Pre-schoolers, teens and Indigenous women the focus for heart health research funding

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Three Hunter researchers will focus on helping Australians have better heart health by investigating the causes, treatment and prevention of heart disease, after securing more than $385,000 in funding from the Heart Foundation.

Dr Michelle Bovill
Dr Michelle Bovill

Heart disease remains Australia’s leading cause of death, killing more than 34,000 people in one year alone.

Dr Michelle Bovill, from the University of Newcastle’s Thurru Indigenous Health Unit, will use the funding to investigate drug-free approaches to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women quit smoking.

Smoking accounts for 17% of risk factors for adverse health in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The project aims design and implement a series of linked studies, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, to inform the development of culturally responsive smoking cessation strategies to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers to quit smoking during pregnancy.

“My research is about working with Aboriginal women and capturing their voices in the research space to develop interventions that are empowering and supportive for them,” Dr Bovill said.

“Investigating culturally responsive approaches to empower Aboriginal women to quit smoking during pregnancy might be the long way to do it, but it’s the only way that interventions will work.”

Cardiovascular disease in the major cause of premature death experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The project aims to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from five communities into long term partnership to explore and measure appropriate smoking cessation approaches for women during pregnancy and post-partum, which will lead to significant improvements in long term health outcomes.

Other Hunter researchers who received Heart Foundation funding include:

Dr Alice Grady

Improving the health of pre-schoolers: Identifying and assessing the effectiveness of simple childcare-based interventions delivered at scale

Inadequate physical activity and poor diet are modifiable risk factors for obesity, one of the largest contributors to cardiovascular disease (CVD). In Australia, one in four children are overweight or obese.

As physical activity and dietary behaviours developed in childhood track into adulthood, establishing healthy habits in children is recommended to prevent the development of obesity.

This fellowship research program will i) identify effective and cost-effective childcare-based interventions in improving child diet, physical activity, sedentary behaviour and obesity; ii) rank evidence-based obesity prevention interventions that are likely to have the greatest impact, in development and implementation of public health initiatives; and iii) assess the effectiveness of a simple and scalable obesity prevention intervention on child health and intervention outcomes.

This simple intervention has the potential to improve the health of children attending formal care in Australia, reducing the burden of CVD. The research will be conducted at the University of Newcastle within the Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour (PRCHB), and Hunter New England Population Health Research Group.

Dr Rebecca Wyse

Harnessing digital innovation in high school canteens to reduce cardiovascular dietary risk factors in adolescence: A pilot cluster randomised controlled trial

This research aims to implement a novel intervention on using emerging technology to improve the Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) related dietary risk factors of Australian adolescents, a traditionally hard-to-reach group, at a critical point in the development of CVD dietary risks.

Intervention strategies will be delivered via online canteen ordering systems, where students go online to view menus, select and pay. The study will be the first trial internationally of a behavioural intervention targeting this specific demographic.

The trial will provide rigorous evidence regarding the potential efficacy and feasibility of the intervention on this group. Findings will pave the way for rapid translation of reduced CVD risk to thousands of Australian adolescents using online canteen ordering systems.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.