UNSW receives $4.7m to pursue health prevention research

20 May 2022
Health prevention

NSW Health’s Round Six of the Prevention Research Support Program will fund research on infectious diseases, drug and alcohol use and primary health care.

UNSW Sydney researchers will receive $4.7 million in funding from the NSW government for prevention research in infectious diseases, drug and alcohol use and primary health care.

The funding, announced as part of NSW Health’s Prevention Research Support Program (PRSP), is designed to support NSW research organisations conducting prevention and early intervention research that aligns with NSW Health priorities. The program supports research infrastructure and strategies to build research capability and translate evidence from research into policy and practice.

Senior Vice-Dean (Research and Operations) at UNSW Medicine & Health, Professor Sean Emery, congratulated the successful UNSW researchers.

“This awards scheme is incredibly important as it aligns with our faculty’s strategy to reduce health inequities and improve health outcomes,” Prof. Emery said.

Prevention and interventions for infectious diseases

A team of researchers at The Kirby Institute at UNSW have been awarded $1.8 million to undertake research aimed at preventing people acquiring a range of infectious diseases, including:

  • Developing capacity for the evaluation of HIV prevention interventions implemented within clinics and community settings 
  • Monitoring and evaluation of hepatitis C elimination
  • Organising and co-designing HPV immunisation services with students with disabilities
  • Community led models to optimise the uptake of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks and embed syphilis testing.

“The Kirby Institute has a strong track record of impactful prevention and early intervention research, including scale-up of HIV prevention programs, research to prevent STIs among young Aboriginal people and studies to prevent the spread of hepatitis C in prisons,” the Kirby Institute’s Director, Professor Anthony Kelleher, said. 

“The research we’ll be conducting with this funding support has the potential to improve the health of thousands of people living in NSW by preventing them from acquiring severe and complex infectious diseases. We’re grateful to the NSW government for this funding and look forward to working in partnership with them on these exciting projects,” he said. 

Rural and regional focus on alcohol and drug prevention

Researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW have been awarded $1.7 million over four years for a program of work focused on the prevention of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and harms in rural and regional NSW.

The program will be co-chaired by NDARC and the NSW Health Centre for Alcohol and Other Drugs. The team at NDARC will be led by Professor Anthony Shakeshaft.

Lead researcher, NDARC’s Dr Sara Farnbach, said the collaboration encompasses three key areas that extend and complement the work of the two organisations.

The first is focused on community-led responses to reducing AOD use and harms.

“We will determine the distribution of AOD harms and partner with willing communities to co-design and evaluate strategies to reduce those issues,” Dr Farnbach said.

The second is supporting rural GPs to implement AOD primary prevention strategies. NDARC engages with GPs as opioid substitution treatment providers and will explore new areas of AOD harm prevention.

The third activity area is the co-design, implementation, and evaluation of a process for the uptake of trauma informed care in rural and remote AOD services.

Responding to the detrimental impact of trauma on health and wellbeing is a national health system challenge. 

“Trauma and adverse childhood experiences are widespread, and particularly prevalent among people who develop AOD dependence,” Dr Farnbach said.

“There is already strong evidence for the benefits of providing trauma informed care for patients and staff, and that health services are willing to implement it.

“This project will complement NSW Health’s existing focus on this approach by co-designing a process for rural health services to deliver trauma informed care in practice.”

Support for research on health inequities

The Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity was awarded $1.2 million over four years to build capability and strengthen prevention and early intervention research. This includes research in five areas, including:

  • Prevention and management of chronic conditions
  • Integrating health care between community and hospital practice
  • Improving health equity
  • Sharing information and using digital technology to improve health
  • Healthy environments.

“This grant enables us to work with local health districts and primary health networks in NSW to conduct research and help translate research into practice to improve health and reduce health inequities,” the Centre’s Scientia Professor Mark Fort Harris said. “It also helps us to support health staff to be involved in research that is relevant to their needs and those of the community they serve.”

The Prevention Research Support Program has supported the Centre over the past 15 years.