Complex global problems such as obesity, the wellbeing of migrants, the health benefits of romantic relationships, and mining community health will be the bread and butter of a new centre at The University of Western Australia.
Associate Professor Neville Bruce, Director of the UWA's Centre for Integrated Human Studies, said such centres tackled the problems facing humankind in the 21st century by examining various factors - psychological, physiological, cultural, economic, social and environmental.
A/Prof Bruce, who will address the 50th anniversary meeting of the Society for the Study of Human Biology at Oxford University on April 3, said a novel holistic, integrated approach might prove to be the key, given that other approaches had often failed.
UWA joins a list of prestigious universities in offering IHS or cognate courses: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, UC Berkeley and Kyoto.
"Our Centre brings together experts including psychologists, physiologists, anthropologists, medical scientists, human ecologists, economists and marketing researchers to assess the mix and relative importance of different factors contributing to problems such as obesity," A/Prof Bruce said.
"We have a number of projects undertaken by Centre members ranging from the causes of childhood obesity in Malaysia to the importance of family meals on eating behaviours and weight management. Through our cross-faculty and international membership, we can stimulate and facilitate international collaborations.
"A good example is that between Dr Sue Byrne, a psychologist from UWA, and Professor Stan Ulijaszek, Director for the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity at Oxford.
"Stan has established an international study of the importance of cultural factors on the prevalence of obesity, and Sue's work involving social and psychological factors contributing to childhood obesity in Australia could provide an important new dimension to Stan's study. They learnt about each other's work at a recent meeting held by our Centre," A/Prof Bruce said.
"This is vital research because, of the 6.5 billion people on this planet, about one billion are overweight or obese."