Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development. Currently, the world is facing a global health crisis unlike any other — COVID-19 is spreading human suffering, destabilising the global economy and upending the lives of billions of people around the globe.
– United Nations

At Victoria University, we are deeply dedicated to improving health through teaching, research, clinics and support services.

Our research programs approach the complex issues of human health from many angles, including disease treatment, policy improvement, and exercise as prevention. 

Our Institute for Health and Sport supports extraordinary biomedical research, such as the work of Vasso Apostolopoulos, who developed the concept of immunotherapy for cancer and is currently working on a COVID-19 treatment.

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Research projects & engagement 2020-21

Australia’s Health Tracker series of reports are the work of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration of health organisations and chronic disease experts led by Professor Rosemary Calder, from the Mitchell Institute, to measure progress towards national health targets for 2025. Four reports were released in 2020. Australia’s Health Tracker by Area: Smoking Rates Report shows smoking rates in Australia’s poorest areas are up to seven times the rate of wealthy areas, with the reduction of the national smoking rate stagnating at 12.2% for the last four years. Australia’s Gender Health Tracker report card 2020 highlights differences in gender based health needs and risks, how current policy, funding and service models are failing women, and the estimated costs of system shortcomings. The additional Health Tracker reports published were the Alcohol Summary Report and the NSW Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Tracker.

The Mitchell Institute prepared for the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the peak body for emergency care, the report Nowhere else to go: why Australia’s health system results in people with mental illness getting ‘stuck’ in emergency departments. The report provided a comprehensive set of recommendations for people seeking mental health support to access the services they need and to alleviate the pressure on hospital emergency departments.

Preclinical research by exercise metabolism researchers, Professor Glenn McConell and Dr Filippe Falcao-Tebas, indicates that women who exercise before and during pregnancy could overcome the risk of their child developing diabetes that comes from having an obese father. The study on rats found that pregnant mothers who exercise can ‘reprogram’ the low insulin sensitivity and increased likelihood of diabetes for the offspring of obese fathers.

Professor Melinda Craike and Matthew Bourke, found that people need to feel good, to derive pleasure and to have achievable goals in order to stay motivated to maintain longterm commitment to moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. External sources of enjoyment such as a great view or upbeat music are important to counter negative internal monologues and physical discomfort.

Rubina Sarki; Khandakar Ahmed; Hua Wang; Yanchun Zhang of ISILC conducted a systematic survey of automated approaches to diabetic eye disease detection for Automatic Detection of Diabetic Eye Disease Through Deep Learning Using Fundus Images. The survey is to provide a comprehensive synopsis of diabetic eye disease detection approaches, including state of the art field approaches, for research communities, healthcare professionals and patients with diabetes.

Effects of visually augmented gait training on foot-ground clearance: An intervention to reduce tripping-related falls, involving Rezaul Begg, looked at how to prevent dangerous trips and falls by training people to increase their toe clearance.

Factors influencing self-management of depression in older adults: a qualitative study involving Terry McAinch, looked at developing strategies for older adults to successfully self-manage depression.

Exercise Interventions in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis was undertaken by Nigel Stepto, international and Australian health researchers, to more clearly establish what interventions are effective in providing favourable outcomes for PCOS.

Karen Mickle co-authored, ‘Jump start’ childcare-based intervention to promote physical activity in pre-schoolers, an assessment of whether an early intervention program can promote physical activity.

A Brief Interventions Toolkit was deployed on the headspace website, accessed by thousands of young people, to provide solutions-focused, skills-based material to help handle life’s challenges, without needing to speak to a clinician. The toolkit of micro-intervention modules for use by young people to deal with personal trials, draws on the research by Professor Alex Parker into physical activity and problem solving by young people with mental health concerns.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the second leading cause of avoidable hospital admissions. Professor Clint Moloney, a leading expert on COPD, was a research lead of the Reducing Avoidable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease emergency presentations project to examine a potential over-use of emergency services and to address gaps in outreach services in the treatment of COPD. The project was undertaken in collaboration between three non-metropolitan health services in South East Queensland. It has informed referral treatment initiatives’ implementation and evaluation e.g. anxiety management, smoking cessation referral, and quality intra- professional care programs, based on identified causal factors. Professor Moloney published a series of articles on the findings of this project for emergency presentations and treatment of COPD.

The Mitchell Institute conducted the Giving it a Go: Working towards health and wellbeing program, a collaborative and innovative research project designed to help people with chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions who are on the Disability Support Pension. The free online program is designed to help people better manage the condition and build confidence to engage with work, education and the community.

Nilufa Khanom and Shah Jahan Miah address the digital divide in Cloud Motherhood Clinic: A Healthcare Management Solution for Rural Communities, by co-designing with stakeholders a mobile Health (m-Health) solution for service support in a virtual clinic environment.

The Behavioural Risk Tool (BRT), developed by Associate Professor Michelle Ball and her research team, is now being offered as a standard part of the Firelighting Consequence Awareness Program (Fire-CAP) intake process to allow high BRT scores to be rapidly managed and to identify if mental health support is required.

A team of researchers from the health and university sectors and Telethon Kids Institute, co-lead by Associate Professor Jacqueline Williams, have reported on a survey of parents of children across Australia for the Impact for DCD Survey, the largest survey conducted in the world on the impacts of Developmental Coordination Disorder. DCD is a little-known neuro-developmental condition, estimated to affect up to one in twenty children, which often co-occurs with other disorders, masking its effects and delaying diagnosis. Its effect on motor skills and coordination means that children with DCD have trouble with activities like getting dressed, eating, writing, running or playing. The report provides an evidence based guide for improving support for children with DCD and their families.

VU Elevenses was a live discussion for staff and students on weekday mornings to support people’s mental health during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. Directed to lifestyle and health, the sessions aimed to improve the wellbeing of participants. The sessions are available on YouTube for on demand viewing.

Associate Professor Deborah Zion was appointed to the World Health Organization on Ethics, Public Health and Migration.

Professor Ramon Spaaij was invited as a panellist for the United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Platform on Sport and Development webinar.

The Master of Global Public Health is directed to complex global health issues and in 2020 VU offered a new Master of Public Health online with specialisations in Health Promotion and Global Health Leadership to address current and emerging health issues in local and global contexts.

Victoria University and Western Health have formed a strategic partnership for education, research and engagement to improve health care and treatment for acute and chronic conditions and the health of communities in the region.

The Western Centre for Health Research & Education

VU and Western Health collaborated with The University of Melbourne on the development of the Western Centre for Health Research and Education (WCHRE). This is a state-of-the-art teaching, training and research centre at Sunshine Hospital. The WCHRE makes major contributions to the future health of local communities through leading research.

Current projects

Staff and students from our College of Health and Biomedicine, Institute for Health & Sport (IHES) and VU Business School work closely with Western Health to understand a number of chronic diseases.

Other research by VU’s nursing and midwifery staff informs Western Health’s addresses the barriers to nurses and midwives providing the best care for patients and supporting patients to make better health choices.

Joint health research by Victoria University & Western Health Researchers

Some examples of research completed in 2020:

Research groups addressing Goal 3