NHMRC Grant for Interactive Digital Technologies

In partnership with University of Melbourne, Northern Health has received a $2.5 million NHMRC grant for research focused on patient-developed digital technology for treating chronic disease.

Brian Oldenburg is Professor of Non-Communicable Disease Control in the School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne and has been working together with Professor Peter Brooks on the application for this grant.

“This is a new five year grant funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council – Centre for Research Excellence which aims to research and understand more how new technology and digital health programs can improve chronic disease outcomes in Australia,” Professor Oldenburg said.

Together, Northern Health and University of Melbourne are looking to help people with heart disease, diabetes and other conditions to better manage their health.

“We have already been working with Northern Health for a couple of years now, with Professor Peter Brooks and others on this program. We have projects that have already started. Over the next five years, we’ll have 10-12 doctoral students training here, as well as post-doctorates and other research staff,” Professor Oldenburg said.

Professor Peter Brooks, Northern Health Research Lead, said this grant is important for Northern Health because it fits absolutely into the clinical program and the service delivery program that Northern has.

“This will help Northern Health in our Staying Well initiative which keeps people well in the community. Chronic disease is a big burden in the community and the exciting thing about this program that it actually engages with patients to design new technologies,” he said.

For example, researchers will try to co-design a new app that measures blood glucose levels or food intake. They will also work on things like using Telehealth, which means patients would be able to have a virtual consultation with the doctor, rather than coming to hospital.

“That would save so much time for patients. The key thing is that if we want technology to work, we have to design it with the patients, so that we get immediate feedback on what works for them,” he added.

“This is the first really big grant of this type for Northern Health, and the application was co-developed with Melbourne University over the last 3 years. I am really excited to see how the research will impact the health outcomes of the northern population,” he said.

Centre for Research Excellence in Interactive Digital Technology to Transform Australia’s Chronic Disease Outcomes is led by Professor Brian Oldenburg from the University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. This centre will optimise user experience, increase integration and produce safety guidelines for interactive digital technologies – mobile apps, chatbots, and wearable devices – to increase the impact and widespread use of technology to reduce the personal, societal and economic costs associated with chronic diseases.

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