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Funding boost for online tool to improve diets for rural Australians

Funding boost for online tool to improve diets for rural Australians

A research collaboration between IISRI and the Institute for Health Transformation that focuses on dietary risks for rural Australians has taken a share in $9.5 million in funding for Deakin from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The project, led by Dr Cindy Needham, will run out of IHT’s Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition (GLOBE), which explores the improvement of population health in Australia and globally.

Dr Needham received a MRFF Early to Mid-Career Researcher Grant, worth more than $750,000, to explore “A spatial, systems and solution focused approach to understanding food environment factors that influence dietary risks of Australians living in rural and remote areas”.

IISRI Director Prof Douglas Creighton and Assoc Prof Michael Johnstone will work as Associate Investigators on the project that will develop and test an online tool to engage with communities to understand how they access and purchase food and how this influences their dietary behaviour.

Currently, Australians living in rural and remote areas face shorter lifespans and higher rates of diet-related disease compared to those in metropolitan areas.

The project will provide an opportunity to co-design solutions and interventions to address diet-related health and associated health-care costs in rural areas.

According to Assoc Prof Johnstone, IISRI will contribute to two areas of the project, firstly the design and implementation of the data collection, which will incorporate spatial data into the Systems Thinking in Community Knowledge Exchange (STICKE) technology developed by IISRI and GLOBE.

“Secondly, we will conduct research using machine learning and natural language processing to analyse the data being collected at community levels to identify patterns in access to health food retail,” he said.

“Now that the NBN is giving coverage to remote and rural areas, there is a greater opportunity to use proven systems thinking methods such as STICKE to improve health outcomes for the communities in isolated areas.”

Learn more about the MRFF announcement and Deakin’s recipients.


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