognised by the following awards: General Practice Education and Training Ltd Registrar Research Prize (2012 and 2013); the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Charles Bridges-Webb Memorial Award (2012; and the Australian Association for Academic Primary Care Charles Bridges-Webb Medal (2008 and 2013).

We are committed to translating evidence into practice. Our practice-based research network, the Victorian Primary Care Practice-Based Research Network (VicReN), which has more than 100 members, is a demonstration of our commitment to engaging the primary care sector at all stages of the research process.

Main research strengths

Abuse and violence

Addressing problems of abuse and violence through primary care improves the health and wellbeing of women, children, families and communities. Our research focus is on family violence (or intimate partner violence), child abuse, unwanted sexual encounters, abuse and resilience, sexual harassment, abuse in same-sex relationships and workplace violence.

Cancer

This research program focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and management of cancer in the primary care setting, including populations from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and across a range of cancer types including colorectal cancer and lung cancer. We are investigating the use of novel tools and technologies in cancer diagnosis and management in order to improve care for cancer patients.

Chronic disease and equity

Our aim is to conduct rigorous multi-method primary health care research that improves health outcomes for people with chronic diseases, particularly those from the Indigenous population and from disadvantaged, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We are investigating the roles of general practitioners, practice nurses, other primary health care providers and the health system in improving diabetes care and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in the community. We are also investigating ways to encourage self-management of diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Mental health

Our research is aimed at informing the primary care response to the growing burden of mental illness in the Australian community. General practice provides most of the health care for high prevalence conditions such as depression, anxiety and related disorders. Our research adopts a mixed-method participatory approach to investigate pathways to care, the interaction between physical and mental health, and system redesign to improve mental health services in primary care.

Young people’s health

Our research on the health issues of young people (14–24-year-olds) is multi-dimensional. Topics of particular interest are mental health and risk-taking behaviours such as unprotected sex, substance use and unsafe driving. With a practice-based system change and intervention approach, we aim to increase young people’s engagement with and commitment to health care, thereby ultimately contributing to improved health care access and health outcomes.

Funding

Major sources of funding include the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and Cancer Australia.

Collaboration

We have close collaborative links with other departments within The University of Melbourne, and with other universities, institutes and organisations, both nationally and internationally, including the University of Cambridge (UK), University College London (UK), Johns Hopkins University (USA), the University of Glasgow (UK), the University of Liverpool (UK) and the University of Manchester UK).

Our Department