Health research makes an IMPACT

Research news
22 November 2015
Researchers in the IMPACT SRC have received a raft of awards in recent months.

The world class research taking place at Deakin University’s Centre for Innovation in Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Treatment (IMPACT) has been recognised in a host of recent national grants and awards in the areas of osteoporosis and mental health.

The IMPACT Strategic Research Centre is based at Barwon Health - at the centre of Geelong’s clinical health precinct – and supports around 50 researchers and students.

Its research is making a difference to the health and well-being of communities in Australia and overseas, with researchers investigating the connections between social disadvantage, stress and health; bipolar disorder and osteoporosis; and diet and mental health, among many other projects

In the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) awards announced recently, three of IMPACT’s senior researchers received major grants and fellowships.

Dr Lana Williams was awarded funding for a three-year project “Bone health in bipolar disorder.”

“Just under half of all people with bipolar disorder have a chronic physical illness. In terms of our understanding, the one neglected co-occurring disease is osteoporosis. This field remains almost completely unexplored, with obvious major public health implications,” said Dr Williams.

IMPACT’s Dr Sharon Brennan-Olsen and Associate Professor Felice Jacka received two of the three four-year NHMRC Career Development Fellowships awarded to Deakin last week.

Dr Brennan-Olsen will use her Fellowship to investigate the causes of the social disparities in osteoporosis.

“It is widely accepted that environmental and lifestyle factors play an important role in the development of chronic diseases,” Dr Brennan-Olsen said.

“My work will provide world-first information regarding the connections between social determinants, such as lifestyle behaviours, with inflammation and osteoporosis.”

Dr Brennan-Olsen was also recently awarded the 2015 Professor Philip Sambrook Award from Osteoporosis Australia and the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, for her conceptual model that showed how social disadvantage increases stress throughout the lifespan, contributing to increased inflammation and greater risk of osteoporotic fracture in disadvantaged populations.

“As researchers, we may not be able to change people’s socioeconomic status or income, but we can provide a research base that informs future policy and lifestyle-related interventions that will make a difference,” she said.

IMPACT’s Associate Professor Jacka will use her fellowship to build on her work in diet and mental health, investigating how new knowledge can be translated into innovative prevention and treatment strategies.

“We’ve shown that across the world and across age groups, diet quality is relevant to risk factors for mental health disorders, depression in particular,” she said.

In further osteoporosis research, IMPACT’s Deputy-Director Professor Julie Pasco recently received funding from Amgen/GSK/Osteoporosis Australia to trial an innovative measurement tool that assesses bone quality and toughness.

“This project will use the world’s first hand-held bone indenter, the OsteoProbe, and is likely to have important clinical implications,” said Professor Pasco.

“The probe provides a portable, quick and cost effective way of measuring bone strength. It has a promising future for refining risk assessment in people with skeletal fragility from conditions such as osteoporosis, who are at increased risk of fracture.”

Numerous other awards have been presented to IMPACT researchers in recent months. Director, Professor Michael Berk, received the prestigious 2015 Colvin Prize for his life-time achievements in brain and behaviour research.

Dr Olivia Dean was awarded the 2015 Australian Society for Bipolar and Depressive Disorders (ASBDD)/Servier Award for her work investigating biomarkers for bipolar disorder, and Melanie Ashton received the 2015 ASBDD/Lundbeck Award to support her PhD investigating the adjunctive use of mangosteen pericarp for bipolar depression.

PhD student Emma Gliddon has been awarded the Past District Governor Geoff Betts 2015 Early Mental Health Researcher Award for her PhD project in online interventions for Bipolar Disorder.

Finally, Dr Kara Holloway and Dr Brisa Fernandes were appointed Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellows.


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Clockwise from top left: Dr Lana Williams,  Professor Julie Pasco, Dr Sharon Brennan-Olsen and Associate Professor Felice Jacka. Clockwise from top left: Dr Lana Williams, Professor Julie Pasco, Dr Sharon Brennan-Olsen and Associate Professor Felice Jacka.

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