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Allied Health Network


The Allied Health Network includes research within, across, and beyond the Northern Sydney Local Health District, focussing on the role of allied health professionals in patient care, from assessment and diagnosis to the informed and effective management of patients across the life-span. The Northern Sydney Local Health District Allied Health Research team undertakes activities which encourage the participation of allied health clinicians in research activities.


The Allied Health Research Committee (AHRC), which consists of representatives from Allied Health disciplines across NSLHD, assists in building research and promotes evidence-based practice and research within Allied Health disciplines.  In 2020, the AHRC brought together key Allied Health clinicians, managers and research leaders from across the District to develop an Allied Health research action plan.  In conjunction with the AHRC, the Allied Health research team are currently working with key partners to operationalize the strategic direction for AH research.


We provide support for our researchers via the Allied Health Kickstarter Research Grants.  These grants are supported by the NSLHD and University of Sydney and are an initiative to support Allied Health Research in its earliest stages.


Our Allied Health team at NSLHD has important partnerships with Sydney MSK, University of Sydney, CSIRO, Sydney Health Partners, the Kolling Institute and the Agency for Clinical Innovation, as well as many important industry partners.

 Some examples of current research projects include:

  • Neuromuscular Mechanisms Underlying Poor Recovery from Whiplash Injuries
  • Supervised machine learning methods in the field of deep learning artificial intelligence used to solve complex clinical pattern recognition problems
  • A stress-diathesis model of chronic musculoskeletal conditions as a new framework to drive prevention and rehabilitation forward.
  • MRI and machine learning to improve early prognosis and clinical management after spinal cord injury
  • Neuromuscular Mechanisms Underlying Poor Recovery from Whiplash Injuries
  • Can changes in oropharyngeal morphometry explain self-reported dysphagia and dysphonia in patient with whiplash associated disorder?
  • What influences eating behaviours of consumers with chronic schizophrenia?
  • Diagnostic lung ultrasound in critical care: evaluation of the short-term effectiveness of physiotherapy treatment.
  • Experiences of stigma and discrimination experienced by people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background while accessing mental health services and seeking care for musculoskeletal condition.
  • Mobile Health Technology Solutions to Expand Pulmonary Rehabilitation Services for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: The m-PR™ Implementation Project.
  • Effect of nutrition supplementation on exercise capacity in people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) attending pulmonary rehabilitation. A non-randomised intervention pilot study.
  • Return to work after burn injury: A scoping review.
  • Development of digital counselling material for anticoagluation medication (Director Oral Anticoagulants (DOACS) and Warfarin.
  • Evaluation of feasibility and clinical utility of computer assisted robotic devices for upper limb therapy for patients with cervical spine injuries.
  • Nutritional outcomes after pancreatic resection: a multi-disciplinary approach.
  • An evaluation of the quality of life patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 before and after treatment of cutaneous manifestations.
  • Experience and acceptability of breast cancer screening in young women with an increased risk of breast cancer due to Neurofibromatosis type 1.
  • Systematic Review of diagnostic test accuracy- Diagnostic accuracy of lung ultrasound compared with conventional respiratory assessment tools for the diagnosis of pleural effusion, lung consolidation and collapse.
  • Diagnostic lung ultrasound in critical care: Lung aeration changes associated with chest physiotherapy treatment.
  • Barriers and Facilitators to Prescribed Unsupervised Exercises in Neurological Patients of an Acute Hospital
  • Very low calorie diets (VLCD) for people with hip and knee osteoarthritis
  • Evaluation of the impact of a lung ultrasound course for physiotherapists.
  • Sit-to-stand training in addition to usual care post stroke
  • Rehabilitation for cerebellar ataxia
  • CHESTY Trial (chest infection prevalence following surgery)
  • Sarcopenia project
  • GRACE (Geriatric Rapid Acute Evaluation) pilot project Trial of extra allied health (physiotherapy and speech pathology) and medical staff in the GRACE team
  • Frailty initiative
  • A retrospective analysis to determine whether circuit class training for stroke patients is more effective than individualised Physiotherapy for increasing therapy time and improving walking ability in a clinical inpatient rehabilitation setting.
  • Bra solutions: developing a bra fit resource for women after breast cancer.

