Preventing and managing chronic conditions

Developing and implementing lifestyle-based solutions to prevent and manage chronic conditions.

Research focus

This domain focuses on the development, implementation, evaluation and translation of lifestyle-based solutions for the prevention and management of chronic conditions. This includes cardiometabolic and musculoskeletal-related conditions, brain, cognitive and mood-related disorders, and cancer.

This domain consists of five research groups:

  • Digital health for lifestyle and disease management
  • Behavioural approaches to promote healthy lifestyles
  • Musculoskeletal health and mobility
  • Physical activity and nutrition for cognitive and mental health
  • Exercise and nutrition for cancer.

Researchers in this domain have expertise in:

  • The use of effective behaviour-change approaches for promoting physical activity and nutrition across the lifespan for chronic disease prevention and management
  • Conducting high-quality clinical and translational randomised controlled trials
  • Large-scale epidemiological studies
  • Digital health solutions
  • The assessment of cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and brain health and cognition using state-of-the-art techniques.

Research projects

Using voice technology for self-management of heart failure in Australia’s Hindi speaking communities

Dr Jansons is working with Hindi speaking communities and health professionals to design a personalised self-management program which would be delivered via a Digital Voice Assistant device.

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Combining new technologies for early detection of high blood pressure

High blood pressure is the most common risk factor for heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease, affecting around 6 million Australians.

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Easing side effects of prostate cancer treatment through nutrition and exercise

More men are living longer after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, but the most common treatment leaves men with ongoing debilitating side effects. Dr Brenton Baguley is working to improve health outcomes and quality of life during and post-treatment.

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Understanding how our lifestyle behaviours affect dementia

Dr Michael Wheeler aims to understand how different patterns of physical activity and sedentary behaviour influence known risk factors for dementia.

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Exploring feasibility of digital voice assistants for dementia and mild cognitive impairments  

This project is exploring the use of digital voice assistants to support older people with dementia and/or mild cognitive impairment. Find out how you can be part of it.

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A smart home ecosystem for people with heart failure

It’s estimated that 511,000 Australians live with heart failure. An innovative project led by Professor Ralph Maddison will help people better manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

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Recently completed projects

Research groups

  • Digital health for lifestyle and disease management

    Group leader: Professor Ralph Maddison

    Group members: Professor David Dunstan, Associate Professor David Scott, Associate Professor Shariful Islam, Dr Paddy Dempsey, Dr Kidane Gebremariam, Dr Paul Jansons, Dr Jakub Mesinovic, Dr Niamh Mundell, Dr Jonathan Rawstorn, Dr Teketo Tegegne, Dr Kim Way, Dr Yuxin Zhang

    The Digital health for lifestyle and disease management group focuses on the development and evaluation of effective, scalable solutions for the prevention and management of chronic diseases, including (but not limited to) cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Our group has expertise in the development and evaluation of theory and evidence-based technology interventions across a range of settings (homes, hospitals and communities) and populations (adults and clinical populations).

    Our research incorporates the use of mobile devices, wearable sensors, home-sensing, and wearable cameras to measure and influence behavioural and health outcomes. We also have considerable expertise in the design and delivery of pragmatic, randomised controlled trials.

    This group covers:

    • Designing and evaluating the effectiveness of digital health interventions for the secondary prevention of disease
    • Understanding how technologies can be used to improve the reach, flexibility, and individualisation of interventions to modify behavioural risk factors for disease
    • Exploring the potential of wireless sensors and devices for monitoring physiological parameters and health-related behaviours
    • Investigating how to implement and deliver digital health solutions at scale.
  • Musculoskeletal health and mobility

    Group leader: Professor Robin Daly

    Group members: Professor Judi Porter, Associate Professor Steve Fraser, Associate Professor Nicole Kiss, Associate Professor David Scott, Associate Professor Stuart Warmington, Dr Ana Maria Contardo Ayala, Dr Paddy Dempsey, Dr Jackson Fyfe, Dr Elena George, Dr Paul Jansons, Dr Jakub Mesinovic, Dr Clint Miller, Dr Niamh Mundell, Dr Lucas Orssatto, Dr Patrick Owen, Dr Jamie Tait

