Deeble Scholar: Dr Miia Rahja

Miia Rahja
Dr Miia Rahja, 2021 Jeff Cheverton Memorial Scholar

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Dr Miia Rahja, 2021 Jeff Cheverton Memorial Scholar
Occupational Therapist and Research Associate, Rehabilitation, Aged and Palliative Care
Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute

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I learned about the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research through a former Jeff Cheverton scholar who tweeted a post about the scholarship opportunity. I instantly wanted to apply. I completed my PhD in 2019 evaluating the implementation of an evidence-based occupational therapist-delivered reablement program for people with dementia in Australia. My cost-benefit analysis showed that the program could reduce societal and economic impact of dementia in Australia through reduction in healthcare service use, informal care burden and improved quality of life for people with dementia.

However, until recently, people with dementia in Australia have not had access to reablement programs shown to be effective in research studies. In addition, during the implementation process, it became evident that while funding the right programs is important, upskilling and supporting allied health workforce to deliver evidence-based programs is crucial, as is equitable access to enable people with dementia to stay at home as long as possible. As such, I felt that more work needed to be done to advocate for reablement programs for people with dementia. 

My work with the Deeble Institute builds on the findings from my PhD. The main areas of focus of my Issues Brief are recognising dementia as a disability and providing people with dementia opportunities for care that recognises their health and social needs, addressing stigma towards dementia, and educating the public and health professionals about dementia and interventions that have shown to improve outcomes.

The Jeff Cheverton scholarship has given me an opportunity to discuss my research with representatives from the Department of Health, Public Health Networks and other key industry bodies; an experience that I had not envisaged for this early stage of my research career.

Working with the Deeble Institute has been invaluable in learning about what is needed to be able to transfer academic outputs from research into targeted and policy relevant information. I look forward to using these knowledge and skills in the future as I continue to conduct research to improve participation and care options for people living with cognitive decline and dementia.