Peer delivered early detection and intervention for infants at high risk of cerebral palsy/ neurodevelopmental disability in Indigenous Australia: Learning through Everyday Activities with Parents Study

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Supervisor – Professor Roslyn

The overarching aim of the LEAP-CP Study is to reduce the age of diagnosis of cerebral palsy, and test efficacy of a 30 week peer to peer delivered program in the community that seeks to improve motor and cognitive development for infants at high risk of cerebral palsy, and caregiver mental health in 86 Indigenous infants in Queensland and Western Australia. Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common childhood physical disability (1 in 500 Australians), however CP from post-natal causes is five times more likely in Indigenous Australians.  Indigenous children with CP are more likely to have poorer gross motor function and cognition, 50% more likely to have epilepsy, and more than twice as likely to have visual impairment. We have demonstrated that early intervention targeting early active-goal directed training and responsive parenting are effective for both the infant and caregiver.  Our international clinical practice guideline has recommended that reliable detection of infants at risk of CP can occur from 13 weeks corrected age. However, families living in remote locations do not receive diagnosis or intervention until after the child’s second birthday; missing a significant window of neuroplasticity. To identify these at risk infants, we need to implement community surveillance and adapt interventions known to be effective in mainstream Western populations and deliver them through culturally responsive service delivery models. The LEAP-CP program (Learning through Everyday Activities with Parents of infants with CP) is being successfully implemented in urban slums and rural communities in India (CIA). Collaborating with NHMRC Centres for Research Excellence (Clinical Trials Network for CP; Centre for Excellence in Telehealth), and building on the existing government and Aboriginal Controlled health services, this randomized control trial (RCT) will test the effectiveness of this home-based peer-delivered 'best practice' multi-domain intervention. LEAP-CP is a paradigm shift in service delivery, conducted through a culturally sensitive peer to peer model with local Indigenous community change agents. The lay health worker model has been highly effective in Indigenous, cross-cultural and hard to reach contexts, ensuring community empowerment and sustainability.

PhD projects on the overarching LEAP-CP study could focus on early detection, early intervention (including coaching approach, motor/ cognitive learning, parent mental health), cultural adaptation and acceptability of screening and intervention, adult-education/ support for Indigenous Allied Health Workers (including training platforms and process).

Preferred educational background

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant's previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of Early detection (General Movements, Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination) and early disability/ childhood interventions (including goal-directed training, active motor learning, Abecdarian approach, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, responsive parenting programs) would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of medicine, nursing, allied health, public health, early childhood education, social science (Indigenous cultural studies) [one or more] and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of Child health, cerebral palsy/ disability, Indigenous culture, behavioural parenting interventions, telehealth, cultural adaptations of evidence-based programs is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

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