Dr Heidi Janssen

Dr Heidi Janssen
Research Program:
Research Topics:
Project Grant
2018 Project Grant
Equipment Grant
2017 Equipment Grant
Fellowship
2017 Fellowship
Project Grant
2016 Project Grant
Project Grant
2014 Project Grant
Project Grant
2013 Project Grant
Fellowship
2013 Fellowship

What are your research interests?

I am a physiotherapist and researcher passionate about ensuring people living with stroke receive rehabilitation and post-stroke management that works; that they have been given the opportunity to recover as best as they can after their stroke.

My main research interests include environmental enrichment and secondary stroke prevention through regular physical activity.

Environmental enrichment can be described as creating conditions which provide ‘multi-modal stimulation’ for the brain, or more simply, an environment in which people have greater opportunity to engage in activity which they simultaneously move (physical activity), think (cognitive activity) and interact with other people (social activity). Evidence indicates that recovering in environments which are more physically, cognitively and socially stimulating, enhances brain recovery and contributes to greater independence and potentially a better quality of life. My research projects such as “Altering the Environments to Improve Stroke Survivor Activity” (AREISSA) and “Exercising, Socialising and Thinking: an Environmental Enrichment Model in the Community After Stroke (ESTEEM) both focus on improving the lives of people living with stroke through enhancing engagement in enjoyable activities are physically, cognitively and socially stimulating.

Regular physical activity, or as I like to tell everyone, regular ‘huffy-puffy’ (exercise which makes you a little short of breath), is extremely powerful in preventing stroke. Importantly for people who have had a stroke already, either a ‘mini-stroke’ or bigger stroke, regular ‘huffy-puffy’ can significantly reduce the risk of having another stroke. My research project Service change and Supporting Lifestyle and Activity Modification after TIA (S+SLAM-TIA) aims to determine how effective a secondary prevention program delivered by Hunter New England Local Health District’s Community Stroke Team in a community gym is in helping people who have had a ‘mini-stroke’ increase their level of exercise and reduce their blood pressure. Increasing participating in exercise and reducing blood pressure will help reduce the risk of having another stroke.

Why did you get into research?

I believe that being a researcher and health professional working in health services gives me many more opportunities and greater influence to effect real change in rehabilitation for the benefit of stroke survivors and their families. My health professional-researcher role allows me to listen to the stories and experiences of people living with stroke and their families, and then work with them, health services and community, to develop new strategies and treatments that will make a difference for them and stroke survivors of the future. 

I am driven to ensure that all stroke survivors have access to treatments and supports that work and that they can continue these and other rehabilitation activities for as long as they need. 

Research is challenging, extremely interesting, at times fun and always rewarding.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

My research goals are for stroke survivors to recover in rehabilitation environments both in hospital and at home they stimulate them to be more physically, cognitively and socially active. This will benefit their brain and heart health (preventing further strokes), their emotional well-being and hopefully ensure they are able to experience a quality of life similar to that which they had prior to their stroke.

Biography

Dr Janssen (PhD, MHSC, BPhysio) is an experienced physiotherapist and researcher fully immersed clinically and academically in the field of stroke recovery and rehabilitation research. Dr Janssen is well respected amongst her clinical and research peers locally, and nationally. Currently she is employed with Hunter New England Local Health District (HNE LHD) as a senior physiotherapist with Community and Aged Care Services Community Stroke Team and with Hunter Stroke Service. She holds a conjoint position in the School of Health Sciences (Physiotherapy), University of Newcastle (UoN), is a member of the Priority Research Centre for Stroke and Brain Injury and a Research Affiliate of the NHMRC Centre for Excellence in Stroke (Hunter Medical Research Institute and The Florey) Rehabilitation and Brain Recovery.

Dr Janssen is one of very few senior allied health clinicians who has a doctorate and is actively leading clinical trials and does so whilst working with stroke survivors and carers within the health system. This clinical role gives her invaluable insights into the needs of the two biggest stakeholders in stroke care; the stroke survivor and the health care provider.

