People living in rural and regional Australia are more likely to suffer chronic disease than people in the city, and a new research centre at Federation University has a goal to find out why.
Researchers from across different disciplines will come together in the new Health Innovation and Transformation Centre to develop innovative solutions for patients and the community to ensure people living outside cities receive the right care in the right place at the right time.
It will focus on areas including aged care, cardiovascular health, digital health interventions, workforce development and patient safety.
Professor Fadi Charchar, one of the heads of the new centre, said researchers from Federation University's School of Science, Psychology and Sport, School of Nursing and Healthcare Professions and the School of Engineering, Information Technology and Physical Sciences will collaborate on a range of programs with the aim of improving people's wellbeing across their lifespan.
"Our main campuses are in regional Australia and we know living in regional Australia poses some difficulties, some health challenges," Prof Charchar said.
"There is a higher proportion, a higher number of people with chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer ... and we really have little understanding of why this is the case.
"Why does living in Ballarat or some other regional area give you a higher chance of getting heart disease or cancer and worse outcomes if you have it?"
Prof Charchar said one of the benefits of being at a smaller university was the ability for researchers to reach out across disciplines to come up with more innovative and potentially life-changing solutions.
"We have people like myself doing research on genetics and personalised health, and on the other spectrum the mental health of regional and rural population, access to treatment, people who can design apps and digital tools to make access to treatment for mental health easier for people in rural and regional areas, using sophisticated stuff like artificial intelligence for health research and some very focused research looking at quality and safety of health systems.
"The beauty of being in a small uni like Federation University is we all talk to each other whereas in big universities people don't talk across sections. We want to capitalise on the differences that we have and ability to talk across these disciplines.
"We also have good access to these populations and good strong ties to the community and that's really important for understanding what's happening on the ground. We want to help change the lives of these people, not just do research."
The Health Innovation and Transformation Centre is the first centre launched as part of Federation University's new Research and Innovation Strategy, which identified health and wellbeing; society and the environment; and virtual, digital and computational environments as research priority areas. It also identified education; engineering; history and archaeology; and commerce, management, tourism and services as emerging research areas.
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Federation University vice chancellor Professor Duncan Bentley launched the centre in a virtual event with national leaders in advanced technologies and transformative health discussing disruption in health services.
"Federation University is bringing together its world-leading multidisciplinary research teams to address the health challenges facing an ageing population, and now the significant pressures of the coronavirus pandemic," Prof Bentley said.
"These issues hit regional communities particularly hard. The new centre uses the latest research and digital technologies as the basis for improving the health and lives of regional communities."