Ground-breaking collaborative research to improve longer-term health outcomes for preterm babies and better health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children has underpinned the establishment of two new National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centres of Research Excellence based at The University of Western Australia.
The NHMRC this week awarded almost $2.5 million over five years to establish The Centre of Research Excellence for Improving the Immediate and Longer-Term Health Outcomes of Preterm Infants. The new UWA-based Centre involves scientists from five Australian states, collaborating to examine and develop treatments for preterm infants in a holistic manner.
Worldwide, 15 million babies are born prematurely (less than 37 weeks gestational age) each year, and one million of these babies will die due to complications of preterm birth. In Australia, 1.5% of all births are considered very preterm (less than 32 weeks gestational age). Those who survive may have one or more long-term health problems that can be not only expensive to treat but result in social and psychological hardship for the child and family.
The Centre brings together physicians and scientists specialising in areas such as nutrition, ventilation, infection, cardiology and neurodevelopment. This approach to the research and treatment of the illnesses of preterm infants is unique and aims to provide better health outcomes for premature babies.
"Early life influences have a huge impact on long-term health, development and behaviour, especially in infants born prematurely," UWA Winthrop Professor Karen Simmer said. "The research we will conduct in this Centre will allow us to develop new treatments to improve their quality of life."
The second new Centre - The Centre of Research Excellence in improving health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children - aims to improve health and developmental outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
The Centre, which also attracted nearly $2.5 million in NHMRC funding, "will work in partnership to conduct research into the accessibility and quality of health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait children and will provide new knowledge about the health services Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children should receive," UWA Winthrop Professor Karen Edmond said.
"It brings together national and international researchers from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, non-government and mainstream organisations, and we have developed a research partnership that focuses on proximal issues in delivery of Aboriginal child health services.
"Researchers would work together to generate new knowledge, translate that knowledge into policy and practice, build capacity and foster collaborations."
UWA researchers are also integrally involved in the Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy, Liveable and Equitable Communities based at The University of Melbourne which was awarded almost $2.5 million in NHMRC funding over five years.
The team will work together to determine what cost-effective measures would create healthy, liveable and equitable communities in Australia and how this could be translated into policy and practice.
Professor Fiona Bull, UWA's Centre for the Built Environment and Health, said it would enable UWA researchers to scale up their research activities to the national level and work alongside a team of national and international researchers to identify ways to improve the built environment and create healthier, more liveable communities.
"This research is vital given the pressures faced from an aging population, increasing trends in chronic disease and the rapid growth of our capital and regional cities across Australia," Professor Bull said.
UWA Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Robyn Owens said the success of the University's researchers in obtaining Centres of Research Excellence funding was recognition of their leadership in child and environmental health research.
Winthrop Professor Karen Simmer (School of Paediatrics and Child Health) (+61 8) 9340 1262
Winthrop Professor Karen Edmond (School of Paediatrics and Child Health) (+61 8) 9340 8142
Professor Fiona Bull (UWA Centre for the Built Environment and Health) (+61 8) 6488 1249 / (+61 4) 07 703 893)
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783