Through the completion of her PhD, Dr Janssen was the first to translate the use of environmental enrichment into the clinical setting. Dr Janssen is committed to making significant contributions to her discipline. In addition to the professional development days she presents to her fellow clinicians, she regularly talks with community groups including at HMRI functions. She reviews for journals and funding bodies and supervises Higher Degree Research students including PhD and honours studnets, and mentors fellow clinicians on research method.  She is a member of the Agency for Clinical Innovation’s Stroke and Rehabilitation Network and Stroke Society of Australasia, is on the physiotherapy working party for the Stroke Clinical Guidelines (2017 update and now Living Guidelines project) and is an active member of the ACtivity To Improve Outcome after Stroke (ACTIOnS) Group. She is a member of the organizing and scientific committee for the Australian Cardiovascular Disease and Health and Rehabilitation Association (ACRA).

Dr Janssen is an active participant in all her research collaborations. She is passionate about designing and testing interventions which are clinically relevant and feasible. She was integral in the development and testing of the first human equivalent (patient driven) model of environmental enrichment and is highly regarded in the field for work in this space to date. Output related to her clinical research demonstrates that Dr Janssen is a major leader in the field of health research translation.

Future Focus

My hope is that people living with stroke and their families will have a space in the community where they can come together, socialise, support and encourage each other, exercise and do other enjoyable activities which are beneficial for their brain, body and well-being. To create a model of rehabilitation that is ‘owned’ by the community and which has the support of community members, many local groups, and council and health services. That this model of rehabilitation may be of benefit for many different people who have had significant life changing events and or diagnoses affecting the brain, and that this model is available for such people to use for as long as they need.

Specialised/Technical Skills

Dr Janssen is a physiotherapist experienced in stroke rehabilitation, exercise prescription and health behavior change to prevent cardiovascular events. She is a clinical trialist capable of leading large research teams, designing clinical studies from proof of concept through to determination of effectiveness. Dr Janssen is a health translational researcher.

Affiliations

Memberships

  • ACtivity to Improve Outcome After Stroke (ACTIOnS)
  • Australian Cardiovascular Health and Rehabilitation Association (ACRA)
  • Stroke Society of Australasia (SSA)
  • Stroke Foundation of Australia Living Guidelines Project

2018

Service change and Supporting Lifestyle and Activity Modification after TIA (S+SLAM-TIA)
Project Grant
Researchers:
Description:

S+SLAM-TIA is a research project evaluating the effect of translation of an evidence based stroke prevention education and exercise program into the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNE LHD) health service.

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2017

NSW Health Early-Mid Career Fellowship
Fellowship
Researchers:
Assessment for Stroke Recovery
Equipment Grant
Researchers:
Description:

Stroke patients often find it difficult to do basic thinking, recall memories and solve life’s daily problem. The Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) is a touchscreen based assessment to objectively measure cognitive function.

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2016

BUST-Stroke “Breaking Up Sitting Time after Stroke. A new paradigm for reducing recurrent stroke risk”
Project Grant
Description:

Sitting for long periods of time each day increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Stroke survivors living at home spend 75% of their waking hours sitting down, which is much higher than healthy people of a similar age, making them at particularly high risk.

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2014

Enriched Environment in Rehabilitation - A Phase II Trial
Project Grant
Description:

The first 6 months have been spent setting up project and applying for further funding.

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2013

Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health Program Bridge Funding
Fellowship
Researchers:
Description:

Heidi has a strong translational focus in her work and was the first to translate the use of environmental enrichment from the laboratory into the clinical setting for use with patients undergoing inpatient stroke rehabilitation.

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Enriched Environment in Rehabilitation - A Phase II Trial
Project Grant
Description:

The environmental enrichment project, ‘Altering the Rehabilitation Environment to Improve Stroke Survivor Activity (AREISSA): A Phase II Trial’

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