Melanie Gibson-Helm, Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, Monash University.

Melanie is a NHMRC Early Career Fellow at the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University. Melanie conducts public health research focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women of refugee background and women with polycystic ovary syndrome. During her PhD (awarded in 2015), Melanie conducted survey-based research about Australian women’s PCOS diagnosis experiences, and about the attitudes and beliefs about PCOS held by women and general practitioners, including their views on changing the name of the condition. These studies found that many women’s PCOS diagnosis experience is lengthy, involves many healthcare providers, and does not meet their needs regarding PCOS education. Additionally, both women and general practitioners feel the name ‘Polycystic Ovary Syndrome’ is confusing and generally support changing the name to help enhance understanding of the condition.

During the first couple of years of her postdoctoral fellowship, Melanie has also been involved in collaborations expanding her research internationally. A study involving nearly 1400 women living in 32 different countries confirmed that women around the world also experience the frustrating diagnosis experiences of Australian women (Gibson-Helm et al 2017 JCEM). Additionally, satisfaction with the information women received at the time of diagnosis was positively associated with diagnosis satisfaction, while seeing five or more health professionals and longer time to diagnosis were negatively associated with diagnosis satisfaction, after adjusting for time since diagnosis, age, and world region. A companion piece of international research investigated the knowledge and practices of 1500 obstetrician gynaecologists, reproductive endocrinologists and medical endocrinologists. The findings from the North American cohort of this dataset (Dokras et al 2017 Fertil & Steril) suggest that education and resources regarding the Rotterdam diagnostic criteria, and how to ensure consistent evidence-based care for the reproductive, metabolic, and psychological features of PCOS, could better support healthcare providers. Findings from the larger international cohort are currently under review.

To try and better meet the information needs of women with PCOS, Melanie has led the development of a Question Prompt List (QPL) for PCOS. A QPL is a structured list of questions that patients can use during healthcare appointments to facilitate communication with their healthcare providers. QPLs have been used in several other conditions and aim to help people obtain personally relevant information and to increase shared decision-making. Funded by the PCOS-CRE, the PCOS QPL research program followed best-practice methods established by previous QPL research, drew on the current Australian evidence-based guideline for PCOS, had input from multidisciplinary PCOS experts, employed survey and semi-structured interview methodologies, was pilot-tested in an endocrinology clinic setting and is currently being tested in general practice.

Melanie Gibson-Helm, Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, attended the World Health Assembly (WHA) recently held at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. You can find out more here.