Meet The Researcher

Dr Yvonne Learmonth

Dr Yvonne Learmonth

Murdoch University

About
What inspired you to get involved in MS research?
As a physiotherapy student, I learned that access to rehabilitation could make a world of difference to many people living with MS. To be part of showing the benefit of rehabilitation and wellness-based healthcare, and the associated positive journey of persons living with MS is an honour.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in MS research?
There has been over 30 years of good quality research to show the benefits of rehabilitation, particularly physical activity-based rehabilitation for MS. We are at a pivotal point where access to research-based education on health and wellness-for persons with MS, and access to healthcare services which encourage positive health behaviours is vital for everyone living with MS.
Tell us about your current research project...
Every year Australians face potentially devastated crises, such as mass flooding and bushfires. On top of these threats, Australians are living with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We already knew that people living with neurological conditions are disproportionally affected during crises; they are more likely to have reduced access to care and may suffer from more significant consequences. Our research, parts of which began in 2020, will explore the health-burden of crises (such as mass flooding, bushfires and COVID-19 implications) on health behaviours, access to healthcare, and emergency planning needs for Australians with multiple sclerosis and the MS community. Alongside myself, the multidisciplinary research team draws on multiple areas of social and medical science. Including experts in psychology, counselling, medicine, rehabilitation, public health and epidemiology; Dr Brody Heritage and Dr Petra Skeffington at Murdoch University, Dr Claudia Marck and Professor Lisa Gibbs at Melbourne University, Associate Professor Ingrid van der Mei at the University of Tasmania, and Professor Allan Kermode of the Perron Institute and Murdoch University. Our project Crisis Resilience in MS will help us understand how best to prepare the healthcare system to help people living with MS, and similar health conditions during crises. We hope to inform government, local authorities, MS Australia, the state-based MS organisations, healthcare providers, carers and most importantly people living with MS to be better prepared in the future when life takes an unpredictable turn.
Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
Australians living with disabilities, such as those resulting from MS are disproportionally affected during times of crises. In Australia we frequently face seasonal crises, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many years of research have proved the importance of maintaining good and consistent access to medical and rehabilitation care throughout the disease course for everyone living with MS. It is critical that we establish the needs of the MS community during, the recurrent and continuing crises we experience in Australia.
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Dr Yvonne Learmonth