Research grants for heart health, dysphagia and AIDS in Africa

Research to reduce the risk of repeat heart attacks amongst country people is the focus of a wide-ranging NHMRC partnership project awarded to Flinders University.

The $1.35 million Partnership grant was awarded to the CHAP (Country Heart Attack Prevention) project led by acute care and cardiovascular National Heart Foundation researcher Professor Robyn Clark, from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Flinders.

The project aims to boost the completion of cardiac rehabilitation in rural and remote areas, where statistics show only 20-50% of patients attend rehabilitation – a figure that hasn’t budged in 20 years.

Professor Clark and clinical partners Ms Rosy Tirimacco and Dr Phil Tideman from the integrated Cardiac Clinical network (iCCnet) within the former Country Health SA, are among a comprehensive team of nine internationally renowned chief investigators and six associate investigators, supported by 11 partners contributing an additional $1.89 million, in a project with a total value of $3.24 million.

Professor Clark’s aim is to engage clinicians to recommend cardiac rehabilitation, develop an auto referral system, provide a range of delivery methods including face-to-face, telephone support, apps, websites and general practice models, to improve long term support for heart health.

“When in-person support is difficult to access, innovative ways of delivery and new technologies have huge potential to improve health in distant regions; the challenge is supporting clinicians, their patients and carers to understand the options and access heart rehab through the increasing range of telehealth, apps, avatars, and web based services,” Professor Clark says.

iCCnet has been a leader in telehealth and innovations in cardiac care for rural and remote patients for more than a decade. This project will be the largest whole-of-state translation of evidence into practice project seen in this country.

Successful outcomes from this project will mean that, in South Australia, country cardiac patients will receive equal or even better care than city counterparts.

The CHAP project heads some $2.1 million in NHMRC funding awarded to Flinders University researchers in the current round.

Dr Hailay Gesesew has been awarded $639,750 as an Emerging Leader Investigator to assess the use and effectiveness of a new HIV care and treatment approach about to be implemented in Ethiopia as it endeavours to meet United Nations targets for the diagnosis, treatment and suppression of HIV/AIDS.

The five year NHMRC investigator grant builds on his PhD (awarded in April 2019) in order to develop and evaluate interventions to improve HIV prevention, detection and treatment in Ethiopia, and ultimately to reduce the global burden of HIV.

Called the teach-test-link-trace model, it ‘counsels’ and ‘tests’ people via new self-HIV testing program and house-to-house HIV testing, and then ‘links’ patients to health care services. It also ‘traces’ the “lost-to-follow-up” patients after engaging in HIV care. Dr Gesesew’s project will look at whether the new approach achieves the UNAIDS goals. The grant will also be an important milestone to further specialize Dr Gesesew’s HIV research, and answer several research questions on HIV prevention, care and treatment.

Professor Taher Omari, from the College of Medicine and Public Health, has been awarded $146,783 – adding an additional year to his existing Research Fellowship – to better diagnose dysphagia, or problems with swallowing, a condition that affects an estimated 1 million Australians at any given time.

Swallowing disorders can have many causes including stroke, cancer and many other common diseases, and can result in death from aspiration pneumonia or choking. Robust diagnosis is central to providing better treatment and improving the health outcomes for patients.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint congratulated the researchers on their awards.

“This is important work that has the potential to help people lead happier healthier lives, be they a heart attack patient in the outback who can avoid a repeat episode, someone whose ability to swallow could jeopardise their life, or an AIDS patient in Ethiopia whose successful diagnosis and treatment can inform better models of care in the future.

“Flinders is pleased to be making a difference in these very meaningful areas of research in Australia and globally, and we have committed an additional $100 million investment in research over the next five years to elevate the impact and reach of our work,” Professor Saint says.

Additional information

2018 Partnership Projects PRC3 funding commencing 2019

Application Title: The Country Heart Attack Prevention (CHAP) Project: A four step model of care and clinical pathway for the translation of cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention guidelines into practice for rural and remote patients.

Awarded: $1,353,113.25

Chief Investigators: Professor Robyn Clark (Flinders University College of Nursing and Health Sciences) with: Professor Stephen Nicholls (Monash University), Professor Alex Brown (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute), Professor Derek Chew (Flinders University), Professor John Beltrame (The University of Adelaide), Professor Anthony Maeder (Flinders University College of Nursing and Health Sciences), Associate Professor Carol Maher (University of South Australia), Associate Professor Vincent Versace (Deakin University), Dr Jeroen Hendriks (The University of Adelaide), Dr Philip Tideman (Southern Adelaide Local Health Network).

Project Partners: SA Health, Country Health SA, Country Primary Health Network, Heart Foundation, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Flinders Foundation, the Cardiac Society of Australia & New Zealand, Royal Australian College of General Practice, Australian Cardiac Rehabilitation Association and Exercise Scientists Society of Australia.

Total value: $3.24m (ARC $1.35m, partner contributions $1.89m)

2019 Investigator Grants funding commencing 2020

Application Title: Teach-Test-Link-Trace Model for the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Treatment Targets in Ethiopia: Acceptability and Effectiveness study

Awarded: $639,750.00

Applicant: Dr Hailay Gesesew (Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health)

Application Title: Modernisation of the Assessment of Swallowing Disorders to Achieve Better Diagnosis and Treatments for Dysphagia across all Ages

Awarded: $146,783.00

Applicant: Professor Taher Omari (Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health)

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