Professor Bruce Neal
Deputy Executive Director at the George Institute for Global Health Australia
28 September 2018

Most people around the world with high blood pressure still go undiagnosed and untreated.

2017 Program Grant | $24,000,000.00

With 4.2 million Australian adults diagnosed with having a disease of the circulatory system, including 1.2 million with conditions such as stroke or heart disease, ongoing research into preventative methods is critical 1. Professor Bruce Neal received the third largest National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant ever awarded, for research into cardiovascular disease (CVD). His research addresses the main causes of poor cardiovascular health with a strong focus on the practicalities of prevention.

This latest grant builds upon work Professor Neal commenced with the first grant he received from NHMRC. That initial grant explored the comparative benefits of the many different types of blood pressure lowering agents for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The study also provided early insights into the interaction between low blood pressure therapy and its prevention of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.

‘High blood pressure is still one of the biggest causes of disease burden not only in Australia but all around the world. The findings from our initial work generated multiple high impact research outputs and influenced clinical guidelines that support the care of hundreds of millions worldwide’, said Professor Neal.

The research was designed to provide those developing clinical practice guidelines with high quality evidence about which blood pressure lowering drugs to use in which people. Ultimately, the project showed that the real issue was not the choice of drug, but rather the level of the blood pressure reduction achieved, that is, the greater the reduction, the greater the protection.

‘Before we did this work there were many individual trials that provided bits of the answer. It was only when we brought the researchers and data together that we were able to fill in the gaps’, said Professor Neal.

The results of this research generated many of the ideas that will be investigated in the recently funded new program of work. A particular focus will be how best to combine drugs to get the maximum blood pressure reduction while minimising side effects.

The global reach of the research is what captivates Professors Neal, with the team working in over 40 countries around the world trying to improve the way that hundreds of millions of people are cared for. With the burden of high blood pressure progressively shifting towards developing countries and resource poor areas, the work is benefitting some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.

NHMRC’s funding supports not just researchers but also economists, and systems scientists, with the goal of making both new scientific discoveries and translating them into practice. Professor Neal hopes to see a real change in our understanding of how to get governments and clinicians to more rapidly adopt new scientific discoveries.