Public health awards for Deakin

Research news
23 September 2014
The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes and Dr Erik Martin have received CAPHIA awards.

Two Deakin high flyers in public health have achieved success at the recent inaugural awards ceremony of the Council of Academic Public Health Institutions Australia (CAPHIA).

At CAPHIA's annual conference in Perth on 18 September the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes received the "CAPHIA 2014 Team Award for Excellence and Innovation in Public Health Research." Dr Erik Martin, from the School of Medicine, received the "CAPHIA 2014 Award for PhD Excellence in Public Health."

CAPHIA is the peak national organisation that represents public health in universities offering undergraduate and postgraduate programs, and research and community service activity in public health.

Addressing the diabetes dilemma

With diabetes the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia - and around 280 Australians developing the condition every day - there has never been a greater need for understanding what it is like to live with diabetes.

Established four years ago, the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) is making good headway in its investigation of the behavioural, psychological and social aspects of diabetes.

The Centre is a partnership between Diabetes Australia - Vic and Deakin University and works closely with Diabetes Australia - the national diabetes organisation. Its Foundation Director, Professor Jane Speight, who is also Chair in Behavioural and Social Research in Diabetes at Deakin, said that the CAPHIA award reflects the commitment of her team.

"We have a dynamic team who are working hard to understand how we can improve the lives of people with diabetes and their families. I am delighted that the team's efforts have been recognised in this way," Professor Speight said.

Currently over 1.1 million Australians have diabetes and have been diagnosed and live with the condition every day. In addition, up to half the actual cases of type 2 diabetes are believed to be undiagnosed, which would make the estimated prevalence figure for Australians with diabetes around 1.7 million.

Professor Speight explained that the Centre's focus is as diverse as diabetes itself, including: type 1 and type 2 diabetes; the impact on emotional wellbeing (diabetes-related distress and depression); all ages and stages of life; social stigma surrounding diabetes; prevention of severe hypoglycaemia and long-term complications; and the impact of new treatments / technologies on quality of life.

"We are also trying to improve self-care in areas such as self-monitoring of blood glucose, intensifying medications, and increasing physical activity," she said.

"The Centre is an important source of expertise and advice for Diabetes Australia and has informed various policies and professional guidelines, such as Diabetes Australia's Position Statement on communications with and about people with diabetes. We also take every opportunity to influence the everyday practice of clinicians to help them better understand the psychosocial needs of people with diabetes".

Tobacco control

While tobacco use has declined in developed countries, smoking continues to be a problem in many developing countries - accounting for more than 80 per cent of the six million deaths caused by tobacco use each year.

In the Pacific region, for instance, as many as 50 per cent of all adults in Nauru and 30 per cent of adults in the Cook Islands are believed to be smokers.

This high incidence will, of course, have an effect on death rates, lung and cardiovascular disease - and increase all of the many other health issues associated with smoking.

For his PhD, Erik Martin, now an Associate Lecturer in Public Health within Deakin's School of Medicine, examined the complexities of implementing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international tobacco control treaty, in the Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Palau and Nauru.

The treaty has now been signed by 178 countries, representing 89 per cent of the world's population. It includes a number of measures that aim to reduce tobacco smoking, such as taxation, bans on advertising and sponsorship, and health warnings on packaging.

Dr Martin said he was "quite surprised, but very pleased" to receive the CAPHIA award and it provided "important recognition for this area of public health."

He hopes to undertake further research on smoking in the Pacific Islands, to assess the effectiveness of the treaty, and in Australia, to work towards reducing smoking amongst indigenous communities.

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Professor Jane Speight, Director of the ACBRD (top) and Dr Erik Martin receive their awards from Prof Catherine Bennett, President of CAPHIA (left) and Professor Mike Daube AO, Curtin University. Professor Jane Speight, Director of the ACBRD (top) and Dr Erik Martin receive their awards from Prof Catherine Bennett, President of CAPHIA (left) and Professor Mike Daube AO, Curtin University.

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