What shapes research and research capacity building in rural and regional health services? Context matters

Dr Anna Wong Shee1,2, Dr Denise  Corboy, Dr Claire  Quilliam3, A/Prof Carol McKinstry5, Dr Alison  Beauchamp4, Dr Kristen Glenister3, Prof Darryl Maybery4, Dr Laura Alston2, Mr Drew Aras6, A/Prof Kevin McNamara2

1Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat, Australia, 2Deakin University, , Australia, 3University of Melbourne, , Australia, 4Monash University, , Australia, 5La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia, 6Western Alliance, , Australia

To overcome the disconnect between research and the delivery of health services, research should be embedded in healthcare systems. Little is known about the contextual factors specific to rural and regional public health services that impact on research and research capacity building (RCB). This study sought to increase understanding of these factors, including implementation determinants (barriers and facilitators) influencing research capacity building in rural and regional public health services.

This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with 20 key personnel to obtain ‘local’ knowledge of the health sector RCB approaches and infrastructure available in rural and regional Victoria. Participants included university and health service management; research fellows, regional health service academics and regional health network managers. The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, specifically the implementation climate construct within the ‘inner setting’ domain, was used as a framework for deductive analysis.

Participants viewed research as a recruitment and retention strategy, enabling positive changes in healthcare delivery, and essential for a high performing service. Different conceptualisations of research and research impact compromised academic research partnerships, highlighting that rural and regional health services play a crucial role in determining research relevance in their community.  Leadership and management support, understanding of research, and strategic prioritising of research were considered important to develop a strong research culture. Implementing RCB requires commitment to the ‘long game’, acknowledging that building a research culture takes time.

Study findings have informed the development of a comprehensive RCB program with implementation tailored to individual health services in regional and rural Victoria


A/Prof Anna Wong Shee holds a co-funded joint position with Ballarat Health Services and Deakin University. She is a registered Physiotherapist with over 20 years of experience in Australia and the USA.  Anna’s research interests include health professional research capacity and capability building, health service research, and health economic evaluations. Anna also has a broad expertise relating to allied health services and health service policy in regional Victoria.

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