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The George Institute receives over $8 million to fight our biggest health burdens

The George Institute has received over $8 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) grants and fellowships.

Policy and effective treatments for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease, depression among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with or without chronic disease, affordable exercise-based technology, front of pack labelling for Australian foods, and burn injuries among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, are among the research areas being funded.

Professor Vlado Perkovic, Executive Director of The George Institute Australia, said the Institute is grateful for the funding as medical and health research is critical in the fight against one of the biggest economic and social challenges of our time – an unsustainable health system.

“Healthcare is becoming increasingly unsustainable currently costing the Australian economy $140 billion a year, and these costs are only set to increase with the growing burden of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and stroke,” Professor Perkovic says.

“As the leading cause of premature death and disability in Australia and around the world, chronic diseases and injuries need to be tackled at the coal face through better prevention strategies and an overhaul of our current health system,” he said.

“Medical and health research and translating this into practice and policy in a short period of time are fundamental to this process if we are to see real change and lives saved in our life time.”

Project grants

Associate Professor Hisatomi Arima
Head Position in Stroke Trial (HeadPoST)
$1,709,566

HeadPoST is an international, collaborative clinical trial to be conducted across 200 hospital sites in more than 20 countries. The aim of this study is to provide definite evidence for recommendations (including risk and benefits) on the most appropriate policy for patient head-positioning in acute phases of stroke, which may impact recovery and reduce patient disability. Associate Professor Arima will lead a talented, global, multidisciplinary team, whose work will result in safer and more effective stroke patient care guidelines internationally.

Associate Professor Maree Hackett
The validation of a culturally-specific measure to identify depression in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with or without chronic disease
$641,456

This project seeks to determine whether a questionnaire adapted for use with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accurately identifies depression in this population, and is suitable for use in primary care settings for treatment of chronic disease. Associate Professor Maree Hackett and her team will undertake this study with the participation of five hundred Indigenous primary care attendees across Australia. This project will also involve capacity building of Indigenous research fellows, and a commitment to develop an integrated primary health care intervention for the management of depression among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The expected outcomes of this project should lead to new strategies to reduce the burden of chronic disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with implications for other Indigenous populations around the world.

Professor Rebecca Ivers
Understanding burn injuries in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: treatment, access to services and outcomes
$872,801

In the first large-scale study of its kind, this project will systematically examine the burden of burn injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – who experience burns at twice the rate of non-Indigenous children – including quality of care received, the cost of treatment and functional outcomes. Professor Rebecca Ivers will lead a team comprising epidemiologists, Aboriginal health researchers and burns clinicians, with the aim of developing a ‘blueprint’ for reform of services and policy, to ensure future care for this vulnerable population is improved.

Associate Professor Cathie Sherrington
Affordable technology to improve physical activity levels and mobility outcomes in rehabilitation
$1,419,775

Associate Professor Cathie Sherrington’s experienced team aims to establish the impact of affordable exercise-based video/computer game technology on physical activity and mobility for rehabilitation patients. This project will build on pilot studies showing low-cost video/computer-based technologies can enable higher dose exercise programs for individuals in rehabilitation programs. This project will target patients admitted to aged care and neurological rehabilitation wards, and if found to be effective, the proposed intervention has potential to be quickly implemented into practice globally.

Partnership projects

Bruce Neal
A large-scale randomised trial to define optimal front-of-pack labelling system for Australian foods
Partners: Bupa Health Foundation, National Heart Foundation

Professor Bruce Neal will lead a strong project team in a rigorous evaluation of a standardised front-of-pack labelling system for all packaged foods in Australia. Together with project partner organisations (and existing collaborators) Bupa Health Foundation and the National Heart Foundation, this funding will allow an assessment via large-scale trial which will define and compare the “energy stars” labelling format proposed to alternatives. Additional evaluations under this Partnership Project will include assessment of consumer knowledge of food, nutrient profiling and labelling. This research will directly impact national policy, following a Federal Government-commissioned report into food labelling, and add to industry, health and non-governmental recommendations.

