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Media Release

February 25 2010

UniSA wins funding to tackle Indigenous diabetes and cardiovascular epidemic

The National Health and Medical Research Council has awarded researchers at UniSA a prestigious Program Grant to support research into the causes, appropriate interventions and health system changes that will help reduce the incidence and adverse health impacts of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in Indigenous populations.

Lead investigator and Director of UniSA’s Sansom Institute for Health Research, Professor Kerin O’Dea and her UniSA colleagues Professors Robyn McDermott, John Lynch, and Leonie Segal, with Kevin Rowley from the University of Melbourne have been awarded more than $8 million over five years.

Professor O’Dea says support for the project will help to tackle a serious and urgent problem.

“The impact of diabetes and cardiovascular disease is devastating because it is affecting Indigenous people at such young ages, and at rates around 10 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians,” Professor O’Dea said.

“The research team will be developing comprehensive approaches to the problem by combining strengths in epidemiology and population health with expertise in interventions at the community and population level, health economics and health systems change.”

The NHMRC Program Grant will support a multi-skilled team of senior and junior researchers with Indigenous partners to better understand the development of these conditions and guide the development of diet, lifestyle, clinical and health system interventions in order to minimise their adverse impacts and improve health overall.

“It is an exciting program and one we hope will make an important difference to Indigenous health outcomes into the future,” Professor O’Dea says.

UniSA Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj said he was very pleased that the expertise of UniSA’s researchers had been recognised by the award of such a large and prestigious grant.

“The award of this Program Grant, along with Professor Robyn McDermott’s recent success in NHMRC Partnership grant funding and Professor John Lynch’s award of an Australia Fellowship in 2009, is a tribute to the international standing of UniSA researchers working in population health, and further adds to the University’s rapidly growing research income,” Prof Høj said.

“However, most importantly, in this and related research we hope to make a real difference to people’s lives in an area of great need.”

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