A world-leading research centre that integrates the latest health and science evidence with innovative education programs has been established to combat the nation’s alarming obesity rate and other important lifestyle-related health issues.
The Priority Research Centre (PRC) in Physical Activity and Nutrition brings together national and international experts to promote healthy eating and physical activity to address lifestyle diseases including obesity – a problem that costs the Australian economy billions of dollars and is linked to thousands of fatalities each year.
Founding Director, Professor Ron Plotnikoff, said the new PRC was home to a multidisciplinary team of researchers with an impressive track record in physical activity and nutrition research.
“This centre brings together leaders in their field from education, nutrition, exercise physiology, public health and the biomedical sciences to tackle obesity and other health issues from many angles.
“Obesity is a chronic condition and there is no silver bullet. By thinking outside the square and considering evidence from all disciplines, this collaborative effort is already making an impact.”
Researchers at the PRC have received national and international recognition for their successful targeted strategies that help people make better lifestyle choices, reducing their weight and improving health and wellbeing.
“One of our projects, for example, produced weight loss programs for shift workers that worked within the parameters of their unique lifestyle. It wasn’t all about eating salads and always saying no to beer,” Professor Plotnikoff said.
“Informed by the latest nutrition and biomedical evidence, the education program made a major positive and lasting difference to their food and exercise habits and improved quality of life at home and work.
“We have also introduced programs targeting mums as active role models for their daughters and worked with getting dads more engaged with their kids’ health.
“These real world, cost-effective solutions take a multidisciplinary approach and establish a continuum of research from the University through to community outcomes.”
Over 50 per cent of Australians are not meeting minimum physical activity recommendations. On current trends, 90 per cent of men, 70 per cent of women and 50 per cent of children will be obese by 2025.
The centre’s research targets groups that are often overlooked by nutrition and physical activity campaigns, and also focuses on educating parents and community members to be better role models for children.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Mike Calford, said the University’s research strategy focused on bringing together dynamic researchers into multidisciplinary environments.
“The PRC for Physical Activity and Nutrition is the 14th for the University. Collaboration is the key – between researchers, industry and the community. Through this approach, Newcastle’s research is delivering quality results with a global impact.”