    The Musculoskeletal health and mobility group focuses on the integration of exercise and nutritional approaches for the primary and secondary prevention of musculoskeletal-related conditions throughout the life course. Our group has specific expertise in conducting large-scale human clinical intervention trials and translational studies, particularly in the areas of osteoporosis, sarcopenia, falls and fractures, musculoskeletal pain and spinal health. There is also a strong focus on 1) the prevention and management of musculoskeletal-related complications associated with other chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, certain types of cancer and cognitive related disorders and 2) optimising the management of primary musculoskeletal pain and subsequent disability.

    In terms of translational activities, our group has experience and expertise in conducting ‘research to practice’ trials and evaluating their effectiveness within the community. Our group actively engages with relevant stakeholders – including medical practitioners, specialists, allied health professionals, hospitals and industry – to inform policy, practice and clinical guidelines.

    This group covers:

    • Understanding the independent and combined effects of exercise and nutrition on musculoskeletal health and mobility across the lifespan
    • Exploring the mechanisms of musculoskeletal disease causation to guide the development of more effective and/or novel interventions
    • Designing and evaluating human clinical intervention trials to understand primary and secondary prevention of musculoskeletal related conditions, that will provide high-level evidence to inform policy, practice and clinical guidelines
    • Exploring the role of health technologies to aid the prescription of evidence-based exercise programs for healthy older adults and those with musculoskeletal-related conditions
    • Developing novel methodologies for assessing various musculoskeletal-related tissues (bone, body composition, cartilage, intervertebral disc, marrow adipose tissue).
  • Physical activity and nutrition for cognitive and mental health

    Group leader: Dr Helen Macpherson

    Group members: Professor Robin Daly, Professor David Dunstan, Professor Judi Porter, Associate Professor Megan Teychenne, Associate Professor Susan Torres, Dr Catherine Milte, Dr Niamh Mundell, Dr Ewa Szymlek-Gay, Dr Jamie Tait, Dr Anne Turner, Dr Michael Wheeler

    The Physical activity and nutrition for cognitive and mental health group focuses on informing and developing optimal nutrition and physical activity strategies to optimise mental health and cognitive function across the lifespan. In particular, our group is comprised of multi-disciplinary researchers with expertise ranging from neurophysiology, exercise physiology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, psychological stress, mental health, behavioural (i.e. physical activity, sedentary behaviour, nutritional) epidemiology. Collectively, we lead research utilising a range of study designs and methods, including the conduct of clinical and translational intervention trials, large-scale epidemiological studies and qualitative research methods.

    This group covers:

    • Using state-of-the-art brain imaging and behavioural techniques for assessing cognition and brain function
    • Understanding the role of nutrition (including micronutrients, dietary patterns and supplements), physical activity, sedentary behaviour and other health behaviours on healthy cognitive ageing, neurodegenerative diseases, mental health and wellbeing across the lifespan
    • Conducting clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of nutritional, physical activity and sedentary behaviour interventions, and their combination, on cognitive and mental health
    • Exploring the role of health technologies to deliver physical activity programs to optimise mental and cognitive health and physical function in older adults and those with chronic or neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s disease and dementia)
    • Understanding and exploring the links between brain and cognitive health, and allostatic load, with chronic conditions, such as sarcopenia and diabetes
    • Exploring the role of the gut-brain axis and microbiome in cognitive health.
  • Exercise and nutrition for cancer

    Group members: Professor Robin Daly, Professor Ralph Maddison, Professor Judi Porter, Dr Brenton Baguley, Dr Suzanne Dixon-Suen

    The Exercise and nutrition for cancer group focuses on exercise and nutrition interventions to optimise musculoskeletal, nutritional, functional and quality of life outcomes for people with cancer. Members of our group have specific expertise in the evaluation of novel models of health care delivery, randomised controlled trials, and exercise and nutrition interventions, particularly in the area of lung, prostate, breast and adolescent and young adult cancers.

