Associate Professor Kym Rae

Principal Research Fellow (Second)

Mater Research Institute-UQ
Faculty of Medicine

Overview

Associate Professor Rae received her PhD in 2007 in the area of reproductive physiology and has been working in the area of Indigenous maternal and infant health and chronic disease since that time. She has recently begun at the Mater Research Institute in a role that bridges the Mater, University of QLD and will collaboration with the community controlled health sector in QLD. This new role builds on her substantial skillset and she bring her skills in research, engagement with Indigenous and rural communities, collaboration, mentoring and partnering with health services including the Hunter New England Local Health District and Aboriginal community controlled organisations.

She has an outstanding trackrecord in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research and has been working in partnership to co-design research projects to support improving health outcomes for Aboriginal people since attaining her PhD qualifications in 2007. Her specific focus has primarily been to develop programs that reduce chronic diseases which afflict Aboriginal people more commonly through early detection and diagnosis, health education, and developing a thorough understanding of risk factors that impact on this community. She has mentored her team of staff and students to co-produce and co-disseminate findings from these programs of work in order to build research capacity for Aboriginal people as well as for those from rural locations.

The importance of maternal health for Indigenous communities has been identified as a critical national research priority by Indigenous communities. Her research to date has met priorities for the Australian Government, Prime Minister and Cabinet and NHMRC Roadmap 3 [1, 2] that all include; ‘better models of health care reducing disparities’, ‘prioritising research to improve health of Indigenous peoples’, and ‘strengthening Australia’s research capacity through international collaboration’. In particular, the NHMRC Roadmap 3 has a focus within their strategic agenda to support Indigenous research with a ‘focus on culture and its relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health’ and ‘chronic physical health conditions, including … diabetes, kidney health and cardiovascular diseases’. Her research strengths specifically address the research priorities of each of these Federal organisations. Her work has had a multidisciplicinary nature and while always focused on the health of Indigneous Australians she has published in areas including pregnancy and birth outcomes, nutrition, psychosocial health, growth and development during infancy, the use of arts in health education to name a few.

Her major research project to date, the Gomeroi gaaynggal program, has had two major programs of work 1. ArtsHealth for community engagement, health education and health promotion and 2. A Health research program for understanding the development of chronic disease in the Indigenous community through the Gomeroi gaaynggal cohort. Program 1 has been entirely transitioned to local Aboriginal community-controlled sector in Tamworth (2019). Prior to its transition, she led a community focussed ArtsHealth program to improve health knowledge, particularly in the areas of social and emotional wellbeing in the community, with the assistance of a team of beginning Indigenous researchers. Over 100,000 hours of community education were delivered through this program. She remains one of the Research Directors of Program 2. The Gomeroi gaaynggal cohort work has involved the recruitment and retention of a prospective longitudinal cohort of Indigenous women from pregnancy through until the infants are 10 years of age highlighting her expertise in working with Indigenous families during their antenatal and early childhood years. The importance of maternal health for this population is a critical priority to improving the life-long health of the Indigenous communities of Australia.

Research Impacts

Associate Professor Rae has personally received over $5.5 million dollars in funding towards her work. In testament to the national importance of her work as lead of the Gomeroi gaaynggal cohort, she was awarded Prime Minister and Cabinet funds of $1.5million to support her work in the areas of Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Indigenous women (2016) and again in 2019. More recently (2019) while she was awarded a further $1.47 million to see the continuation of its Social and Emotional Wellbeing through the arts program and continued data collection for the cohort of the Gomeroi gaaynggal program, and she successfully transitioned this to Aboriginal control to ensure the community can self-determine the future direction of programs. She has recently been awarded an NHMRC TCR Nutrition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders grant (2019) of $1.12 million which will utilise mHealth approaches with Indigenous women and their young families, as well as being CI on two previous NHMRC grants in the GG program (APP1026733 and APP1063123 and AI on NHMRC grant 569239). She has received 13 personal awards to date and the Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre has the Vice Regal Patronage of both the past and current Governor General, His Excellency The Governor General David Hurley.

A/Prof Rae’s findings from the Gomeroi gaaynggal cohort has identified the significant burden of mental health symptoms suffered by Indigenous women during the antenatal period. Further her work has shown that Indigenous women have high rates of pregnancy complications including; preeclampsia, preterm delivery, low birth weight deliveries, symptoms of early renal disease, and gestational diabetes. Her work in nutrition with the same population has shown that many women in this population are failing to meet the Australian nutritional guide to healthy living, putting them at risk of development of chronic disease development. However, community based programs that incorporate culture and the arts are extremely well supported within Indigenous communities, and modern technologies such as mHealth approaches can also be designed to meet community needs.

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