I am a very curious and like to dig deep in to the how and why of things and in what context. I did a lot of R&D as a kid, be it making elaborate afternoon snacks, routines for our jump-rope-for-heart troupe or designing and making my own clothes. A research career offered me the prospect of combining my love of design and development with my curiosity for how things work. This has enabled me to explore life from molecules to mental health.
The ultimate goal of my research is to inform advocacy so that we can see more equitable health outcomes for people living in rural and remote communities. Across Australia, the prevalence of poor mental health is the same, but in rural areas our outcomes are worse. My research shows that the diversity of rural places means that thinned out versions of metropolitan care models don’t work and the home-grown rural models I’ve encountered deserve evaluation and research so we can showcase and sustain what does work in the country.
Dr Hazel Dalton is Research Leader and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) in Orange. Since 2016, she has managed research across mental health promotion, including the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program and collaborative approaches to community wellbeing; innovation in mental health service provision, including integrated care; and rural suicide prevention.
Dr Dalton has worked with primary health networks in six separate projects across low-intensity mental health services, stepped care model co-design and evaluation, and regional mental health planning. She has played a key role in the creation of the International Foundation for Integrated Care Australia (IFICA) to advance integrated care in Australia (2015-2021).
Some of her recent work includes a revision of our understanding of rural adversity, the Orange Declaration on rural and remote mental health and working with industries on workplace mental health and wellbeing. Dr Dalton is interested in translation and communication of research and providing evidence to support programs and inform policy. Dr Dalton has extensive research experience across university and health sectors, with skills in conceptual modelling, and quantitative and qualitative research approaches.
Prior to her current role, Hazel held several research support and capacity building roles in rural mental health and rural health (2012-2016) which enabled a transition from laboratory-based discovery science (mechanisms and regulation of protein trafficking, cell division and gene transcription). Her molecular and cellular research career included ten years of grant-funded positions.
Hazel has had a total of six years and ten months of research career disruption, with non-research active roles and three years and ten months in active carer duties. She also undertook a major career pivot from investigating molecular regulatory systems to that of health system regulation and function when she relocated from Adelaide to Orange in 2012, this involved taking research-support, management, and capacity building roles until her appointment as Research Leader at the CRRMH in August 2016.
My future focus is to work collaboratively to address the themes raised in the Orange Declaration on rural and remote mental health. This includes identifying and describing exemplar rural models of mental health care and integrated care, collaborative approaches to community wellbeing and rural suicide prevention. I will continue exploring translational research opportunities.