‘Biggest winners’ in national preventative health awards

Jul 26 2013

Two HMRI-aligned obesity prevention programs were the biggest winners – not losers – when the inaugural National Preventive Health Awards were announced in Canberra today.

Hunter firm Tomago Aluminium won a Healthy Workplace Award for implementing the Workplace POWER (Preventing Obesity Without Eating like Rabbits) program developed by Professors Phil Morgan, Clare Collins, Robin Callister and Ron Plotnikoff from the University of Newcastle.

The childhood program Good for Kids Good for Life took out the Translational Research category for a joint Hunter New England Population Health/University of Newcastle team led by Professor John Wiggers and Dr Luke Wolfenden.

HMRI Health Research Economist Professor Chris Doran had been shortlisted in the same category as Chief Investigator on the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities report.

Tomago Aluminium won the Large Workplace (200+ workers) category, edging out the Cancer Council Queensland, The Friends’ School in Tasmania and Ipswich City Council.

“POWER began as a randomised control trial in 2010, funded by HMRI and Tomago Aluminium, and it is still reaping benefits for the company,” Professor Morgan said. “It was originally targeted at shift workers but has since been made available to all staff and their extended families.

“We have demonstrated the myriad of health and worksite benefits of the program. Men lost weight and improved their physical and mental health, leading to fewer work injuries, less sick days and greater productivity.”

Tomago Aluminium’s Health, Safety and Environment Manager Simon Mitchell said POWER’s rigorous evidence-based analysis helped build a strong business case while the University/HMRI association gave it credibility.

“It can be a challenge to engage a blue-collar workforce but our crews worked together in the program,” Mr Mitchell said. “As well as seeing the actual results, the anecdotal feedback highlighted a real feel-good factor.”

Dr Wolfenden said Good for Kids Good for Life was a five-year program funded by Hunter New England Health and NSW Health. “The lessons we learned from the program are continuing to inform current practice in managing childhood obesity,” he said.

HMRI had the highest representation of any medical research institute in the awards, which recognise excellence in prevention and health promotion.

“Our goal is to take a leading role in patient-centric medical research,” HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson said. “These awards show we are ideally positioned to achieve translational outcomes with health and wellbeing benefits. Congratulations to both winners, and to Chris Doran for his nomination.”

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.