Preventing and managing chronic conditions

This domain focuses on the development, implementation, evaluation and translation of lifestyle-based solutions for the prevention and management of chronic conditions. This includes cardiometabolic and musculoskeletal-related conditions, brain, cognitive and mood-related disorders, and cancer.

This domain consists of five research groups:

  • Digital health for lifestyle and disease management
  • Behavioural approaches to promote healthy lifestyles
  • Musculoskeletal health and mobility
  • Exercise and nutrition for brain health
  • Exercise and nutrition for cancer.

Researchers in this domain have expertise in:

  • The use of effective behaviour-change approaches for promoting physical activity and nutrition across the lifespan for chronic disease prevention and management
  • Conducting high-quality clinical and translational randomised controlled trials
  • Large-scale epidemiological studies
  • Digital health solutions
  • The assessment of cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and brain health and cognition using state-of-the-art techniques.

Digital health for lifestyle and disease management

Group leader: Professor Ralph Maddison

Group members: Dr Susie Cartledge, Dr Shariful Islam, Dr Jonathan Rawstorn

The Digital health for lifestyle and disease management group focuses on the development and evaluation of effective, scalable solutions for the prevention and management of chronic diseases, including (but not limited to) cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Our group has expertise in the development and evaluation of theory and evidence-based technology interventions across a range of settings (homes, hospitals and communities) and populations (adults and clinical populations).

Our research incorporates the use of mobile devices, wearable sensors, home-sensing, and wearable cameras to measure and influence behavioural and health outcomes. We also have considerable expertise in the design and delivery of pragmatic, randomised controlled trials.

This group covers:

  • Designing and evaluating the effectiveness of digital health interventions for the secondary prevention of disease
  • Understanding how technologies can be used to improve the reach, flexibility, and individualisation of interventions to modify behavioural risk factors for disease
  • Exploring the potential of wireless sensors and devices for monitoring physiological parameters and health-related behaviours
  • Investigating how to implement and deliver digital health solutions at scale.

Behavioural approaches to promote healthy lifestyles

Group leader: Alfred Deakin Professor Kylie Ball

Group members: Alfred Deakin Professor David Crawford, Dr Rebecca Lindberg, Dr Katherine Livingstone, Dr Helen Macpherson, Dr Rachelle Opie, Dr Megan Teychenne

The Behavioural approaches to promote healthy lifestyles group focuses on the development and evaluation of effective behaviour change approaches for promoting both healthy eating and physically-active lifestyles.  Our group has expertise in the design, conduct and evaluation of theoretically-grounded, evidence-based behaviour change interventions targeting adults across a range of settings and populations, in both the general and clinical populations. Our group has a particular focus on addressing inequity and promoting healthy lifestyles among vulnerable groups, including those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, with poor mental health, or with other chronic diseases.

This group covers:

  • Investigating behavioural mediators of socioeconomic inequities in diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviours among adults
  • Developing behavioural interventions for healthy eating and physically-active lifestyles
  • Evaluating behavioural approaches to promoting healthy eating and physical activity amongst socioeconomically disadvantaged men and women
  • Evaluating behavioural approaches to promoting healthy eating and physical activity amongst people with/at risk of depression
  • Testing feasibility of established and novel approaches to promoting healthy eating and physical activity among vulnerable groups.

Musculoskeletal health and mobility

Group leader: Professor Robin Daly

Group members: Associate Professor Daniel Belavy, Associate Professor Steve Fraser, Dr Rachel Duckham, Dr Stuart Warmington

The Musculoskeletal health and mobility group focuses on the integration of exercise and nutritional approaches for the primary and secondary prevention of musculoskeletal-related conditions throughout the life course. Our group has specific expertise in conducting large-scale human clinical intervention trials and translational studies, particularly in the areas of osteoporosis, sarcopenia, falls and fractures and spinal health. There is also a strong focus on the prevention and management of musculoskeletal-related complications associated with other chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, certain types of cancer and cognitive related disorders.

