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"Introduction to Cochrane Systematic Reviews" workshop. Speech at Brisbane.

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Speech Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

"Introduction to Cochrane Systematic Reviews" Workshop

Lockyer Room, Hilton Brisbane 7 November 2002

This text was endorsed by the Minister for use in speaking at this event. Please check against actual delivery.

I am delighted to address this workshop for Cochrane reviewers.

For many of you, this will be the first step into the Cochrane Collaboration, where you can contribute to the evidence base for Australian and international health care. I'd like to congratulate you on taking that step.

Evidence-based healthcare is the way of the future, as it supports safety, quality and consistency of care.

As a former developmental psychologist and lecturer prior to entering Parliament, I understand the fundamental importance of research and evidence to improving the health care we provide to ordinary Australians.

As I'm sure you're all aware, the Cochrane Collaboration has a key role to play in this process.

No single individual can be expected to keep track of the oceans of evidence published every day.

The Cochrane Library is an invaluable resource being based on systematic reviews, rigorous methodology and supported by the expertise of individual researchers.

Most of the people who work on Cochrane reviews around the world do so as volunteers.

They devote their time unpaid, or manage to fit this invaluable work in between the pressing demands of their day-to-day jobs.

Despite these challenges, Cochrane is internationally recognised as the best source of reliable, up-to-date information on health care.

As a Government, I see our relationship with the Collaboration as an invaluable opportunity to link international evidence to Australian best practice.

I'm proud to say that we're providing support for the Cochrane Collaboration on a number of levels:

First, we want to help get the reviews done.

We have to apply what we know intelligently and fill any gaps in our knowledge.


Secondly, we have to get that knowledge out into the community, where clinicians and policy-makers can see it and understand it. ●

Thirdly, and most importantly, we have to find ways for that information to be incorporated into our everyday practice. ●

In order to get the research done, we provide ongoing core funding to the Australasian Cochrane Centre.

The Centre provides support and training to Cochrane researchers around Australia and in the region.

They also provide us with valuable information on priority areas for review and further research, which can then feed into Government priorities and programs.

We also provide grant funding to many of the Cochrane Collaborative Review Groups and other entities working in Australia.

For example, the Acute Respiratory Infections Group and the Perinatal Team here in Brisbane provide training and support for reviewers, including this workshop.

Other groups have received funding to improve overall Cochrane methodology, such as the Applicability and Recommendations Methods Group, also located here in Brisbane.

Once the research is in hand, the next step is to help get the information out to the people who need to use it.

Only a few weeks ago, I launched the national subscription to the Cochrane Library.

This is an exciting development, and Australia is one of the first developed countries to introduce such a subscription.

What it means is that every Australian, including consumers and health professionals, can access the full range of Cochrane information free of charge, from any computer terminal with Internet access.

This will make it much easier for consumers and clinicians alike to use the reviews that you may conduct in the future.

To make it even easier for consumers, an agreement has been reached to make Cochrane Consumer Summaries available through HealthInsite.

HealthInsite is the Commonwealth Government's Internet gateway to quality health information.

Finally, we're also making sure that the excellent evidence available is reflected in everyday practice, such as through publication of evidence-based guidelines in areas including breast cancer.

We want consumers and GPs to look up the evidence, discuss it with each other, and make better choices about their health care. The first response should be the best response.

As part of our overall agenda for clinical practice improvement, we have established the National Institute of Clinical Studies, or NICS, to improve clinical practice by encouraging and facilitating the use of evidence.

For example, last week I attended the final meeting of the Emergency Department Collaborative, in which 47 hospitals have been collaborating on projects such as faster pain relief, or smoother referral to specialist care.

I also recently launched the NICS Cochrane Users Award, to be awarded for the first time in 2003.

A major prize of $5,000 and several minor prizes of $1,000 each will be awarded to clinicians, researchers and others who can best demonstrate the use of information from the Cochrane Library to improve clinical practice.

I very much hope that this award will encourage links between Cochrane reviewers and practitioners.

I also hope that it will recognise some of the excellent relationships and examples of improved practice that I know are already appearing around Australia.

This workshop is a step towards becoming involved in one of the most diverse and invaluable sources of clinical evidence in the world.

I'm delighted to be here today to encourage you all to become a part of this important work.