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AI-Based Monitoring in NSW Correctional Facilities

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An AI-based health monitoring project, aimed at suicide prevention in NSW corrections centres, has secured funding from the NSW Government’s Small Business Innovation & Research (SBIR) programme for a group of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW), led by Professor Bronwyn Everett, Dr Rebecca Bosworth, and Professor Wanqing Li. This initiative falls under the SBIR programme, which offers competitive grants to small and medium-sized enterprises to develop innovative solutions for challenges identified by NSW Government agencies.

The interdisciplinary team, comprising members from UOW’s School of Nursing and School of Computing and Information Technology, as well as collaborators from Western Sydney University and 3Aim Solutions, will explore the feasibility of utilising radar-based technology combined with AI to monitor the vital signs of individuals within NSW correctional centres, particularly those deemed at-risk of self-harm or suicide.

Professor Bronwyn Everett emphasised the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration in tackling pressing public health issues like self-harm and suicide prevention within correctional facilities. She highlighted the necessity of expertise spanning healthcare, technology, and firsthand experience in correctional environments to develop effective solutions.

The prevalence of self-harm and suicide attempts among individuals entering NSW prisons underscores the urgency of addressing mental health issues within correctional settings. Current monitoring systems, such as cell cameras and routine physical checks by officers, have limitations in effectively identifying at-risk individuals and preventing self-harm incidents.

Throughout a three-month feasibility study, the research team aims to devise a real-time, contactless monitoring system capable of providing advanced surveillance of vital health signs in high-risk settings. This technological advancement could significantly enhance the capability of Corrective Services NSW to identify and respond to potential self-harm incidents promptly.

Dr Rebecca Bosworth, drawing from her clinical experience as a Registered Nurse providing healthcare in prison settings, emphasised the project’s potential to improve the health outcomes of incarcerated individuals. She highlighted the importance of investing in preventive measures through digital technologies to complement existing monitoring methods and address the complex healthcare needs of individuals in contact with the justice system.

The initiative aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. Dr. Bosworth emphasised the significance of recognising prison health as a public health issue and the importance of developing solutions that cater to the diverse needs of incarcerated populations.

If the feasibility study proves successful, the research team will have the opportunity to seek further funding for a proof-of-concept phase in 2024. The NSW Government has expressed interest in procuring successful solutions developed through the SBIR programme, underscoring the potential impact of innovative approaches in addressing critical public health challenges within correctional facilities.

The efforts of the research team reflect a commitment to leveraging technology and interdisciplinary expertise to safeguard the well-being of individuals in contact with the justice system and contribute to broader efforts in achieving sustainable development goals related to health and well-being.

Nearly 70% of Australians with known mental health conditions avoid seeking professional help due to various barriers, including stigma, cost, and limited access to care, despite nearly half of the population experiencing mental ill health at some point in their lives, highlighting the crucial need for early detection and intervention, particularly among individuals aged 14-24. Apart from the human toll, mental illness imposes a substantial economic burden, with AU$10.6 billion spent on mental health services annually and reported productivity losses in the industry amounting to $39 billion per year. Recognising this pressing societal issue, CSIRO proposes a collaborative effort involving 20 PhD and Masters students from Melbourne, Monash, and Monash Malaysia Universities to explore AI-driven solutions for mental health challenges, leveraging real-world industry priorities to make a meaningful impact.


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