More than $10 million to support innovations in health service delivery

Six projects led by Hunter researchers have been successful in attracting a combined total of $10.6 million in the latest round of competitive National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.

From scalable education programs; to addressing substance abuse; to improving Aboriginal children’s health, three NHMRC Investigator Grants and three Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Investigator Grants led by University of Newcastle, Hunter Medical Research Institute and Hunter New England Health affiliates will address areas of chronic disease prevention to improve health outcomes for our communities.

The successful NHMRC Investigator Grant recipients are:

  • $2,738,220 over five years awarded to Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden to identify effective chronic disease implementations promoting health behaviours such as physical activity, healthy diet and smoking cessation to be delivered on large scale in real-world contexts.
  • $2,090,576 over five years awarded to Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin to provide new and better understanding of how, when, and what to use when treating mental disorders. The work will leverage the transformative potential of technology to rapidly and significantly improve treatment access.
  • $1,123,450 over five years awarded to conjoint Associate Professor Kelvin Kong to explore a telehealth ear, nose and throat (ENT) model, based in metropolitan, rural and regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, enabling improvement in Aboriginal children’s access to specialist ENT care and a reduction in the waiting time for treatment during the vital years of early childhood ear and hearing health. The Indigenous-led telehealth research will create an efficient, culturally appropriate hearing health care model for all Indigenous Australians.

The successful MRFF Investigator Grant recipients are:

  • $1,562,250 awarded to Dr Rachel Sutherland to identify effective school-based chronic disease prevention interventions suitable for scale-up to inform Australian government action and prevent the onset of chronic disease at a young age.
  • $1,562,250 awarded to Dr Nicole Nathan to investigate key impediments to sustainable chronic disease prevention programs in the community and identify effective strategies for sustaining diet, physical activity and obesity prevention initiatives in schools.
  • $1,562,250 awarded to Dr Vanessa Murphy to further her contributions to asthma care and work towards personalised management of asthma during pregnancy to be incorporated into antenatal care guidelines and implemented into clinical practice at a local, national and international level.

The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), Professor Janet Nelson, said the significant outcome was fantastic recognition of the vital research happening across our region, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

“As we navigate a very challenging funding environment, it is incredibly encouraging to see our researchers continue to be recognised for their important work. While globally, there is a united focus on combatting COVID-19, it is essential that we continue to strive and invest in understanding and developing novel treatments for the vast array of health concerns that continue to affect our populations,” Professor Nelson said.

“As a University, we are committed to delivering improved health outcomes and increasing the wellbeing of our communities. We want to see better, healthier living for the Hunter, and these wonderful achievements will help us contribute towards this strategic objective.

“I sincerely congratulate all our recipients of today’s announcement and I look forward to seeing the results of their impactful projects.”

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