In terms of translational activities, our group has experience and expertise in conducting ‘research to practice’ trials, and evaluating their effectiveness within the community. Our group actively engages with relevant stakeholders - including medical practitioners, specialists, allied health professionals and industry - to inform policy, practice and clinical guidelines.

This group covers:

  • Understanding the independent and combined effects of exercise and nutrition on musculoskeletal health and mobility across the lifespan
  • Exploring the mechanisms of musculoskeletal disease causation to guide the development of more effective and/or novel interventions
  • Designing and evaluating human clinical intervention trials to understand primary and secondary prevention of musculoskeletal related conditions, that will provide high-level evidence to inform policy, practice and clinical guidelines
  • Exploring the role of health technologies to aid the prescription of evidence-based exercise programs for healthy older adults and those with musculoskeletal-related conditions
  • Developing novel methodologies for assessing various musculoskeletal-related tissues (bone, body composition, cartilage, (inter)vertebral disc, marrow adipose tissue).

Exercise and nutrition for brain health

Group leader: Dr Helen Macpherson

Group members: Professor Robin Daly, Associate Professor Daniel Belavy, Associate Professor Susan Torres, Dr Barbara Cardoso, Dr Ash Hendy, Dr Catherine Milte, Dr Ewa Szymlek-Gay, Dr Megan Teychenne

The Nutrition and exercise for brain health group focuses on developing optimal nutrition, physical activity and exercise strategies to maximise brain health and cognitive function across the lifespan. In particular, our group is comprised of multi-disciplinary researchers with expertise ranging from molecular biology, analytical chemistry, proteomics, neurophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, qualitative research methods, physical activity, sedentary behaviour and nutritional epidemiology and population-data analyses. Collectively, our research strengths are in the areas of ageing neuroscience, mental health, neuro-rehabilitation, and the conduct of clinical and translational intervention trials and large-scale epidemiological studies.

This group covers:

  • Using state-of-the-art brain imaging and behavioral techniques for assessing cognition and brain function
  • Understanding the role of nutrition (including micronutrients, dietary patterns and supplements), physical activity and sedentary behavior on healthy cognitive ageing, neurodegenerative diseases and mental illness across the lifespan
  • Conducting clinical intervention trials to evaluate the effectiveness of nutritional and exercise interventions, and their combination, on cognitive and mental health
  • Exploring the role of health technologies to deliver exercise programs to improve cognitive health and function in older adults and those with chronic neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s disease and dementia)
  • Understanding and exploring the links between brain and cognitive health with other chronic conditions, such as sarcopenia, diabetes, stroke and lower back pain.

Exercise and nutrition for cancer

Group leaders: Associate Professor Steve Fraser, Dr Nicole Kiss

Group member: Professor Robin Daly, Dr Brenton Baguley

The Exercise and nutrition for cancer group focuses on exercise and nutrition interventions to optimise musculoskeletal, nutritional, functional and quality of life outcomes for people with cancer. Members of our group have specific expertise in the evaluation of novel models of health care delivery, randomised controlled trials, and exercise and nutrition interventions, particularly in the area of lung, prostate, breast and adolescent and young adult cancers.

Areas of focus include body composition changes and the impact of sarcopenia and bone loss on patient outcomes, recognition and management of cancer malnutrition, and optimised exercise and nutrition interventions that minimise adverse effects of cancer treatment. Our group has a strong national and international network of collaborators and partnerships in clinical health services and academic settings. Members have expertise in translation of research into direct improvements in clinical practice through contribution to national evidence-based clinical guidelines and resources for cancer clinicians.

This group covers:

  • Understanding the effects of cancer treatment on patients’ musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, nutritional, functional and psychosocial outcomes
  • Optimising nutritional and exercise interventions that minimise the adverse effects of cancer treatment
  • Informing nutrition and exercise guidelines for cancer care
  • Educating cancer clinicians on the importance of exercise and nutritional interventions as part of usual care for cancer patients
  • Implementing novel models of health care delivery in the oncology setting.