Czech health and social services adopt Australian dementia training

17 January 2022

Australia’s high-quality medical training has a growing reputation in Europe. Since 2019, Czech authorities have adopted two innovative courses developed by Australian dementia care and training institutes. In 2020, Czech officials included both training programs in the Czech National Alzheimer’s Strategy 2020–2030.

In this case study, Dementia Australia and the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre (Wicking Centre) explain their journey into Europe, including:

  • why the Czech Republic is a good market for innovative training services.
  • how Austrade helped.
  • why the Czech Republic is a good entry point into Europe.

For more information, please contact Zdenka Kotalova, Austrade’s Senior Business Development Manager in Prague.

Australia’s high reputation for healthcare professionals’ training

Australian medical science has a strong reputation in the Czech Republic. Specifically, Australia is recognised as a global leader in dementia research and management. This has resulted in two landmark collaborations with leading dementia centres in Australia.

The first partnership involves the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre (Wicking Centre) in Tasmania. The centre has developed a ‘massive open online course’ (MOOC) called Understanding Dementia. The 7-week course offers up-to-date, academic insights into dementia. It is designed to optimise care.

‘The Understanding Dementia course is a leading source of online dementia education globally, with over 300,000 enrolments to date,’ says Professor James Vickers, Director, Wicking Centre. ‘The MOOC outlines evidence on the cause, management and care of dementia. It makes complex content accessible.’

Austrade organises a visit by Czech officials

In 2018, Austrade advisers helped to arrange a visit by Czech aged care experts. They wanted to understand some of the new techniques their Australian counterparts had developed in dementia care.

The visit was a success. The Czech Masaryk University in Brno and the Czech branch of German Multinational B. Braun – Aesculap Academy – sponsored a translation of the Understanding Dementia course from English into Czech in 2020–2021.

‘Our friends in the Czech Republic were highly motivated,’ says Vickers. ‘They have been excellent. For example, they arranged a translation of the MOOC course. They engaged in all aspects of the Understanding Dementia content and delivery.’

The Mayor of Brno officially launched the Wicking course in September 2021. Representatives from the Masaryk University in Brno and Aesculap Academy also attended. More than 200 participants had enrolled in the course up to the end of 2021.

Virtual reality training

Dementia specialists in Australia and the Czech Republic also worked together to develop a Czech version of Australian virtual reality (VR) training.

The peak Australian body for dementia is Dementia Australia. The organisation has taken dementia education to a new level by using VR techniques. The result is the Educational Dementia Immersive Experience, also calledVR EDIE’. It marks a shift in dementia care training, according to course creators.

‘Traditionally, facilitators deliver dementia education in workshops,’ says David Sykes, Director, Centre for Dementia Learning at Dementia Australia. ‘With VR, participants experience the world from the perspective of the person living with dementia. They develop a greater empathy for the person. This motivates a shift in thinking and a shift in behaviour.’

Czech officials visited the Dementia Australia centre in Melbourne during their visit in 2018. They agreed to launch a Czech version of the training course in 2019. The translation was managed by Czech national peak body, the Czech Association of Social Services Providers. The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has now accredited the VR EDIE course.  

The Czech Republic is open to collaboration

The two Australian dementia teams say that they have enjoyed working with their Czech counterparts. They say that their Czech colleagues proved excellent partners in developing new approaches to medical learning.

‘They are open to new innovation, adapting new approaches and working collaboratively,’ says Sykes. ‘The country is undergoing rapid growth and change. They were dedicated to making a success of the course.’

Austrade helps medical services exporters in Europe

Austrade advisers have helped bring teams together in Prague, Brno, Hobart and Melbourne. This included helping Dementia Australia to identify the ideal training-delivery partner in the Czech Republic.

‘Austrade was instrumental in introducing us to the team of social services providers in the Czech Republic,’ says David Sykes. ‘Austrade also provided us with a level of confidence in our negotiations. At the start we were dealing with an unknown company.’

The Wicking Centre reports that Austrade advisers continue to help as their own partnership expands.

‘Austrade played a crucial role in supporting relationships,’ says Vickers. ‘They have helped us to maintain momentum and take the project forward.’

Good prospects for health training in Europe

Accreditation by Czech authorities will help Dementia Australia and the Wickers Centre to expand across Europe.

‘Czech aged care professionals chair or participate in the key European industry peak bodies,’ says Austrade adviser, Zdenka Kotalova. ‘This includes Alzheimer Europe and the European Ageing Network (EAN). Success in the Czech Republic gives us credibility across Europe.’

‘Interest in Australian expertise is spreading,’ she adds. ‘We anticipate that specialists from other European countries will show interest in the course. They can learn from the Czech experience.’