11:19pm Sunday 05 July 2020

Million-dollar study to reduce childhood obesity

The National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant, announced yesterday (Thursday 24 October) by Prime Minister Tony Abbott together with the Minister for Health Peter Dutton, will work to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity, which has doubled in recent years, with a quarter of all Australian children now considered overweight or obese.

“Child obesity is one of the most pressing public health problems of the 21st century. We now recognise the need to establish health guidelines for very young children who are overweight or obese, or at risk of becoming obese, because they frequently don’t engage in sufficient amounts of physical activity, watch too much television and consume unhealthy foods,” Professor Okely, Director of UOW’s Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute, said.

“Traditional ways of treating this problem have been costly, hard to access, and not highly successful, as evidenced by the high and increasing prevalence of child obesity over the past 15 years. New interdisciplinary approaches are needed that intervene on multiple levels, in multiple environments, and are multifaceted.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper said UOW researchers were awarded five Project Grants and one Translating Research into Practice Fellowship, totalling for $3.4million, for which funding will commence in 2014.

“These are outstanding results. The UOW success rate and total funding awarded for Project Grants is the highest we have achieved since 2009,” Professor Raper said.

Professor Raper said Professor Okely and his team received the largest amount of funding ever received for a Project Grant with UOW as the lead organisation.

The other successful UOW grants will look at a range of areas, including developing intelligent conducting polymers to treat schizophrenia and relationship between vitamin B12 and neurodegenerative diseases.

Professor Xu-Feng Huang, from the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, will lead a team on a $676,000, three-year study to develop intelligent conducting polymers to treat schizophrenia and allied disorders.

Bionics expert Associate Professor Robert Kapsa and colleagues will work on creating a biopolymer conduit for peripheral nerve repair in a three-year, $605,000 project.

Dementia expert Professor Brett Garner has received over $536,000 for a three-year project that will examine the relationship between vitamin B12 and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Dr Lezanne Ooi, a regenerative medicine specialist, will look into the role of a particular molecular scaffold family in relation to neuroprotection, in a $343,000 study over two years.

The Translating Research into Practice Fellowship was awarded to Dr Yasmine Probst for a two-year, $171,000 project to grow food composition data knowledge for more robust evidence-based advice. Only 11 of these Fellowships were awarded nationally. This is the first time a UOW researcher has received this prestigious Fellowship.

UOW researchers Professor Roger Truscott, Associate Professor Aaron Oakley and Dr Martina Sanderson-Smith are also involved in successful Project Grants led by other institutions. They will study age-related protein aggregation, breast cancer stem cells and immunity and vaccine development against group A streptococcus respectively.

NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick Anderson said the grants announced yesterday “address research needs, from basic science to research translation as well as supporting researchers and their teams to achieve the goals to improve the health of all Australians.”

For more information about successful NHMCR grants, please see www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/outcomes-funding-rounds

Media contacts: For interviews with Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper, please call +61 2 4221 3915. For interviews with Professor Tony Okely, please call + 61 2 4221 4641 or email [email protected]

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