Population Health Research

UCRH population health research

Our environmental health research explores the health impacts of a range of social and environmental exposures, including air and water quality and neighbourhood level factors. Other population health research addresses health behaviours and the economic impact of chronic disease.

Current Population Health Research Projects

Collaborations in Air Pollution and Health as part of The Centre for Air Quality and Health Research and Evaluation (CAR)

CAR is a Centre of Research Excellence funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). It is collaboration between seven Australian universities, including the UCRH in Lismore and is led by Prof Guy Marks from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. CAR will enable research on the impact of air pollution on human health and translate that research into contributions to policy that aims to mitigate that impact.

CAR will create opportunities for researchers, operating in diverse but related disciplines, to create and apply knowledge about air pollution and health of both national and international interest.

For more information on CAR see http://car-cre.org.au/, and for a list of the Chief Investigators see http://car-cre.org.au/team/ .

Funding: NHMRC, $2.24 million (2012-2016) (Lead CI, Prof Guy Marks, University of Sydney)

Staff involved: Associate Professor Geoff Morgan, Dr Margaret Rolfe

Collaborators: University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, Monash University, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, University of Wollongong, University of Melbourne

The health impacts of air pollution from shipping in the Sydney Greater Metropolitan Region

The impact of air pollution emissions from shipping in coastal regions and ports in Australia, and the effects of these emissions on air quality in nearby urban region, is of growing significance because of the increased regulation of land based emissions, the limited regulation of shipping emissions and the projected growth in shipping.

These emissions are of particular concern because the high sulphur content of shipping fuels is known to lead to increased emissions and secondary production of fine particles, which have been identified as hazardous to human health. In order to estimate the health impacts in Sydney, the Lower Hunter and the Illawarra (The Sydney Greater Metropolitan Region (GMR) due to shipping related air pollution, the project will bring together recent data on shipping related emissions for all Australia, developments in air pollution transport models, and expertise in health impact assessment.

Funding: $50,000 (2014-2015) CAR (NHMRC funded Centre for Air Quality and Health Research and Evaluation), NSW Health, NSW EPA

Staff involved: Associate Professor Geoff Morgan, Dr Margaret Rolfe

Collaborators: University of Sydney, University of Tasmania, CSIRO, NSW Health Department, US EPA

Estimating fire smoke related health burden and novel tools to manage impacts on urban populations

This project will provide estimates of smoke attributable health and economic burden in terms of incidence and cost of visits to emergency departments, hospital admissions, loss of productivity, school absences and similar outcomes as well as delivering tools to provide real-time forecasts of likely health impacts in nearby communities.

The aims of the project are:

  1. To characterise emissions from fire smoke over the last decade
  2. To develop fire smoke and health risk estimates based on a systematic review
  3. To perform a health and economic impact assessment
  4. To develop tools for predicting health impacts in real time.

The expected benefit of the project will be interpretable and actionable information on the likelihood of health impacts for public health officials and smoke managers during smoke events. Such information can facilitate decision making processes involved in mitigating health effects during smoke events in the communities and justifying future investments in fire prevention and public health protection programs.

The project is led by North Carolina State University in the USA and the University of Sydney (UCRH) in Australia.

Funding: U.S. Department of the Interior – Joint Fire Science Program. $289,143 (2014-2017) (Lead CI A/Prof Brien Reich North Carolina State University)

Staff involved: Associate Professor Geoff Morgan, Dr Margaret Rolfe

Collaborators: North Carolina State University, US EPA, University of Tasmania, CSIRO, NSW Health Department

Bushfires, smoke, and people: assessing the risks and benefits from planned burning on the urban-rural interface

Protecting communities from severe bushfires demands the balancing of completing interests. Reducing forest fuels through the use of planned burns is a crucial component part of fire management but a common side-effect of this practice is the short-term exposure of communities to air pollution.

