Boosting prevention: new projects underway

The prevention of chronic disease in Australia has received a significant boost with the launch of 10 new Prevention Centre projects funded by the Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Boosting Preventive Health Research Program.

Announced in the 2017 Budget, one of the first disbursements MRFF provided $10 million over four years to the Prevention Centre to identify and implement interventions to improve the burden of chronic disease in Australia.

The Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, has launched the projects that will address chronic disease by targeting risk factors including obesity in pregnancy, childhood obesity, Aboriginal food security, chronic pain, physical activity and mental illness.

Prevention Centre Director, Professor Andrew Wilson, said each project would focus on generating relevant, practical strategies that would improve the translation of research to policy and practice.

“This funding allows us to target key knowledge gaps in how to accelerate and sustain action for the prevention of chronic disease,” Professor Wilson said.

“These projects focus on generating low-cost, translatable and scalable evidence-based solutions that will help to promote good health practices, prevent chronic disease and keep people out of hospital.”

The MRFF will fund 10 research projects through the Prevention Centre. The first six are now active, with the remaining four to be launched in coming months.

The projects currently underway are:

Tackling childhood obesity with big data and dynamic simulation modelling

One in four Australian children are overweight or obese, leading to overweight adults and significantly increasing Australia’s burden of chronic disease. This project will build on our dynamic simulation modelling work in the ACT and NSW to develop new evidence on the impact of childhood overweight and obesity on chronic disease over people’s lifetime. It will also develop an interactive national decision support tool to inform best investments to reduce child and adolescent overweight and obesity.

Using health promotion to reduce the burden of obesity before and in pregnancy

Over half of women in Australia are overweight or obese when they become pregnant, which increases the risk of complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, caesarean section and large-for-gestational-age infants. This project will address the issue by strategically targeting women during pre-conception and pregnancy with health promotion, lifestyle improvement and obesity prevention interventions and tool kits.

Employing physical activity to prevent chronic disease

Although physical inactivity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, it is currently under-recognised in planning and programs to reduce chronic disease in Australia. This project will engage with programs outside the health sector including Sport and Recreation, Education, Parks, Urban Planning and Transport sectors to improve capacity to address physical activity, standardise approaches to population monitoring and create a world-first framework to help Australians be more active.

Addressing chronic disease risk factors in people with mental illness

People with mental illness experience high rates of chronic disease compared to the general population. This project will examine the potential role of community managed organisations (CMOs) in addressing chronic disease risk factors like smoking, poor nutrition and sedentary behaviour in people with mental illness. The project aims to understand what preventive care CMOs are currently providing, and develop and pilot test a feasible, cost-effective model to provide preventive health care.

Improving Aboriginal food security and diet

More than 80% of the chronic disease burden experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is preventable, and this is largely attributable to poor diet caused by lack of access to healthy food options. This project will address the problem by identifying potential interventions to improve food security in both remote and urban Aboriginal communities, with the aim of developing a food security framework and strategic implementation plan.

Preventing the development of chronic pain

One in five Australians are currently living with chronic pain, and as such it is a considerable public health issue. This project aims to prevent progression to disabling chronic pain and reduce the demand for opioid and interventional pain management services by developing a set of evidence-informed strategies at a primary care level.

Find out more

If you're interested in any of the Prevention Centre's research projects, or would like more information about any aspect of our work, please email us at or call us on (02) 9188 9576.

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