Dr Arul Earnest

A leading Singaporean medical statistician has returned to the Northern Rivers to work with local researchers studying how the region’s health status may have changed – for better or worse – in recent years.

Dr Arul Earnest spent several years here collaborating on University Centre for Rural Health research projects and undertaking his PhD research. His current trip is funded by a University of Sydney Research Collaboration Award, gained in collaboration with UCRH colleague Associate Professor Geoff Morgan.

From 2005-2007, Dr Earnest worked at the UCRH where he researched the health status of local North Coast and NSW wide populations and worked on a doctorate focused on mapping birth defects in NSW.

Now an Associate Professor, he is the Director of the Centre for Quantitative Medicine at the prestigious Duke [US]-National University of Singapore, and back here to advise on statistical methods for local and Australian health service research and develop collaborative projects with UCRH colleagues.

“These projects include developing Australia's own rural birthing index, analysing multiple hospital admissions for chronic disease in the North Coast, and investigating the health effects of fire smoke pollution in Australia and Singapore.” Dr Earnest said.

Dr Earnest’s biostatistical analysis work has also focused on the risks of heart disease at the area level, helping health planners provide for geographically targeted campaigns and interventions.

“In that study, we showed that socioeconomic disadvantage increased both the risk of acute coronary syndrome and related mortality. Rural life can mean a reduced chance of receiving appropriate care, with a higher proportion of Indigenous residents showing a level of risk beyond the effects of general socioeconomic disadvantage,” he said.

Other studies have included helping quantify the level of risk of major birth defects by geographical regions, and developing suitable statistical models to study rare forms of birth defects.

UCRH Director, Professor Lesley Barclay, welcomed Dr Arul Earnest back, saying the Centre was delighted he had chosen Lismore as the base for his return visit to Australia.

“To attract internationally known researchers is a vote of confidence in the facilities, partnerships and staff of UCRH, and in the North Coast region more generally. The work Dr Earnest is undertaking will be of immense benefit to the longer term health of local residents and Australians generally,” she said.