Dr Natasa Gisev from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney, has been awarded $1,027,327 over four years for a project examining ‘deaths of despair’ (deaths due to suicide, drug and alcohol poisonings, and alcohol-related diseases).
‘Deaths of despair’ have risen around the world over the last 20 years, with more than 134,700 ‘deaths of despair’ in Australia between 2001 and 2018.
Dr Gisev said the circumstances surrounding these deaths often relate to feelings of hopelessness, psychological distress, and mental health problems.
‘Society is facing increasingly complex social, environmental, and economic challenges which may be triggers for excessive use of medicines, alcohol and other drugs, self-harm and suicide,’ Dr Gisev said.
‘Many ‘deaths of despair’ are preventable given targeted and timely intervention.’
The world-first study will use health and social services datasets to examine all ‘deaths of despair’ in New South Wales.
The project team will examine patterns of use of medicines and contact with health care, justice, and social service systems prior to death to identify the best points to deliver different interventions.
‘We will use novel machine learning approaches to predict ‘deaths of despair’ and mathematical modelling to assess the impact of potential interventions to prevent deaths,’ Dr Gisev said.
‘Our findings will be crucial in informing effective interventions and policies for death prevention such as recognising people at high risk, supporting monitoring programs, and identifying the most effective intervention settings and strategies.’
The project team brings together researchers from across Australia, the UK, and the US, with expertise in suicide, addiction, alcohol and other drug-related mortality, linked data, epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, biostatistics, machine learning and mathematical modelling.
Led by Dr Gisev, the team includes Dr Briony Larance from the University of Wollongong, Dr Gabrielle Campbell from the University of Queensland, Dr Annick Borquez from the University of California San Diego, and Professor Matthew Hickman from the University of Bristol.
The funding was awarded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant scheme which supports innovative projects addressing specific questions.
About Dr Natasa Gisev
Dr Natasa Gisev is a clinical pharmacist and Scientia Senior Lecturer at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney.
Her research interests lie in the use of big data and data linkage to evaluate medicines use and corresponding benefits/harms among populations with complex health care needs, including older adults and those with mental health and substance use disorders.
Read Dr Gisev’s full bio here.