We will use remote sensing, atmospheric modeling and epidemiology to ascertain the comparative health risks from smoke from planned burns and uncontrolled bushfires. With our partner investigators in health, environment and land management, we will formulate evidence-based policy and guidelines for management of bushfire smoke.

Funding: ARC Project Funding. $540,000 (2014-2017) (Lead CI Dr Fay Johnston, University of Tasmania)

Staff involved: Associate Professor Geoff Morgan

Collaborators: University of Tasmania, Monash University, University of Wollongong, University of Sydney, Monash University, University of British Columbia, Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Victorian Environment Protection Authority

Smoke-free homes

For children the primary source of second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure is their home. Nearly 45 per cent of rural households with children contain a smoker, and around 50,000 rural households with children contain someone who smokes inside the home daily. The best way to reduce this SHS exposure would be for household members and/or visitors to quit smoking. For those unable or unwilling to quit, the next best option is making homes completely smoke-free.

However, some households may face significant barriers to establishing a smoke-free home. This research will explore the barriers and enablers for families making and maintaining smoke-free homes, including a systematic literature review and qualitative research with rural families. Findings will feed into health policy recommendations and an intervention trial to support families in making their homes smoke-free.

Funding: NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship (Passey), $334,596 (2014-2016); Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellowship (Passey), $447,824.

Staff involved: Dr Jo Longman, Dr Megan Passey

Collaborators: Hunter New England Population Health, University of Birmingham (UK), University of Liverpool (UK)

Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Research Group

This program of work, led by Prof Bauman at the Prevention Research Collaboration at the University of Sydney, undertakes a targeted program of research on physical activity, nutrition and obesity for the NSW Ministry of Health. The goal is to improve the health of the NSW population through evidence-informed health promotion and disease prevention policy and programs.

Funding: NSW Ministry of Health, $4.125m, (2013-2018)

Staff involved: Dr Megan Passey

Collaborators: Prevention Research Collaboration, University of Sydney; NSW Ministry of Health

Improving decision making on health interventions: factoring in the long term economic impacts of informal (unpaid) caring

This research program, led by Prof Schofield at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Sydney, estimates the impact of caring for people with long-term conditions on the employment and finances of informal carers.

Funding: NHMRC Partnership Grant (1055037), $609,900; Pfizer Australia, $505,398 plus in-kind; Carers Australia (in-kind)

Staff involved: Dr Megan Passey

Collaborators: Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney; NATSEM, University of Canberra; University of Queensland; Pfizer Australia; Carers Australia.

 

Recently Completed Population Health Research Projects

The effects of the built environment on physical activity, air pollution and health

This study is part of a larger NHMRC funded project investigating the impact of social, economic and geographic disadvantage using the NSW 45andUp cohort. As a member of the spatial and environmental project teams, A/Prof Morgan is leading a project to assess the influence of the neighbourhood environment on walking and health and how this is influenced by air pollution.

He is also supervising a PhD candidate investigating environmental correlates of physical activity, obesity and psychosocial distress, with a particular focus on the built environment.

Funding: $50,000 drawn from a larger NHMRC funded project ($1.8m, 2008 to 2012, Lead CI Professor Adrian Bauman, University of Sydney)

Staff involved: Associate Professor Geoff Morgan,Dr Margaret Rolfe

Collaborators: University of Sydney, University of New South Wales,

Older rural people with chronic conditions who have frequent and/or avoidable hospital admissions

This project is funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI) and will further our understanding and management of disease through the development and application of new ways of modeling disease data and potential explanatory variables, new ways of visualising the results of these models, and new ways of using the models for cost-effective allocation of resources and services.

Associate Professor Morgan is co-supervising a PhD candidate who is applying these new methods to an assessment of the factors influencing multiple hospital admissions for diabetes in North Coast NSW.

Funding: Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (2011-2014, $510,000) Lead by Prof Kerry Mengersen from the Queensland University of Technology)

Staff involved: Associate Professor Geoff Morgan, Dr Margaret Rolfe

Collaborators: University of Sydney, Queensland University of Technology

 

 


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