An active pursuit
The University of Newcastle's first Chair in Physical Education and Population Health, and founding director of the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, believes inactivity is one of the greatest health challenges facing our society.
"Research demonstrates that over 50 per cent of our population do not meet recommended physical activity guidelines," he says.
"Australians love their sport but there is a significant disconnect between spectator interest and participation levels. The nation's health would be vastly different story if Australia's passion for sport translated into more people being active."
The stakes are high. Plotnikoff cites a 2008 report commissioned by a major health insurer which estimated the cost of physical inactivity to the Australian economy was $14 billion a year and found it contributed to approximately 16,000 fatalities annually.
"Inactivity is a major national issue given the benefits of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of health conditions and the prevalence of people in our community who are inactive," Plotnikoff says.
An internationally recognised researcher with an extensive background working in public health in his native Canada, Plotnikoff believes the new centre will be the perfect vehicle for promoting better health and quality of life. He says drawing on the expertise in the University across a number of disciplines will add significant value to the centre's research capability.
A joint initiative between the Faculty of Health and Faculty of Education and Arts, the centre's researchers are drawn from the schools of Education, Health Sciences, Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, and Medicine and Public Health.
"My own background encompasses kinesiology, education and physical education, epidemiology and community medicine. It makes very good sense to establish this centre with a genuine interdisciplinary approach to these complex problems," Plotnikoff says.
"Through designing new research interventions for physical activity and nutrition that are evidence-based, sustainable and cost-effective, we aim to shift the statistical population curve in the right direction."
Professor Ron Plotnikoff researches in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Cardiovascular Health Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University, the Hunter New England Local Health District and the community.