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

Exercise interventions to minimise bone and muscle loss in obese older adults

Associate Professor David Scott is exploring exercise interventions to improve the health of older adults, of whom up to 40 per cent are obese and suffering significant disability and poor health.

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Using a personalized Telehealth model to reduce falls and fracture risk in older adults

IPAN researchers are conducting a world-first trial on the role of telehealth as a new model of personalized healthcare delivery to prevent falls and fractures in older adults.

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Using smart phones to improve cardiovascular health

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death, globally and in Australia. Now, an IPAN researcher is exploring how digital health can change management and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

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Remotely supervised exercise training for heart failure

Exercise rehabilitation is vital for people with heart failure to improve their quality of life, avoid hospital admissions, and lower their risk of preventable death.

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Using cardiac tele-rehabilitation to address inequalities in Western Victoria

This project aims to successfully implement a proven exercise telerehabilitation program for people with coronary heart disease (e.g. heart attack) into routine clinical practice.

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Predictors of muscle loss in cancer treatment patients

Muscle loss is a serious issue for people undergoing treatment for lung cancer, potentially affecting their survival rates and quality of life.  Dr Nicole Kiss’ observational study is looking at predictors of muscle loss in people being treated for lung cancer to identify those most at risk.

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Research groups

  • Digital health for lifestyle and disease management

    Group members: Associate Professor David Scott, Dr Shariful Islam, Dr Paul Jansons, Dr Kate Parker, Dr Jonathan Rawstorn, Dr Teketo Tegegne, Dr Kim Way

    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.
  • Behavioural approaches to promote healthy lifestyles

    Group members: Professor Ralph Maddison, Dr Rebecca Lindberg, Dr Katherine Livingstone, Dr Helen Macpherson, Dr Megan Teychenne, Dr Kim Way

    The Behavioural approaches to promote healthy lifestyles group focuses on the development and evaluation of effective behaviour change approaches for promoting both healthy eating and physically active lifestyles.  Our group has expertise in the design, conduct and evaluation of theoretically-grounded, evidence-based behaviour change interventions targeting adults across a range of settings and populations, in both the general and clinical populations. Our group has a particular focus on addressing inequity and promoting healthy lifestyles among vulnerable groups, including those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, with poor mental health, or with other chronic diseases.

     This group covers:

    • Investigating behavioural mediators of socioeconomic inequities in diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviours among adults
    • Developing behavioural interventions for healthy eating and physically active lifestyles
    • Evaluating behavioural approaches to promoting healthy eating and physical activity amongst socioeconomically disadvantaged men and women
    • Evaluating behavioural approaches to promoting healthy eating and physical activity amongst people with/at risk of depression
    • Testing feasibility of established and novel approaches to promoting healthy eating and physical activity among vulnerable groups.
  • 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, Dr Ana Maria Contardo Ayala, Dr Jackson Fyfe, Dr Ashlee Hendy, Dr Paul Jansons, Dr Clint Miller, Dr Patrick Owen, Dr Stuart Warmington

    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 members: Professor Robin Daly, Professor Judi Porter, Associate Professor Susan Torres, Dr Ashlee Hendy, Dr Catherine Milte, Dr Ewa Szymlek-Gay, Dr Anne Turner, Dr Riaz Uddin

    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.