Noncommunicable diseases prevention and management

Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of premature death in Australia and globally. The causes are complex and multiple, disproportionately affecting low socio-economic groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Comprehensive prevention and management strategies are needed to lessen the impact of non-communicable diseases on individuals and society.

School of Public Health researchers specialise in investigating biological, behavioural, environmental and social factors that affect risk of developing chronic disease. We are also experts in developing and evaluating interventions and healthcare services, with the aim of enhancing services delivery, improving access, and effecting change into policy.

Our research encompasses multi-disciplinary expertise across a broad range of topics such as treatment disparities, behaviour change and the social and commercial determinants of health and wellbeing (with a particular focus on priority groups). Our team study, develop and implement chronic disease prevention programs. We also undertake evaluation and advocacy research, aiming to understand, influence and improve upon local, national and international health services and policy provision.

Our lifestyles, which are influenced by the commercial and social determinants of health, are a major contributor to the rise of chronic disease and multimorbidity. Many of the risk factors associated with noncommunicable disease are modifiable through changing behaviours and the environment to support individuals to make healthy choices. Our researchers focus on four main areas:

  • The Sedentary Behaviour group, alongside an extensive network of academic and industry partners, investigates the measurement of sedentary time; the development, evaluation and translation of interventions to reduce prolonged sedentary time in key settings and populations (including the workplace and clinical populations); and the impact of sedentary time, and changing sedentary time on health and wellbeing.
  • Physical activity research at the School investigates how to support workers, older adults and clinical populations to integrate physical activity into their day and the health and wellbeing impacts of achieving this.
  • Food and nutrition research at the School has a strong emphasis on population health, encompassing a broad spectrum of work including nutrition policy, pricing and affordability, and individual level interventions. Our work in food and nutrition systems is underpinned by the principles of health and wellbeing, equity, environmental sustainability and prosperity. We also investigate the various dimensions of food security, covering affordability, accessibility, acceptability and advertising of healthy, equitable and sustainable foods.
  • The Tobacco Endgame Centre of Research Excellence is focused on ending the cigarette smoking epidemic in Australia by transforming the regulatory environment and increasing support to help people stop smoking.

A portion of our work related to the aetiology and management of non-communicable disease is undertaken in the area of Women’s Health:

  • Our Cancer Epidemiology researchers aim to understand cancer aetiology, with a particular focus on how reproductive factors are involved in the development of women’s cancers, and factors associated with patterns of care and survival.
  • Using data from the long running Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) study our researchers focus on the health of women, largely during early and mid-adulthood (e.g., maternal and child health and menopausal health), examining our understanding of how various factors (such as sex differences, reproductive factors, behaviours, overweight and obesity, dementia, abuse and area of residence) contribute to risk of non-communicable disease.
  • Expanding on the wealth of research and outcomes generated by ALSWH, the International collaboration for a Life course Approach to reproductive health and Chronic disease Events (InterLACE) study aims to improve international and cross-cultural comparisons in women’s health; and our NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence on Women and Non-Communicable Diseases (CRE WaND) looks to move beyond reproductive and sexual health to encompass and prioritise the prevention and detection of non-communicable diseases.