From scaling up to driverless cars – the Prevention Centre opens new frontiers in prevention

Minister McKenzie launches new NHMRC funding

With $15 million in new funding announced last month, the Prevention Centre is expanding its focus to identify next-generation strategies to prevent chronic disease and assist decision makers to take effective action.

Research in the pipeline includes a new project led by Professor Billie Giles-Corti to map the liveability of Australia’s 21 largest cities and measure the economic implications of specific interventions to improve the built environment, such as introducing autonomous cars.

Another project to be led by Professor Adrian Bauman will conduct implementation and scale up research to make prevention efforts work better, make them more understandable, and to provide frameworks and practice guides.

Extending our reach

Director Professor Andrew Wilson said the funding would enable the Prevention Centre to work to extend its national reach and conduct more work in rural and remote Australia.

He said the Centre would place a stronger focus on driving action for prevention through research on approaches to implementation and scaling up, and develop its work with high-risk and vulnerable populations.

“The first five years of the Prevention Centre created a strong platform for a systems approach to the prevention of chronic disease, and we’ve built some very effective collaborations with policy agencies, built capacity in systems thinking and developed some valuable new knowledge,” Professor Wilson said.

“Now our aim is to turn knowledge into sustained action. We look forward to continuing the work of our first five years to translate what we know into practice. We are interested in new ideas as well as promoting existing ideas.”

A new work plan

The work plan for the next five years builds on the Prevention Centre’s achievements since it was formed in 2013. The new research will focus on areas identified by policy partners and funders as likely to achieve the greatest gains. Each project will involve co-production to boost the use of evidence by policy makers and practitioners.

An important area will be to identify where to act in complex systems to improve the reach and impact of prevention efforts. For example, one project will work with health care organisations to undertake a systems analysis to find the barriers and enablers to action on chronic disease prevention, and another will study the use of systems approaches for prevention in different settings.

Across all of its work, the Centre will aim to boost the translation of research through evidence synthesis to assist decision making based on what works for prevention; place a focus on implementation and scaling up to make prevention efforts work; and find ways to communicate benefits of prevention to drive action.

“In the next five years, we will be trying to show how the sum is greater than the parts – we will be trying to get people to think about the overall lessons – what is it that we’re doing in areas like evidence synthesis, implementation and communicating the benefits of prevention, and what we have learned,” Professor Wilson said.

The funding was announced last month by the Minister for Rural Health, Sport and Regional Communications, Bridget McKenzie. It comprises $7.7 million from the NHMRC, in addition to funding from other partners, the Australian Government Department of Health, the Health Departments of New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania, Cancer Council Australia and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, VicHealth.