Research fellowships

Professor Anthony Rodgers
Principal Research Fellowship

Affordable and scaleable new strategies for cardiovascular disease control

This fellowship will enable Professor Anthony Rodgers to lead a program of clinical trials assessing the role of ‘polypills’ (combination medicines) in reducing burden from cardiovascular disease and related conditions.  This program will include a prospective international meta-analysis of a first-wave polypill trial; a major study assessing implementation of next generation medicines; and large-scale trials of polypills for diabetes and hypertension. The outcomes of Professor Rodgers’ research will create new treatment and prevention approaches in Australia and internationally, and will further strengthen research capacity for the Institute.

Professor Vlado Perkovic
Senior Research Fellowship

Growing the evidence base for improved outcomes in chronic kidney disease

Professor Perkovic’s fellowship will be focused on a program of research around the development of effective new treatments for preventing chronic kidney disease and its complications. This will include his leadership of several (previously) funded landmark international clinical trials on treatments for the most common forms of kidney disease; development of a renal trials capacity; and a series of ongoing systematic reviews, including blood pressure lowering regimens, dialysis-related disease prevention and a traditional Chinese medicine treatment for prevention of kidney disease progression. The research carried out as part of Professor Perkovic’s fellowship will improve capacity to conduct clinical trials and systematic reviews, and will add to an evidence base for the management of kidney disease in Australia and internationally.

Career development fellowships

Dr Meg Jardine
Evidence for interventions that improve cardiovascular outcomes in chronic kidney disease

Dr Meg Jardine’s research focuses primarily on the epidemiology and mitigation of the cardiovascular burden associated with chronic kidney disease, with an emphasis on research that supports evidence-based medicine. This fellowship funding will allow Dr Jardine to undertake three major clinical trials, which investigate the effects of promising interventions for cardiovascular disease in chronic kidney disease. The outcomes of this research will have potential to be rapidly implemented in health policy and clinical practice in Australia, in addition to delivering immediate benefits for individuals with kidney disease and alleviating strain on the public health system.

Dr Christine Lin
First line treatments for common musculoskeletal conditions: establishing effectiveness and cost-effectiveness

Dr Christine Lin has considerable experience in investigating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatments for musculoskeletal conditions, with the aim of improving patient outcomes and reducing the economic burden to the public health system and society. With the support of this fellowship, Dr Lin will lead a series of clinical studies on first line or recommended treatments based on current practice. Her research findings will be immediately translatable to policy and practice, and will assist with development of research capacity within the Institute.

Dr Julie Redfern
Secondary prevention – increasing uptake and engagement to reduce cardiovascular events

Dr Julie Redfern’s research targets the secondary prevention of coronary disease and the uptake of effective and ongoing preventative care. Her work addresses an area with profound evidence-practice gap. Under this fellowship, Dr Redfern will evaluate access to and engagement with secondary prevention; develop and clinically trial new strategies on case management, including a consumer-directed electronic support system; and increase implementation of health policy via the establishment of a national taskforce and a national framework for secondary prevention and ongoing support for people living with cardiovascular disease.

Early career fellowships

Dr Beverley Essue
Towards a broader economic and social perspective on chronic disease evaluation

Dr Beverley Essue’s research is focused on the fields of health economics, and health policy around economic outcomes for populations affected by chronic illness. She is a promising researcher who has experience and expertise in several areas of health economic research, and has collaborated successfully with a number of non-profit and charity organisations. With the support of this fellowship, Dr Essue will examine the impact of economic and social consequences of living with chronic disease in Australia and Canada, and review commonly used methods of economic assessment in this field and develop a measure to assess this impact. Dr Essue will spend the first two years of her fellowship at McMaster University, Canada, and will then return to Australia. Her research will help influence health care system policy, practice and research.

Dr Min Jun
Proteinuria and risk of adverse outcomes

Dr Min Jun’s research interests are in assessing and developing methods to improve outcomes for individuals with chronic disease, with a particular focus on chronic kidney disease (CKD) and treatments such as antioxidant therapy, glucose-lowering therapy and dialysis-related therapy. Under this fellowship, Dr Jun will continue his important work on therapeutic regimens in CKD, including a systematic review of measures to help predict CKD progression and outcomes. The results from Dr Jun’s research project will contribute to current practice guidelines, which will help inform clinicians on the management of risk factors in people with CKD.