Time and again, international research – and our own work at the Prevention Centre – highlights that many opportunities to reduce the burden of chronic disease through prevention are currently being missed.
We already know what to do to reduce risk factors for preventable chronic disease such as tobacco and alcohol use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. The problem is turning that knowledge into sustained action.
How to overcome this barrier is the central focus of the Prevention Centre. Our 150 investigators nationally are working to achieve sustainable, evidence-based, whole-of-system solutions that will drive action to prevent chronic disease.
Our work supports decision makers by making available the best evidence when they need it, providing insights into implementation and scaling, and developing new methods that help governments tackle the system rather than the individual. One of our most important functions is to bring together the key people and organisations who need to play a role, and to build capacity amongst the next generation of the prevention community.
Since we were established in June 2013, the Prevention Centre has made an important contribution through its high-quality research. This year alone, we have:
- Published 17 research publications (with at least another 70 close to publication)
- Built two dynamic simulation models in collaboration with policy makers, with two more soon to be finalised
- Released liveability indicators to identify which built environments optimise health and wellbeing
- Completed the first systematic study of food policy implementation in Australia
- Created a nationally standardised tool to determine the relative cost and affordability of ‘healthy’ (recommended) compared to ‘unhealthy’ (current) diets
- Developed new methods for working with communities for whole-of-prevention system improvement
- Developed a framework to guide whole-of-government policy actions to address inequities in healthy eating
- Completed a study that classifies the different pathways through which public health programs are scaled up
- Published 10 Findings Briefs, 4 Evidence Reviews, a number of videos and webinars and a range of resources about systems thinking.
But there’s still much more to do. As we head into the New Year, we will be refocusing and renewing our efforts to undertake research that will accelerate change.
2018 will see the completion of our initial funding from the NHMRC’s Partnership Centres for Better Health initiative, and the launch of a raft of major new collaborative research projects funded through the Medical Research Future Fund. We have also just submitted our application to NHMRC for funding of a second phase of the Prevention Centre, and are expecting to hear the outcomes from this application early in 2018.
Next year, we will start building on our achievements by expanding our national focus, placing a stronger emphasis on testing approaches to implementation and scaling up, and extending our work with high-risk and vulnerable populations.
The first phase of the Prevention Centre laid the foundations for effective collaborations and new knowledge that can lead to system change. Now it’s time for action.