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On: December 10, 2019

MELBOURNE – Following the development and implementation of the Positivum™ assessment and health coaching tool, MedHealth Research and Innovation team members, Dianne Sheppard and Dorothy Frost, have published research findings in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship and the British Medical Journal.

General Manager of Research and Innovation, Dorothy Frost, said the papers were published as part of MedHealth’s ongoing commitment to share learnings and knowledge with the wider healthcare community.

“We developed the Positivum™ assessment and coaching tool in 2014 and have since seen it work to significant effect with groups of people including workers returning to employment after illness or injury and jobseekers with disability.

“So, we started thinking how else can we support people with Positivum™? And we realised we could have a positive impact on cancer survivors’ concerns about recovery and work.”

Every year in Australia, 140,000 people are diagnosed with cancer. Of these, 40% are of working age. Cancer survivors may be managing symptoms related to treatment while also experiencing challenges such as the need for modified hours or duties, and potentially a change in employer. Add to that the profound effect of cancer on a person’s outlook, and the result is that people with cancer are at greater risk of unemployment than the general population.

Ms Frost said: “Positivum™ offers a guide forward after cancer, addresses concerns faced by cancer survivors, particularly those impacting recovery and work. The program includes reflection on values and goals, along with education and activities to empower individuals with a greater understanding of the effects of cancer. It helps them improve their daily functioning and become more resilient when moving forward with life after cancer.”

To date, MedHealth has supported 80 cancer survivors via Positivum™ and the results of these programs are published in two journal papers, summarised below.

“As we support more and more people – and adapt the program for other people who may benefit from coaching and support – we will continue to formally track and write up our findings for publication.”

Journal of Cancer Survivorship

Building a novel occupational rehabilitation program to support cancer survivors to return to health, wellness, and work in Australia

Primary authors – MedHealth’s Dianne Sheppard and Dorothy Frost from Research and Innovation, with Prof Michael Jefford from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Moira O’Conner and Georgia Halkett from Curtin University

This paper describes a novel approach to supporting cancer survivors through the often-challenging process of transitioning back to work.  It provides an overview of the development of an evidence-based intervention model, and results of a pilot delivered by IPAR within the life-insurance sector.

British Medical Journal (open)

‘Beyond Cancer’: A study protocol of a multimodal occupational rehabilitation program to support breast cancer survivors to return work

Primary authors – MedHealth’s Dianne Sheppard and Dorothy Frost from Research and Innovation, with Prof Michael Jefford from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Moira O’Conner and Georgia Halkett from Curtin University

This paper provides information regarding a multi-modal intervention developed by MedHealth for delivery by IPAR.  Further to funding provided by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a feasibility study will evaluate the effectiveness of this model to support working women and men with breast cancer to remain at or return to work post diagnosis and treatment.  The multi-modal intervention includes the options of Positivum ™ health coaching, exercise, self-management education, employer education and support, and return to work support.  Our hypothesis is that further to the intervention, participants will show improved symptom management, work capacity, perceived support at work, and work status.