Professor Susan Davis, recipient of a 2013 Bupa Health Foundation Health Award, is looking at the way in which women cope with menopausal symptoms and how this impacts on health.
Prof Davis is Director of the Women’s Health Research Program at Monash University. Her study will document the impact of menopause on women’s wellbeing, and personal and workplace functioning. It aims to identify gaps in healthcare for women experiencing menopause and develop best practice guidelines for Australian health practitioners. This may have a positive long-term impact on the healthcare of women at midlife.
Menopause affects over 3 million Australian women aged 40-65 years who experience a range of psychological, emotional and physical symptoms. Some women experience distress during menopause which can reduce quality of life. Recent research indicates that menopausal symptoms are negatively associated with work ability, which may increase absenteeism in the workplace among affected woman. Such women can be left feeling less able and less productive than usual, which has implications if they are managing jobs, families and elderly parents.
Diabetes shares a number of common risk factors with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). However these conditions also share a place as risk factors themselves for poorer outcomes for cardiovascular disease, along with hypertension. This explains why the Bupa Health Foundation is supporting research by Professor Paul Zimmet and his team at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Research Institute to develop simpler and more accessible screening and assessment procedures, along with consequent management, for OSA for people living with diabetes.
OSA is a common disorder affecting up to 24% of men and 9% of women (nearly two million Australians). People with chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure are more likely to have OSA and the increased risk for cardiovascular disease could have a synergistic effect with the risks associated with diabetes on its own.
While progress has occurred in understanding ways to diagnose and manage OSA, in many cases, the condition remains undiagnosed and untreated, even amongst these high-risk groups. Consequently, it creates a large health and socioeconomic burden to the Australian community. A more accessible and less costly pathway for screening is the first step towards addressing this heavy toll.
Professor Zimmet and his team propose to validate tools that allow more widely-available testing for OSA, particularly as prevalence of OSA is likely to increase with the rise in obesity. They will examine patients attending the diabetes, hypertension and heart failure clinics at Baker IDI and the Alfred Heart Centre (linked to Baker IDI) who do not have a prior diagnosis of OSA. They will conduct screening tests and a home sleep study for each participant in order to identify markers that provide an indication of whether the screening and diagnostic pathway works well or not.
The specific focus on these patient populations is because identifying and treating OSA will not only improve symptoms related directly to OSA, but can also help improve the underlying conditions (i.e. diabetes, hypertension, heart failure), which could have positive implications for rates of disability, absenteeism, productivity, and reducing medical costs.