Improving health outcomes for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease

A new Targeted Translation Research Accelerator Research Plan will shape $77.5 million in funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. An independent Expert Advisory Panel formed the plan. Members tell us how it will improve care and outcomes for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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Better access to healthcare for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease

‘Many Australians have diabetes and cardiovascular disease’ (CVD), says Expert Advisory Panel member Professor John Prins. ‘These chronic diseases cause severe illness and death. But healthcare services are not uniform across Australia for people living with these diseases.’

The new Targeted Translation Research Accelerator Research Plan calls for ‘better methods of getting that care to people.’

Building our knowledge of diabetes and CVD

One way to improve care is to build our knowledge of the causes of diabetes and CVD.  ‘We want researchers to look at the molecular or cellular mechanisms underlying the two diseases,’ John says.

‘If you have both these diseases, they get worse faster than if you had just one disease. If we can find common mechanisms causing both diseases we can attack them both at the same time.’

Predicting who is at risk of diabetes and CVD and their complications

The research plan also calls for new ways to predict who is at risk of diabetes and CVD and their complications. This will help health practitioners get the right care to people at risk.

‘We want health practitioners to recognize patients they need to escalate to that next level of care’, John explains. ‘That might be the GP 100 kilometres down the road or a major centre that can do further investigations.’

The plan supports researchers to build our knowledge about disease mechanisms and risk prediction with Incubator project funding. This research will help develop new diagnostics, devices, therapies and risk predictors for people living with diabetes and CVD.

Co-design with consumers and health services

The plan also supports funding for large-scale multidisciplinary projects that use technology and data to improve care. The large-scale projects will be codesigned with consumers and health services to:

  • improve remote patient monitoring
  • focus on urban, rural, regional and remote areas
  • focus on First Nations people
  • focus on culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people.

The aim of these projects is to improve access to high-quality, patient-centred care.

Remote patient care

For example, remote patient monitoring could be improved by ‘two-way systems where patient information can flow to health practitioners in real time,’ says John. This would allow patients to test their own glucose levels or blood pressure and send this data to a health practitioner anywhere in Australia.

Data solutions could also improve diagnosis of diabetic eye disease in remote areas. ‘At present healthcare workers travel to different communities by bus. This is effective but old fashioned,’ says John. A better solution would be if ‘you could look into your smartphone camera and an app could tell you and your health care worker if you’ve got eye disease.’

Better healthcare for people with both diseases

Some of the large-scale projects will research better healthcare for people with both diseases. ‘We need a single method for managing both these diseases, rather than expecting each patient to interact with many different clinical services,’ John explains.

‘This research will be of value to Indigenous people,’ says panel member Professor Ray Mahoney. This is because ‘more Indigenous people deal with competing chronic diseases at the same time.’ Ray is an expert in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Funding for First Nations, CALD, rural, regional and remote and early to mid-career researchers

First Nations, CALD and rural, regional and remote researchers will lead or co-lead projects for their communities. Early to mid-career researchers will:

  • lead half of the incubator projects
  • be half of the research team in the large-scale projects.

‘I feel like the MRFF is really listening to the issues researchers face,’ says panel member Dr Rachel Climie, an early-career researcher. ‘This plan recognises how challenging it is for individuals who come from regional areas or Indigenous backgrounds and early to mid-career researchers. It gives us more support.’

New treatment options

A third funding tranche in the research plan will go to national organisations to partner with small to medium enterprises. They will accelerate into practice promising drugs and devices for diabetes and CVD.

Addressing problems faced by patients and communities

The Expert Advisory Panel designed this research plan to ‘understand the problems that patients or communities are having and then address the problems,’ John tells us.

Rachel adds, ‘we had fruitful discussions about research and funding gaps and how this plan can address that. We worked as a team with expertise from different areas and levels of experience.’

One important result is ‘this research plan will benefit Indigenous, CALD and regional people by building our research capacity and broadening the base of researchers,’ Ray concludes.

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