 Selected recent grant success

  • Sydney Health Partners Implementation Science Grants. Project Title: BOOST: Boosting inpatient exercise after hip fracture using an alternative workforce: An implementation evaluation. Project duration July 2020 – July 2021. Awarded AUD$25,000. CIs. A/Prof Alison Harmer and Ms Marie March

    With increasing evidence around the benefits of physiotherapy after surgery, a project is set to get underway examining new ways to extend the support. The BOOST project will investigate how hospitals can deliver more frequent exercise programs for inpatients with hip fracture, through an innovative model of care involving physiotherapists and other healthcare workers. 
  • New South Wales Health Spinal Cord Injury Research Grants Program. Project Title: RESTORE: Immersive Virtual Reality Treatment for Restoring Touch Perception in People with Discomplete Paraplegia. Project duration June 2020 – June 2025. Awarded AUD$2,500,000. CIs A/Prof Sylvia Gustin, PhD; Prof. Jim Elliott, PT, PhD; Prof. Ashley Craig; Prof. James Middleton

    The proposed study will address this need by developing and testing a novel intervention that can provide touch restoration via the primary source of touch perception: the brain. We will develop and test an immersive, virtual reality haptic walking (VRHapticWalk) treatment that simultaneously enhances surviving spinal somatosensory nerve pathways and touch signals in the brain in an effort to restore and promote touch perception among people with discomplete SCI. 
  • 2020 Cardiovascular Initiative Catalyst Award. Project Title: Prevalence of Pre-Morbid Musculoskeletal Conditions in Stroke: Risk Factor Analysis of the Australian Stroke Clinical Registry. June 2020 – June 2021. Awarded AUD$10,000.00. PIs. Jeff Rogers, PhD, Jim Elliott, Andrew Baillie

    In the context of stroke, musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders such as hip and shoulder pain are often discussed as a consequence of stroke, related to the common post-stroke muscle weakness and motor discoordination.  The current preliminary project proposes to explore MSK disorders as a potential cause of stroke, mediated by the pro-inflammatory stress response common to both conditions.  The pain and disability of MSK conditions also limits participation in healthy lifestyles and leads to poorer cardio-metabolic health, a further recognised risk factor for stroke.

 Selected publications

  1. Stone D, Bogaardt H, Linnstaedt SD, Martin-Harris B, Smith AC, Walton DM, Ward E, Elliott JM. Whiplash-Associated Dysphagia: Considerations of Potential Incidence  and Mechanisms. Dysphagia. 2020; 35:403–413.
  2. Stone DB, Ward EC, Knijnik SR, Bogaardt H, Elliott JM. Whiplash-Associated Dysphagia and Dysphonia – A Systematic Scoping Review. Dysphagia. May 22. doi: 10.1007/s00455-020-10137-8. Online ahead of print.
  3. Higgins J, Elliott JM, Parrish TB, Brain Network Disruption in Whiplash. Am J Neuroradiol. June 2020, DOI:
  4. Su Zan Tan E, Mackenzie L, Travasssaros K, Yeo M. A pilot study to investigate the feasiblity of the modified blaylock tool for occupational therapy referral (MBTOTR) for use by nurses in actute care. Disabil Rehabil. 2019;38(16):1-9. 
  5. Elliott JM, Freeman L, Walton DM, Bray P, Osmotherly P, Cornwall J. The Development of Clinical Genomics and Genetics with Healthcare: How Should the Allied Health Professionals Respond? Journal of Allied Health. Accepted 16 March 2019 
  6. Weber KA II, Smith AC, Wasieliewski M, Eghtesad K, Upadhyayula PA, Wintermark M, Hastie TJ, Parrish TB, Mackey S, Elliott JM. Deep Learning Convolutional Neural Networks to Quantify Muscle Fat Infiltration Following Whiplash Injury. Scientific Reports. 2019 May 28;9(1):7973. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44416-8. 
  7. Walton DM, Elliott JM, Salim S, Al-Nasri I. A Reconceptualization of the Pain Numeric Rating Scale: Anchors and Clinically Important Differences. Guest Editorial Journal of Hand Therapy. 2018 Feb 9. pii: S0894-1130(17):30403-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jht.2017.12.008. [Epub ahed of print]. 
  8. Ho JP, Alison JA, Ng LWC, Wootton SL, McKeough ZJ, Jenkins SC, Eastwood PR, Hillman DR, Jenkins C, Spencer LM, Cavalheri V, Hill K. (2019) People with COPD who respond to ground based walking training are characterised by lower pre training exercise capacity and better lung function and have greater progression in walking distance. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and prevention 39 (5):1.
  9. Wootton, SL, Hill K, Alison, JA, Ng C, Jenkins, S, Eastwood, PR, Hillman, DR, Jenkins C, Spencer LM, Cecins, N, McKeough ZJ. (2019) Effects of ongoing feedback during a 12-month maintenance walking program on daily physical activity in people with COPD. Lung 197 (9).
  10. Chen LW, Glinsky JV, Islam MS, Hossain M, Boswell-Ruys CL, Kataria C, Redhead J, Xiong Y, Gollan E, Costa PD, Denis S, Ben M, Chaudhary L, Wang J, Hasnat MAK, Yeomans J, Gandevia SC, Harvey LA (2019) The effects of 10,000 voluntary contractions over 8 weeks on the strength of very weak muscles in people with spinal cord injury: A randomised controlled trial. Spinal Cord (In press)