Pillar 3: Improving health research translation to benefit all Queenslanders

28 June 2023

The third pillar of Health Translation Queensland’s (HTQ) new strategic plan is about maximising the benefit of health research translation for all Queenslanders.

HTQ Executive Director Professor John Prins explained as an NHMRC’s accredited Research Translation Centre, HTQ plays a vital role in bringing together the state’s health care organisations, research institutes, universities, training organisations and industry partners to accelerate the translation of research.

“This role cuts to the core of our purpose: to ensure Queenslanders receive the benefits of health and medical research happening globally, and to promote the excellence in health research happening locally,” he said.

“Queensland has a vast geography and a dispersed regional population, with health needs that set it apart from other Australian states and territories.

“While Queensland faces challenges in health service delivery and research, we also have opportunities to excel in areas, such as data sharing, telehealth and health equity.

“HTQ has demonstrated that by collaborating in Queensland, we can drive better health outcomes than the sum of our parts,” he said.

Three project areas fall under the third HTQ strategic pillar:

  • Support health equity for underserved communities with a specific focus on Indigenous Australians
  • Partner with and drive translational research in primary care
  • Involve consumers and community in translational research.

While work is underway in all three areas, HTQ’s Consumer and Community Involvement (CCI) Program has gained much interest from the partnership. This program corresponds with the increasing emphasis by Australian funding bodies on consumer involvement in research projects so that they deliver health benefits to the community.

Enhancing consumer and community involvement in research

In 2022, the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Consumer Reference Panel released its Principles for Consumer Involvement in Research Funded by the MRFF. The Principles encourage and support effective collaboration between consumers, researchers, research organisations and other health and medical research stakeholders.

HTQ CCI lead Katrina Cutler said HTQ commissioned a consumer engagement audit and needs analysis for the Queensland health and medical research sector.

“Our first challenge was to understand who is doing what in consumer and community involvement in Queensland so we knew we weren’t reinventing the wheel,” she said.

“The audit found that although there was growing interest in CCI, capability and capacity barriers existed. It also uncovered that many resources were available, but their use and effectiveness were unmeasured. Misunderstanding abounded, with tokenistic engagement adding to the challenges researchers and consumers face.”

In 2022, HTQ launched its CCI Program aiming to improve CCI in Queensland by:

  • Offering a CCI advisory service for health and medical research projects
  • Providing a microgrants funding program (see below)
  • Delivering CCI education and training
  • Curating high-quality CCI resources
  • Establishing a CCI community of practice
  • Exploring a Queensland consumer register.

Microgrants for consumer and community involvement

In HTQ’s CCI audit and needs analysis, Queensland stakeholders identified that one barrier to engaging consumers early in their research was the absence of funding to pay consumers for their time.

In response to this feedback HTQ launched its CCI Microgrants program which made small grants available to researchers within HTQ partner organisations to fund consumer involvement in their research project design, planning and priority setting for grant applications.

Metro North Health Senior Dietitian Sarah Mackay was successful in her CCI Microgrant application for funding for consumer time on a recent project, Malnutrition Terminology: Improving communication terms, techniques and timing with patients.

Ms Mackay said the project aimed to identify consumer preferences about how health care professionals communicate malnutrition to them.

“Our research involves dietitians, researchers, consumers and a physician at various organisations, including the Prince Charles Hospital, the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and The University of Queensland’s Centre for Health Services Research, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences,” she said.

“We wanted to invite Queensland consumers to provide input into and review our grant application, but we didn’t have the budget to reimburse them for their time and expenses.

“We applied for an HTQ microgrant, and when we were successful, we were able to engage two consumers in our project.

“The consumers’ support and expertise was key to pulling together a grant application that reflected consumers’ needs, and this facilitated our success in securing a PCH New Investigator Grant.

“This was my first time engaging consumers in research, and it was a very positive experience. I encourage other researchers to speak with others about how they have engaged consumers.

“I’m learning that there are many different ways to engage consumers and funding options available, which can suit projects of differences sizes and scope,” Ms McKay said.

“This project demonstrated cross institutional, multidisciplinary collaboration, genuine consumer engagement, and was led by a clinician,” Ms Cutler said.

“We could see that the project was responding to a real need in the clinic, so it was perfect for HTQ’s microgrants program.”

Researchers from an HTQ partner organisation are eligible to apply for a microgrant. For the EOI form, please email

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