$2.35m for translational health studies

Jul 25 2018

Clockwise, Andrew Boyle, John Attia, Luke Wolfenden, Aaron Sverdlov

Communities across the Hunter New England Health (HNEH) region will benefit from the most up-to-date healthcare, with four local projects receiving funding through the highly competitive NSW Health Translational Research Grant Scheme (TRGS).

The Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Brad Hazzard, has announced the latest funding recipients of the TRGS scheme, which supports projects in NSW that provide improved services, patient outcomes and population health.

Around $7 million has been allocated across NSW, with approximately 50 per cent dedicated to projects based on this year’s priority theme – cardiovascular health. Researchers from Hunter New England Health, the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute have been awarded $2,352,889 towards their translation research projects.

Recipients include Professor Andrew Boyle, Professor John Attia, Associate Professor Aaron Sverdlov, and Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden. Hunter New England Health has also been asked to partner with Murrumbidgee Local Health District for a project focused on children’s health. 

Hunter New England Health Chief Executive, Michael DiRienzo, said that this success reflects the increased focus across the region on research and innovation. “Congratulations to all the TRGS recipients across the state, especially those within Hunter New England Health," he said. “This funding has put us in an ideal position to improve the health of people across the country, including those in regional and rural communities through research.”

Hunter New England Health was invited to put forward four projects – all of which were successful. Mr DiRienzo says this proves the dedication of the region’s highly skilled workforce to improve patient outcomes.

“This is an excellent result for everyone involved in research and innovation across our District and really demonstrates the hard work our staff put in to improving the health of our patients and communities. 

“I am certain these grants will help us improve clinical care, access to services and most importantly, patient outcomes across our region and across the state.”

Professor Andrew Boyle was granted $651,155 for his project ‘Management of Rural Acute Coronary Syndrome (MORACS)’, which aims to define a new paradigm for assessment and management of Acute Coronary Syndrome in rural settings.

This comes off the back of findings that one third of patients presenting to Australia hospitals with STEMI (Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction) do not receive standard primary reperfusion treatment. This treatment involves thrombolysis (pharmacological treatment), which if delivered in a timely fashion, has similar outcomes to surgical intervention. Misdiagnosis of treatment increases mortality/morbidity rates, readmission rates and length of hospital stays, which is overrepresented in rural hospitals.

This project will randomise small rural hospitals for usual care or mandated advice from a central hub service, which will channel patients into existing ACS management structures. The primary outcome will be the difference in identification of patients who present to rural hospitals across two LHDs: HNELHD and South Western Sydney LHD.

Professor John Attia was granted $662,000 for his project ‘Implementation of a new model of care for pre-diabetic patients: can we prevent progression?’, which aims to implement a new, evidence-based model of care for diabetes prevention and to help people manage their own health.

Previous research has found that 2 million Australian’s have prediabetes and are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition to lifestyle intervention, zinc supplementation has been found to reduce insulin resistance, which is supported by evidence from two different meta-analyses of 25 small-scale randomised controlled trials and other studies.

Working through an innovative model of partnership between two LHDs and GPs, 410 people aged 40-70 years with prediabetes will be recruited and a randomised controlled trial will be conducted. The control group will receive the existing and effective NSW Health Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service for diabetes prevention, and a placebo capsule, while the intervention group will receive the same lifestyle intervention, plus a 30mg daily elemental zinc capsule. Outcomes over 12 months will include measures of adherence, insulin resistance and glycaemic markers, lipids, other CVD risk factors, and cost-effectiveness.

Associate Professor Aaron Sverdlov was granted $476,376 for his project entitled ‘Improving Outcomes Following Hospitalisation for Heart Failure in Regional and Remote NSW’, which aims to intervene at a primary care level to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs by reducing preventable admissions.

In NSW alone, heart failure healthcare costs are estimated at $1bn/year, mainly related to hospitalisation costs. NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) has identified HF service delivery as a key area for improvement.

The focus of this project is to improve timely diagnosis and treatment, through the implementation of a GP education ‘masterclass’, involving NT-proBNP monitoring, patient-centred daily HF diary and home-based HF exercise program.

Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden was granted $560,358 for his project ‘Swap What’s Packed in the Lunchbox (SWAP-It)’, which aims to develop and pilot an online healthy lunchbox intervention.

Studies show that children consume a third of their daily energy intake at school, with many items being energy-dense and nutrient poor. The main issue with current approaches to improving foods packed for children, is an inability to effectively reach parents. This project will see a partnership with the leading provider of an online school communication platform in NSW to communicate with parents (accessing 1550 schools and approximately 465,000 children). 

The primary aim of this study is to assess, via a randomised controlled trial, the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an intervention that makes use of an existing online communication provider to improve the kilojoule content from discretionary foods and drinks packed in a child’s lunchbox.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District has teamed up with HNE Investigator and Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden, for their project ‘Evaluating two healthy eating and active living support programs for parents of 2-6 year old children’. The project will assess the effectiveness of Time2bHealthy (online) and Healthy Habits (telephone-based), and has been granted $961,639 in funding.