Deakin to lead three NHMRC partnership projects

03 March 2016

Researchers will work together to combat challenges such as childhood obesity, alcohol-related violence and patient safety.

The Federal Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, has announced that Deakin will lead three major partnership projects funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The announcement marks one of the largest NHMRC Partnership Project rounds ever awarded to Deakin, totalling over $3 million in NHMRC funds, for projects that aim to reduce childhood obesity and alcohol-related harm, and improve the quality of critical nursing care in hospitals.

According to Deakin University’s Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Peter Hodgson, this success reflects Deakin’s growing reputation in the public health field.

“I congratulate the successful researchers involved in these projects, who have worked extremely hard in their respective fields to make a difference to public health,” Professor Hodgson said.

“All three projects have involved extensive groundwork in pilot projects and have the potential to improve public health practices around Australia and overseas.

“I also thank the partner organisations who will be working with us on these important initiatives. Their intellectual and financial contributions, together with their expertise and infrastructure, were critical to the success of these applications.”

“Whole of Systems Trial of Prevention Strategies for childhood obesity: WHO STOPS childhood obesity.”

In a community-wide approach to tackling childhood obesity, Professor Steven Allender, from the School of Health and Social Development and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention (located at Deakin), will lead a five-year trial tackling childhood obesity.

The project team will work with primary care partnerships, primary school principal networks, district health services, local councils and other partners from the Great South Coast Region of Victoria (GSCVR) - a partnership that has already delivered several world-leading childhood obesity prevention interventions.

The new project will aim to increase the capacity of community leaders to use systems thinking for community-wide obesity prevention. It will focus on developing community-built action plans in a randomised trial in ten GSCVR communities, involving parents and leaders from local government, education, clubs, agencies and business, who can influence environments where children experience the key risk factors for obesity.

This program has the potential to provide models for communities across Australia - and could make a real difference to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

Professor Allender will be joined by Deakin’s Dr Lynne Millar, Associate Professor Colin Bell, Professor Marjory Moodie, Professor Robert Carter, Professor Boyd Swinburn, and colleague Dr Peter Hovmand from Washington University Missouri, USA. Key funding partners include: Western Alliance – A Healthier Regional Victoria and Department of Health and Human Services.

“Driving Change: Using Emergency Department Data To Reduce Alcohol-related Harm.”

The second NHMRC Partnership Project also has the potential to improve the wellbeing of Australians. Professor Peter Miller, from Deakin’s Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED), will lead a five-year project that is based on an international model that has been shown to substantially reduce violent crimes, street assaults and hospital admissions related to alcohol.

Building on the international evidence and pilot data from Australia, the team will oversee and evaluate an intervention that aims to reduce alcohol-related injury in the community through a randomised trial in eight emergency departments in Victoria, NSW and the ACT. A key aspect will be the introduction of mandatory “last-drinks” data collection within existing hospital IT systems for triage/clinician follow-up.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over the past decade, the number (from 40,000 to more than 60,000) and rate (from about 200 to 270 hospitalisations per 100,000) of alcohol-related hospitalisations have risen annually

This project has the potential to lead to improved practices in emergency departments across Australia – helping to reduce the national incidence of alcohol-related harm.

Other team members include: Deakin’s Associate Professor Petra Staiger, Associate Professor Timothy Baker, Nic Droste and Dr Steven Bowe; with colleagues from Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Australian National University, Barwon Health, Calvary Health Care ACT, Monash Health, Cardiff University, South West Health Care, St Vincent's Hospital Australia (Melbourne and Sydney) and University of New South Wales.

“Prioritising responses of nurses to deteriorating patient observations (PRONTO).”

The third Partnership Project is being led by Professor Tracey Bucknall, Associate Head (Research), School of Nursing and Midwifery, from Deakin’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS), and Professor of Nursing at Alfred Health.

According to Professor Bucknall, approximately 10 per cent of patients who enter hospitals suffer an adverse event unrelated to their medical condition, which translates to millions of people every day around the world. This project will focus on improving nurses’ measurement and response to vital signs in a bid to reduce serious adverse events and improve patient health.

The researchers have found that a gap between knowledge and practice exists in this regard, despite vital signs being the most common assessment technique employed in healthcare.

“Vital signs are fundamental to patient safety and health in hospital. They are the first step in patient rescue,” Professor Bucknall explained. “If physiological signs of deterioration are missed, misinterpreted or mismanaged by nurses in hospitals, then critical illness, cardiac arrest, unplanned intensive care admissions and death may result.”

Extending collaborative work over the past six years, the researchers will conduct a randomised trial in four Victorian hospitals, with the goal of improving nurses’ adherence to clinical practice guidelines for identifying and managing deteriorating patients in hospital; and determining the effectiveness and cost of an intervention to improve guideline adherence. If successful, the intervention may be introduced in hospitals around Australia.

Other researchers will include: Deakin’s Professor Alison Hutchinson, Professor Julie Considine, Dr Mohammadreza Mohebbi, and Ms Jennifer Watts, and colleagues from Bangor University, the University of Adelaide, Australian National University and the University of Ottawa, Canada. Partners in the project are: Alfred Health, Bangor University (Wales), Monash Health, Eastern Health - Victoria, The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and SA Health.

Professor Peter Miller, Professor Tracey Bucknall and Professor Steven Allender will lead the three NHMRC partnership projects. Professor Peter Miller, Professor Tracey Bucknall and Professor Steven Allender will lead the three NHMRC partnership projects.

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