12 April 2023

Research that aims to improve health promotion strategies for children in Fiji is one of four projects to share in over $5 million in funding from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) as part of an international and collaborative scheme.  

Dr Bindu Patel from The George Institute for Global Health will evaluate the Health Promoting Schools (HPS) program, which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of students through a “whole-of-school” approach and is expected to contribute to improved educational outcomes.

Dr Patel is a Senior Research Fellow with the Health Systems Science division at The George Institute for Global Health. Her research addresses the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally.

NCDs, such as cancer, chronic respiratory disease, heart disease and diabetes, are the leading cause of death worldwide and present a huge threat to health and development, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

HPS was implemented in 2016 in selected schools in Fiji and aims to improve long-term health and wellbeing by addressing lifestyle-related risk factors while children are still in school, to encourage them to build healthy habits for later in life.

The goal of this research program is to evaluate the impact, investment case and sustainability of the HPS program in Fiji, in partnership with the Fiji Government.

Data gathered from this research will inform individual schools and government of areas for improvement and facilitate wider implementation of the program.

NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso AO said Australian researchers are making critical contributions to these international projects.

'Researchers are sharing their knowledge and building capacity in our neighbouring regions,' she said.

'These collaborations strengthen our responses to current and future health challenges, and build lasting connections between individual researchers, institutions and their nations.'

Projects funded today by NHMRC through the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD) aim to foster research partnerships between institutions in high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries.

These collaborations enable knowledge-sharing and capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region.

Professor Kelso said that by sharing expertise between international researchers, these grants build lasting connections between individual researchers, institutions, and their nations.

'These collaborations strengthen our responses to current and future health challenges.'

In the three other projects funded this year:

  • Professor Brian Oldenburg from Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute will evaluate a lifestyle change program with young people from Meghalaya in north-eastern India, where many Indigenous people from the Khasi tribe live, to reduce the development of heart disease and diabetes
  • Professor David Peiris from The George Institute for Global Health will investigate scalable strategies to enhance resilience and reduce NCD risk factors for young people living in resource-limited settings in India and elsewhere
  • Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun from The University of Queensland will improve primary health care in antenatal and postnatal settings and support risk prevention of NCDs early in life for people in Nepal. This project will be jointly supported by NHMRC and the Research Council of Norway.
Projects funded today listed in order of Application ID
Chief Investigator Administering Institution Title Participating Country(-ies) Budget
Professor Brian Oldenburg  Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute  Structured Health Interventions to reduce cardiometaboLic risk among adoLescents and yOuNG adults in tribal communities in North-eastern India (SHILLONG): A type 2 hybrid Cluster-Randomized Trial  India $1,499,746 
Professor David Peiris  The George Institute for Global Health  Adolescent resilience-building in urban slums - a multifaceted trial of life skills education in India (ANUMATI)  India $1,658,669 
Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun  The University of Queensland  Implementing a life course approach in antenatal and postnatal care settings for prevention and reduction of non-communicable disease risks in Nepal (IpreventNCD)  Nepal, Norway  $1,211,304 
Dr Bindu Patel  The George Institute for Global Health  Evaluating the impact, investment case and scale-up of 'Health Promoting Schools' in Fiji  Fiji $1,388,932 
      Total $5,758,651