Deakin launches new Institute for Health Transformation

Deakin University will help guide a transformation of the way Australian health and care is promoted, designed and delivered, through a new institute made up of more than 200 researchers from birth to end of life care.

Deakin’s Vice Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO was today joined by Secretary of Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services Kym Peake, to launch the new Institute for Health Transformation at the University’s Melbourne city offices, Deakin Downtown.

Professor den Hollander said the institute would focus on finding innovative solutions to Australia’s most pressing health issues: growing inequality between advantaged and disadvantaged groups, ageing populations with complex conditions, the increasing burden of preventable risk factors such as obesity, and the need to deliver quality care cost-effectively.

“Meeting these challenges will require a transformational redesign of our health and care systems nationally,” Professor den Hollander said.

“We believe innovative partnership research to develop evidence-backed programs and policies that have real-world impact is critical in meeting that aim.

“This new institute will work to transform how our environments impact on our health, improve the quality and experience of patient care, drive down the number of avoidable hospital admissions, and improve the sustainability of our health system.”

More than 200 academic staff and research students will come together as part of the institute, integrating research in prevention and population health, health systems and services, health economics and financing, and data and digital health, a first for any Australian research institute.

Institute Director Professor Anna Peeters said the large and diverse team would all have their eye on three clear goals: to boost population health, improve patient experience and grow efficiency in the healthcare system.

“We are bringing together the long-standing expertise of two Strategic Research Centres, which include the work of the Centre for Quality and Patient Safety, Deakin Health Economics, and the Global Obesity Centre, a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre,” Professor Peeters said.

“By using a collaborative model across Deakin’s Schools of Health and Social Development, Nursing and Midwifery, and Medicine, we will be leveraging the expertise of researchers with the highest possible ratings in their research disciplines nationally for research engagement and impact, including many ranked as world leaders in their fields.

“This includes academics like Professor Steve Allender whose work with communities has led to some of the first noted decreases in childhood obesity rates and is now being emulated around the world. And Associate Professor Samantha Thomas whose gambling harm research has influenced Australian and international policy. While Professor Trisha Dunning AM continues to develop world’s best practice guidelines for personalised treatment and end of life care for people with diabetes.

“More than $10 million in external funding was brought in by the institute’s researchers last year, and we are confident that will grow as we engage further with national and international academic partners, governments, businesses, not-for-profits, health services, care providers and patients to increase our impact.

“The institute will provide excellent translational research that aims to accelerate the ideas we need to transform health and care in Australia and around the world.”

Four new research fellowships have been announced as part of the $4.5 million investment from Deakin into the new institute, aimed at tackling some of Australia’s biggest health issues, including the following:

Reducing inequalities in population health – Closing the gap in Aboriginal nutrition

This three-year project led by the Global Obesity Centre’s Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Jennifer Browne will examine for the first time how population-wide policies – like a sugar tax, food subsidies, junk food advertising ban, or mandatory food labelling – would impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

After smoking, dietary risks and obesity are the biggest drivers of preventable illness and death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Yet up until now no evidence has been collected on which big-ticket obesity prevention policies would be most acceptable and effective for this group.

Delivering value in health care – Putting a price on caring for those with dementia

In Australia, there are currently 200,000 carers looking after a loved one with dementia in the community, but there is little accurate data on how much that informal care is worth.

This project, led by Deakin Health Economics research fellow Dr Lidia Engel, will estimate the monetary value of an hour of informal care provided to people with dementia, using new methodology, accounting for carers’ experience and their preferences.

The data will help inform the cost-effectiveness of a range of different healthcare interventions that may affect informal care. Something that’s increasingly important with reliance on informal caring support growing in line with Australia’s ageing population.

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