Harry Giese AM MBE (1913–2000) was a Territory community leader and administrator who played a key role in the establishment of the Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) as the first faculty of the new Northern Territory University. During its establishment years, from the late 1970s to the 1990s, he served on the Board and National Executive of the Menzies Foundation.

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of health and education in northern Australia, the Giese family, with Menzies, have developed the Harry Christian Giese – Research into Action Award.

Menzies senior research officer Dr Renae Kirkham was recently named the 2017 recipient of the Award for her work on models of care for diabetes in pregnancy across the Northern Territory.

“Receiving the Harry Christian Giese – Research into Action Award has affirmed the importance of the work we’re doing with the community,” Dr Kirkham said.

“Around 20 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the Northern Territory experience diabetes in pregnancy – this is higher compared to non-Indigenous women.”

Dr Kirkham holds a PhD in public health and rural health and currently also teaches in Menzies’ Master of Public Health course through Charles Darwin University.

She is also a recipient of a Diabetes Australia research program grant to better understand how diabetes impacts the pregnancies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

One of the key findings of this work was the recommendation to share the stories of pregnant Indigenous women who have or had diabetes in pregnancy.

The Research into Action Award will enable Dr Kirkham to involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the Top End of the Northern Territory to share their experiences of diabetes in pregnancy, including advice and information for other women.

A short film will be produced and disseminated as an educational resource through the broad networks of the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland Diabetes in Pregnancy Partnership.

“Sharing stories is important to ensure other women who have diabetes in pregnancy understand how important it is to manage their diabetes, as well as feel confident in talking to their doctors and nurses to receive the best possible care,” Dr Kirkham said.

“The sharing of information will also potentially lower the risk of their children developing long-term conditions like diabetes or obesity.”

Previous recipients of the Research into Action Award have gone on to great achievements.

Last year’s award recipient, Dr Jaqui Hughes, used her Award to produce a number of short videos to educate kidney patients of the risks associated with melioidosis in the lead-up to, and during the wet season. Melioidosis is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei and can be deadly for people living with chronic conditions, including kidney failure.

The videos are available online and have been shared via social media as well as screened in the renal ward at Royal Darwin Hospital as well as other clinics and dialysis units. Dr Hughes also convened and prepared a report on the inaugural Patients’ Voices Meeting at the 500-strong annual meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Nephrology.

The 2015 winner, Professor Gail Garvey, used seed funding from the Award for the national roll-out of a training package for health professionals. She went on to receive the 2016 BUPA Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher of the Year for her crucial input into cancer care for Indigenous patients.

Meanwhile, the work in the field of malaria of the 2014 Award recipient, Dr Matt Grigg, informed Malaysia’s national policy for the treatment of Plasmodium knowlesi malaria. In 2017 he published a major paper on the case control study of risk factors for acquiring malaria. From 2018, he will be funded by a 4-year NHMRC fellowship.

Dr Gabrielle McCallum, 2013 winner of the Award, now a Program Leader in the Child Health Division, has received major grants from Asthma Australia and the NHMRC to improve asthma education for Indigenous people.