The future of chronic disease prevention research

Current and future trends in chronic disease prevention research: Thematic analysis of grey and scientific literature

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Evidence Brief: The future of chronic disease prevention research

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This report was prepared by the Prevention Centre and is viewed as a conversation starter; to steward internal discussions about the next phase of our program of research, and to inform the national discourse about prevention research in Australia. The Evidence Brief provides an overview of the report’s key findings from the thematic analysis of the international literature.

Our approach

The report findings are drawn from a review of the literature that included both grey literature (policy and government documents and reports) and peer-reviewed literature (scientific publications) and published between 2014–2019.  The review included a thematic analysis of the current and emerging trends in chronic disease prevention research and examined some of the common synergies across the literature.

The literature review conducted was guided by three questions:

  1. What are the current trends, major themes and topics of chronic disease prevention research in Australia and globally?
  2. What are the synergies across the scientific and grey literature?
  3. What are the future trends anticipated for chronic disease prevention research?

Our findings

The literature review identified twenty-six topics across the grey and scientific literature that we suggest encompass the current trends in prevention research. We grouped eighteen of these topics into five major themes: food production and consumption; place and spaces; environment and health; expanded determinants of health; and personalised prevention, with the remaining eight topics listed separately. The additional topics not grouped into these major themes included systems thinking, mental health, multi-sectoral approaches to prevention, a life-course approach to prevention, tobacco and alcohol, low and middle-income countries, evidence gaps, and implementation and evaluation challenges.

The report concludes with a discussion of the opportunities arising from the review. In particular we emphasise the need to continue to expanding the scope of prevention to incorporate more holistic systems-based consideration of health and prevention that encapsulates both human and planetary health, and sustainable development. We highlight the need for better understanding of how to implement and support the system-wide changes required to support chronic disease prevention, and to address the political dimensions of promoting health and preventing disease. And finally, the report reinforces the ongoing and important need to address Australia’s persistent inequalities in health.  

Commentary: What does the future hold for chronic disease prevention research?

This commentary summarises major trends identified in the Prevention Centre literature review and considers the implications for the future of chronic disease prevention research in Australia. Read more

Podcast: The past, present and future of chronic disease prevention research

In this Prevention Works episode, Prevention Centre Co-Director Professor Andrew Wilson chats with host Gretchen Miller about his years of experience in public health, the current health crisis, and what the future holds for the prevention of chronic disease in Australia. Listen here