    Areas of focus include body composition changes and the impact of sarcopenia and bone loss on patient outcomes, recognition and management of cancer malnutrition, and optimised exercise and nutrition interventions that minimise adverse effects of cancer treatment. Our group has a strong national and international network of collaborators and partnerships in clinical health services and academic settings. Members have expertise in translation of research into direct improvements in clinical practice through contribution to national evidence-based clinical guidelines and resources for cancer clinicians.

    This group covers:

    • Understanding the effects of cancer treatment on patients’ musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, nutritional, functional and psychosocial outcomes
    • Optimising nutritional and exercise interventions that minimise the adverse effects of cancer treatment
    • Informing nutrition and exercise guidelines for cancer care
    • Educating cancer clinicians on the importance of exercise and nutritional interventions as part of usual care for cancer patients
    • Implementing novel models of health care delivery in the oncology setting.
  • Nutrition, physical activity and metabolic diseases

    Group members: Professor Robin Daly, Associate Professor Shariful Islam, Associate Professor David Scott, Dr Brenton Baguley, Dr Ana Maria Contardo Ayala, Dr Paddy Dempsey, Dr Elena George, Dr Paul Jansons, Dr Katherine Livingstone, Dr Jakub Mesinovic, Dr Paige van der Pligt, Dr Michael Wheeler

    The Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolic Diseases group focuses on dietary and physical activity strategies for the prevention and management of chronic metabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. With an emphasis on clinical nutrition and physical activity, this group aims to assess the efficacy and effectiveness of lifestyle interventions as holistic multimodal interventions, which can ultimately be translated into practice, promoting behaviour change and optimising metabolic health outcomes. Our group has expertise in dietary and physical activity assessment, clinical trials, designing and examining the efficacy of various dietary and physical activity interventions, and real-world implementation of these interventions.

    This group covers:

    • Designing and implementing dietary and physical activity interventions for clinical trials
    • Developing interventions that include dietary modification of whole diet or individual foods
    • Monitoring and assessing adherence to dietary and physical activity interventions in the clinical context
    • Designing interventions that include robust assessment of clinical outcomes including anthropometric, metabolic biomarkers, haemodynamic, and other clinical outcomes (e.g. clinical algorithms and hepatic outcomes)
    • Understanding what influences dietary intake and physical activity in individuals with chronic disease
    • Understanding the barriers and enablers of sustainable interventions for individuals with chronic disease
    • Translating research into evidence-based practice for healthcare practitioners and policy makers through implementation science
  • Global health

    Group members: Professor Ralph Maddison, Dr Elena George, Dr Carley Grimes, Dr Katherine Livingstone, Dr Ewa Szymlek-Gay, Dr Paige van der Pligt, Dr Teketo Tegegne

    The Global Health group focuses on collaborative trans-national research (particularly Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions) to understand the influence of physical activity and nutrition on major non-communicable diseases and their risk factors, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and mental health. Our research uses high-quality information on population health and its determinants to evaluate the performance of health systems over time and develop evidence to tackle challenging these health problems. Our group also conducts applied research to improve healthy lifestyles and assess the effects of interventions on improving health outcomes globally, focusing on Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions. We collaborate with leading global institutes, including the University of Washington, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, World Heart Federation and the World Health Organization. Our group has expertise in epidemiology, health systems, nutrition, medicine, digital health, systematic reviews and meta-analysis, clinical trials and secondary data analysis.

    This group covers:

    • A systematic effort to estimate all‐cause mortality, deaths, years of life lost due to premature mortality, years lived with disability, and disability‐adjusted life years for non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and mental health.
    • Quantify the comparative magnitude of health loss due to diseases, injuries, and risk factors by age, sex, and geographies for specific time points
    • Assess the impact of public health programs and policies in reducing physical inactivity and nutrition-related burden of diseases in Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions
    • Inform national and international health policy and service delivery in addressing the unmet needs of non-communicable diseases
    • Develop innovative methods to measure health, physical activity and nutrition status across countries and populations more accurately