Research at Kristianstad University targets geriatric care
Researchers at the Kristianstad University are involved in various projects concerning knowledge development of local health- and elderly care. The research platform “Hälsa i Samverkan” (Health in Collaboration) has been developed and is now run by the university, Region Skåne and the six municipalities in northeastern Skåne, southern Sweden. The aim is to raise the knowledge and skills among health care providers in order to promote public health while helping to reduce the load on the public health system.
The research platform is a result of a unique collaboration, formed in order to assist development of the everyday health care in northeastern Skåne. The hallmark is a broad alliance between researchers, public actors and stakeholders, increasing the potential for research findings used in the everyday care work practiced in the region.
Within the platform, research is carried out in areas ranging from nutrition in older people to IT-supported schemes for self-help for the chronically ill. The participating municipalities all benefit from the knowledge generated at the Kristianstad University, improving the general local health services including care of people suffering a long-term illness as well as the elderly.
Successful study groups
Geriatric nursing and geriatrics are areas often neglected in terms of targeted research with substantial resources. Kristianstad University has conducted a number of studies on geriatric care. Projects of targeted research in nutrition in the elderly are conducted by Professor Albert Westergren.
In one of the projects, Westergren successfully organised a number of study groups for caregivers, measurably increasing the quality of care as a result. About 500 employees participated in these study circles and the results were widely appreciated in the region where they were implemented.
“Our applied research methods are based on a high staff and patient participation. This kind of research demands direct involvement in the development and research process. The goal is to quickly implement the research results in practical environments. A lot of the research we conduct is directly targeted at preventative measures and steps to promote public health”, Albert Westergren explains.
New pilot study
Subsequent to the project concerning study circles Westergren started to develop data for a Web-based training program for caregivers (formally known as DUNÄT, Datorbaserad Utbildning Näring och Ätande). Through self-study, the caregivers will be able to get a certificate in order to perform nutrition assessments and interventions. The course content is scientifically produced and the software is now being developed for testing and verification of a pilot study group. The implementation process and quality of care will be evaluated.
Westergren has spent the last 20 years conducting research in nutrition focusing on various patient-groups, he has previously studied the nutritional problems in patients who has suffered a stroke, as an example. Westergren is also the research director, together with Professor Peter Hagell, of PRO-CARE (Patient Reported Outcomes – Clinical Assessment Research and Education).
Developing systems for self-help
Patient education has become an increasingly common tool for medical workers to assist patients in managing their disease. Studies of patient education indicate that the training offered to people with chronic medical conditions not always measure up to the actual needs of the patients. One possibility could be to adapt modern information technology to meet these needs, thereby acting as a complement to the care and advice given by hospitals and other care givers.
The study led by Associate Professor Kerstin Blomqvist, together with doctoral (PhD) student Cecilia Gardsten, aims to examine how information technology should be designed to provide support in self-care for people with Diabetes Type II to help manage everyday problems. The study is also aimed at interaction between people with Diabetes Type II, staff and researchers; developing information technology where the system provides greater control over everyday life and better management of the disease.
Last year, the research platform “Hälsa i Samhälle” embarked on its second period of operation with Professor Anna-Karin Edberg as research director. Projects undertaken over the next five years are on the scientific topic of health science with three priority areas: Health care, Person-centered care, and Organisation and leadership in health care.
In order to develop research targeting geriatric care in the long term, Albert Westergren has become involved in CASE (Centre for Ageing and Supportive Environments), a national center for aging research established at Lund University. CASE-researchers are applying for EU-funding to develop future projects of national and international impact, also providing interesting collaboration opportunities for researchers at Kristianstad University.