News and Events

Exploring the Experiences of Adolescents with Cardiac Conditions

Dr Rony Duncan is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Adolescent
Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and, as part of this role, she supervises a number of postgraduate research students. Recently, one of her past students, Belinda Rahman, worked with Rony to publish the findings from her Masters research in a well-known cardiac journal – Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology (PACE).

The study was about adolescents who have Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs), which are devices used to treat life-threatening cardiac conditions. ICDs are surgically inserted near the heart to monitor the heart’s rhythm. If abnormal rhythms are detected, the device delivers a ‘shock’ to restore normal rhythm. ICDs significantly extend life expectancy but the psychosocial implications for people who have ICDs are not well understood. And, of the few studies that have been explored psychosocial impacts, most have been with adults, not young people.

The study published in PACE involved a series of interviews with adolescents who had ICDs (and also with their parents) to find out about the way in which having an ICD impacts on life. Some important themes emerged from this work, including the range of restrictions that adolescents with ICDs face, the fears associated with experiencing an ICD ‘shock’, and the way in which communication with health professionals could be improved so that it is more adolescent-friendly.

The paper is currently available online, ahead of print.

Rahman 2011 PACE article


A ground breaking program to assist students who have dyslexia

Dr Barry Jones launches Success and Dyslexia: sessions for coping in the upper primary years

A ground breaking program to assist students who have dyslexia entitled Success and Dyslexia: sessions for coping in the upper primary years was launched on Oct 20. Dr Barry Jones, currently Professorial Fellow at The University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education, and Dr. Daryl Greaves, learning disabilities specialist, spoke at the launch which was held at SPELD Victoria. Dr. Firth, a senior researcher at the Centre for Adolescent Health and leading author of the program has undertaken extensive research in the area of coping with learning disabilities. This unique, evidence-based program draws on her research and on the coping research of co author Associate Professor Erica Frydenberg. The program assists all upper primary students, but especially those with dyslexia, to increase their ability to take control of and cope well with the problems that occur in their lives. Because dyslexia is often highly resistant to improvement despite dedicated literacy and numeracy teaching interventions, this groundbreaking resource focuses instead on adaptive coping skills that are known to be more powerful predictors of life success than extent of dyslexia. All components of the program use best practice process for students who have dyslexia, including: explicit strategy instruction, print free activities, and relevance to students’ personal lives, and opportunity for revision.

The program is published by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). See

Article published in The Age on October 17, 2011.

Article published in The Age on October 31, 2011.

Dr Nola Firth’s interview with Richard Aedy, ABC Radio National Life Matters presenter was broadcast on Monday October 24, 2011. Listen here

More Book Launch photos



Deb Lee, Managing Editor of ACER

Dr Nola Firth, Author


Dr Daryl Greaves, learning disabilities specialist


Dr Erica Frydenberg, Author


Dr Barry Jones, Professorial Fellow, The University of Melbourne, Graduate School of Education

Inspiration turns into a successful fund raising event for vulnerable young people

Inspired by a recent talk on vulnerable young people by Professor Susan Sawyer, the Centre for Adolescent Health was delighted to be the recipient of a highly successful fund raising that was hosted by Karl Kutner from Central Equity on October 3, 2011 at Crown, attended by around 100 people.

The event was MC’d by Luke Ryan who has turned his experiences of cancer as an adolescent and young man into a comedy festival show (Luke’s Got Cancer) which saw us laughing out loud at cancer jokes…

Professor Susan Sawyer, Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, then spoke of the Centre’s clinical work with vulnerable young people with the goal of highlighting the complex interplay between social disadvantage and risk behaviours. She graphically described the devastating impact that this can have on young people’s current health and future life chances.

Professor Sawyer’s words were echoed by Brittani, a young woman who gave a highly compelling account of her downward spiral into drugs and crime, and an equally warm and engaging account of her steps towards recovery, supported by the Adolescent Forensic Health Service, a program of the Centre for Adolescent Health.

It was then down to the business of raising money. With hammer in hand, auctioneer Rodney Morley, Managing Director, Woodards, drew on a highly receptive audience to successfully auction 14 generously donated items.

Thanks to Karl Kutner and the sponsors of the event, a substantial sum was raised in support of the Centre’s work with socially marginalized and homeless young people.

Chairman of the Centre’s Development Board, Miriam Weisz, concluded the evening by presenting Karl with a certificate of appreciation and the announcement that he had accepted an offer from the Board of becoming an Ambassador for the Centre for Adolescent Health.


                                                                                                                 Karl and Amanda Kutner

Eating disorders in adolescents highlighted in new paper

Stephanie Campbell, clinical nurse consultant for eating disorders at the Centre for Adolescent Health, has authored a recent article about eating disorders in adolescents for the Australian Practice Nurses Association (APNA) journal ‘Primary Times’. The Centre for Adolescent Health runs a large eating disorder program for adolescents; see Eating disorders program, and is also actively engaged in clinical research. Stephanie is the nurse coordinator of the RCH Eating Disorder program, together with Renae Wall. Stephanie and Renae work across inpatient and outpatient services, supporting and educating staff, patients and families. They are responsible for the intake of all new referrals and the coordination of the multidisciplinary eating disorder assessment clinic. Stephanie’s expertise around what nurses need to know about eating disorders is highlighted in this paper.

Primary Times SEP11 – Understanding eating disorders in adolescents – Stephanie Campbell

Lapbanding option for obese adolescents raises many issues

The Centre for Adolescent Health was involved in the first randomised controlled trial of ‘lapbanding’  in severely obese adolescents that was undertaken because of the failure of current treatment approaches in the most severely affected by obesity. This trial was funded by the Australian NHMRC and published last year in the highly prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Read the article by Prof Susan Saywer in the JAMA: Too big to swallow

Read the JAMA editorial by E Livingston MD : Surgical Treatment of Obesity in Adolescents. Feb 10 2010

Professor Sawyer, Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, one of the chief investigators in the trial, has now published a reflective article in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health based on her experiences running this trial, which compared laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding to an intensive behaviourally-based intervention in adolescents with severe obesity. During this trial, a number of moral and ethical concerns were articulated by various Australian colleagues. In the article, Professor Sawyer groups these concerns into five responses (‘preventers’, ‘druggies’, ‘deferrers’, ‘slippery slopers’ and ‘simplifiers’). She suggests that while these raise important issues, such responses also deflect attention from the urgent need to develop and test new treatments for the most severely obese adolescents, a field that she argues continues to be hampered by the stigma of obesity.