Melody Taba and Rebecca Burrell – PHAA Child and Youth Health Special Interest Group (SIG)
In the second edition of the Child and Youth Health SIG Series, PhD students, Melody Taba and Rebecca Burrell, reflect on attending the Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Conference (CDIC) in Sydney in June. Melody and Rebecca received the 2022 Child and Youth Health SIG scholarship which allowed them to attend.
Melody presented her research on how Australian health authorities use social media to disseminate COVID-19 messages among young people. Her study investigated the content, themes and elements of COVID-19 related social media posts which targeted people aged 16-to-29-years-old.
Rebecca’s research focuses on the epidemiology of acute respiratory infections in children and young people through analysis of sentinel site laboratory data and state-wide emergency department syndromic data. Her aim is to improve the capacity of the current surveillance systems.
Melody Taba @MelodyTaba
Senior Research Officer and PhD student, University of Sydney
Last month I had the privilege of attending the 2022 PHAA Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Conference (CDIC). The conference brought together multidisciplinary learnings under its theme of “moving beyond the pandemic” which I found to be very relevant to my own PhD research on social media COVID-19 health communication targeting young people.
Being there as a PhD student was a surreal experience. I put a lot of faces to the names I was referencing in my lit reviews, and got the inside scoop on experts’ future research plans. It was also so heartening hearing these experts express the difficulties of conducting research in pandemic conditions. For many, this was the first in-person conference they had been able to attend for over two years.
Being a conference novice and moreover a “pandemic” PhD student who started during lockdown, I had only experienced research communicated in lectures or in journal articles. Listening to experts present their research in bite-sized, 10-minute sessions was so engaging and accessible. I felt this was the research equivalent of scrolling through TikTok!
Ultimately, this conference reminded me of how collaborative public health must be in order to respond to the needs of our communities in the face of emergencies. I met and heard about the work and perspectives of social scientists, epidemiologists, clinicians, mathematical modellers, industry and government on the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases. They expressed their expertise on how we can build a resilient community and health system for future health emergencies.
Attending allowed me to not only be up to date with emerging research, but also provided an arena for contextualising my own work and ensuring its impact on a larger scale. The diversity and collaboration you witness at PHAA conferences such as the CDIC is unparalleled and so important for students of public health. Thank you PHAA for this great experience!
Rebecca Burrell @_rebeccaburrell
Research Assistant and PhD student, University of Sydney
Conferences are central to academia, offering a place to share and receive feedback on your research, and provide insight into the work of other academics from around the world. Conferences offer a fantastic opportunity to meet with collaborators, some previously known only via their email-addresses and tiny cropped-video-images in Zoom meeting galleries, as well as a chance to network and potentially spark new collaborations. Attending CDIC gave me a chance to finally meet in person those who I’ve previously worked with, while also giving me an opportunity, as a newly-fledged PhD student, to experience what it will be like to share my research.
I was initially quite nervous in the preceding days, as the CDIC was the first full-conference I have attended. However, Uncle Allen Madden’s warm and comedic Welcome To Country quickly put me at ease, and as the day progressed the strong sense of community within the field was clear. A key objective highlighted by CDIC was to foster an environment for collaboration, and I believe it offered that. This theme was echoed by many of the speakers, from doctoral students all the way through to Chief Medical Officer, Prof Paul Kelly. The last few years have highlighted the research community’s ability, and desire, to work together to find innovative solutions to assist in our understanding of SARS-CoV-2, and its ever-growing list of variants of concern, and navigating through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was especially interested in the development of data sharing platforms, such as AusTrakka, and innovative uses of research tools from outside the field such as EpiFish plots, a data visualisation tool now freely available on GitHub. The theme of facilitating research through collaboration was carried through into the satellite events, for example the sharing of large de-identified datasets, such as the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) highlighted at the ADAPT for Flu Summit. These data-linkage projects enhance the richness of data and support a multiplicity of analyses. This was highlighted by Assoc Prof David Muscatello when discussing the Pandemic and Epidemic Risk Assessment using Linked data (PEARL) study. He emphasised that there are too many questions to ask of such datasets for any single researcher (or group) to answer in a timely manner.
I am excited by the research that will result from the collaborations, tools, and platforms developed throughout the pandemic. With Japanese Encephalitis Virus outbreaks in Australian piggeries leading to human infections, a surge in paediatric cases of acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology, and now monkeypox infections in non endemic countries including Australia, there are many pressing challenges that require us to make use of them.
I’d like to thank PHAA for the opportunity to attend CDIC, allowing me to meet collaborators in person, and to hear the fantastic work being done in the field of communicable diseases and immunisation. This experience has given me confidence that I can develop the skills and knowledge required to share my own research at a similar conference in the future.
Read the first edition of the Child and Youth Health SIG blog series which features Dr Matthew ‘Tepi’ Mclaughlin and the Preventive Health Conference 2022.
Images: Courtesy of Melody Taba and Rebecca Burrell