Researchers from UWA have been awarded more than $22.3 million to support nine vital health research projects, under the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.
“It is critical that we improve dementia detection and early diagnosis and supports for our Elders, who are not only community leaders, but knowledge keepers and living libraries, and the custodians of culture, carers of country and educators for all."Dr Kate Smith, Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health, UWA Medical School
The projects include community-led research improving treatments for rheumatic heart disease (RHD), ways to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal children hospitalised with lung infections and a national expansion of a program to improve physical activity levels of children at childcare centres.
Adjunct Associate Professor Laurens Manning, from UWA’s Medical School and the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute, received $1 million to improve the current, outdated treatment model for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with RHD.
Currently, patients with RHD undergo extremely painful but life-saving penicillin injections every month for a minimum of ten years to prevent fatal damage to the heart.
“This has been the standard treatment for the past 70 years but has proven to be ineffective, as most patients do not complete their prescribed therapy due to difficulties with the inflexibility of the timing, discomfort from the particularly painful intramuscular injections and access to healthcare facilities,” Associate Professor Manning said.
The project, to be co-led by Associate Professor Glenn Pearson from UWA’s Medical School, the Telethon Kids Institute’s Director of First Nations Strategy and Leadership, aims to bring more choice and flexibility into RHD treatment.
Dr Kate Smith, research lead at the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at UWA’s Medical School, has been awarded more than $1.9 million to boost dementia assessment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The money will be used to build on the strengths of the Kimberley Indigenous Cognitive Assessment Tool (KICA), the only valid dementia screening tool for First Nations populations.
“It is critical that we improve dementia detection and early diagnosis and supports for our Elders, who are not only community leaders, but knowledge keepers and living libraries, and the custodians of culture, carers of country and educators for all,” Dr Smith said.
Adjunct Associate Professor Amy Page, from UWA’s School of Allied Health, received nearly $1.5 million to bring together an international team of researchers to enhance the safe and effective use of medicines for older Australians living in residential aged care.
“Pharmacists will be funded to work onsite in residential aged care facilities to enhance the safe and effective use of medicines for older people living in residential care,” she said. “This grant will support the successful transition of pharmacists into these new onsite roles.”
Associate Professor Hayley Christian, from the UWA Medical School and Telethon Kids Institute, has been awarded $1.7 million to expand the successful Play Active project, which seeks to improve physical activity levels of children at childcare centres.
The expansion will see the WA pilot program roll out nationally, giving childcare centres and educators the resources they need to make sure children are active throughout the day.
“Play Active provides services with clear, evidence-informed guidance on the amount of physical activity, screen and sedentary time children should have while attending early childhood education and childcare,” Associate Professor Christian said.
“It also provides training and resources to support educators turn the Play Active policy into action. It boosts their physical activity levels by providing children with many energetic play opportunities through the day.”
MandEval, or Mandate Evaluation, a large-scale, interdisciplinary research program led by UWA, will explore the impact of government COVID-19 vaccine mandates, was boosted by $4.7 million in funding.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Katie Attwell, from UWA's School of Social Sciences’ VaxPolLab, said the collaborative project would gather and use data on COVID vaccine mandates and collaborate with decision makers to guide policy for future COVID waves and vaccines, future pandemic preparedness, and routine adult and childhood immunisation programs.
Professor Yuben Moodley, from UWA Medical School, received nearly $2 million for research into Treatable Traits in Interstitial Lung Disease, a group of disorders that prove progressive scarring in lung disease. The team will test if specifically addressing these treatable traits improves patient outcomes and is cost-effective.
Dr Pamela Laird received more than $1.9 million to head a program to improve medical follow-up and health outcomes for Aboriginal children hospitalised with lung infections.
Over the next four years Dr Laird, from Telethon Kids Institue who is a researcher with the Wal-yan Respiratory Research Centre and a physiotherapist with Perth Children’s Hospital, will lead a team of researchers to develop and trial an effective, culturally secure follow-up strategy.
Funding of $4.8 million will be used by UWA Associate Professor Gina Ravenscroft, from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, to explore the missing heritability of human disease, looking at genetic contributions to traits and diseases. The research team will work to implement these approaches into routine clinical care for the benefit of all Australian rare disease patients.
Professor Leon Adams, from UWA Medical School, received $2.5 million for investigation into identifying advanced liver fibrosis in primary care. The trial will examine whether using computer software integrated into a general practice and combined with new diagnostic tests will increase the detection of advanced liver fibrosis in patients with risk factors for liver disease who attend their general practitioner.
The Medical Research Future Fund grants were announced by Minister Mark Butler. All 193 projects to receive funding in this round can be found here.