Two white hands hold us sparklers in the darkness

Scaling Successful Trials

I’m back at work this week. I was officially on holidays from the 16th of December until the beginning of this week, however, I ended up having to work every day of my holidays. That was because our public health trial, which need to be extended.

Extending our health trial

Initially, we extended our randomised control trial addressing COVID-19 because we hadn’t reached our sample size. Then there was a sudden outbreak of infection in the Northern Beaches. This increased the rate of testing across the region, and had an impact on our trial. It meant we had to extend the trial for another two weeks, as our intervention runs on a fortnightly cycle, which brought us to the 3rd of January as our final trial day.

It meant working throughout that whole entire period, unfortunately, for myself another colleague. It had a big impact on our respective holidays. I am not feeling rested, as I haven’t had a block of time off away from work.

The good news is that our trial does have a statistically significant result! Our intervention was successful. I’ll tell you more when those findings have been made public.

This week has been all systems go in finalising that analysis and writing our results. It’ll be presented to our governance group in a couple of weeks and then we will move to looking to scale up that intervention across the state.

It’s a very exciting outcome.

Non-holidays

To be honest, I was very stressed throughout the “holidays” due to work. I’ve been working extraordinarily long hours for months, and then to have to work through Christmas and the New Year was very tough. I only had last week to myself.

Luckily, I went away. I shared some of that holiday on my Instagram. Like many thousands of other people in New South Wales, my holiday was also interrupted because of the outbreak. Other states closed their borders to New South Wales. This meant that I wasn’t able to travel to Victoria to see my family and spend Christmas with them. This intensified the stress of work all round.

Lockdown also had a big impact on everybody’s New Year, because there were a lot of restrictions on us. I’m thankful, as the measures stopped the outbreak from spreading further. We’ve had very few cases since. That’s the best news we could hope for going into the new year.

I’m back at work now, and predictably, it has been very hectic.

New year, new projects

Apart from workin on the final analysis of our COVID-19 trial, I’ve also been working on scoping a few new projects that are innovative and thrilling. With that comes quite a lot of effort convincing our decision-makers to support new ways of conducting analysis.

I’ve been collaborating with academic colleagues on scoping a social network analysis project for public health. I’ve been diving into the empirical literature on behavioural interventions we might test using these new techniques. It’s invigorating work. Let’s see how it goes.

There’s also other research we’re doing on improving uptake on COVID-19 vaccination. We’re a long way from seeing where this work might go.

Additionally, it looks like I’ll be taking over scoping a randomised control trial using gamification, or applying the principles game design, to improve online safety training.

On top of that, I’m scoping another project on public awareness of cyber security measures.

Communications

Another big task this week is getting back into running communiccations for our team. I’ve edited two blog posts that have been written by our colleagues.

I’ve already published one, which is an initiative to increase public uptake of free trees in metro Sydney. It’s a great trial that was carried out by colleagues from our team. They tested postcards sent to households, appealing to community public good and environment to get more people to participate in the free scheme in Western Sydney, to plant trees in their homes.

The other blog post that I’ve been editing today was written by another colleague, about increasing the voluntary use of face masks on public transport. Our trial successfully increased the number of young people who said they would wear a mask based on an appeal to messenger effect. That is, messages from influential people. It was a campaign using vox pops where other young people talk about the public good of wearing a mask, versus an animated gif appealing to ego, where the tag line shows it feels good to be a hero and do the right thing. I’m finalising that for publication today.

Also today, I’m going to edit yet another blog post, by another colleague, who has left the team. I’m going to have to rewrite it to refocus the story of our results. The original draft discussed how to scale up a project, using one of our health trials as a case study. Intead, our Director wants the blog post to focus on what we did in the trial and the results. Our trial increased the number of people showing up to their outpatient hospital appointments. I’m hoping this blog post can be published in the next couple of weeks. I have to rewrite some of the recommendations.

Scaling

Finally for today, I have a meeting reconnecting with our partners on our scale-up of our project on apprentices and trainees. We had increased the number of apprentices and trainees staying to the end of their first year using behaviourally informed SMS messages. Then we tracked the students for 12 months. We delivered the longitudinal results late last year, and we found that those students were still studying 12 months later, into their second year.

We’re now working on writing up the results for the public. I have to write a Brief for senior executives. I’ll also work with our colleagues to ensure that the scale up continues in perpetuity and becomes “business as usual” across the state.

What a chokka block first week back!

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