AITHM James Cook University

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Chronic Disease

Key AITHM research focusses on major chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, asthma, allergy, bowel disease, schizophrenia, and alcohol and drug abuse.

According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases are the leading cause of deaths worldwide, and yet in many cases can be prevented. Often long in duration and generally slow to progress, chronic disease can be influenced by genetics, lifestyle, socio-economic factors, and environment, and are expected to become more common as populations age and risk factors increase. The impact of these diseases is particularly significant in developing countries, such as those around the Tropics, and among Indigenous communities in northern Australia.

AITHM’s multidisciplinary research aims to strengthen health systems and increase workforce capacity through collaborations with key industry and community partners.  The research aims to advance the health and wellbeing of tropical and Indigenous populations through understanding the causes, preventions and treatment of chronic disease.

AITHM and its partners will build capacity and strengthen health systems in these populations through translating their research results into healthcare solutions, such as new diagnostics, improved healthcare policy and community based interventions.

Collaborative approach to tackling smoking in Indigenous communities

The ‘Top End’ Smoke-free Spaces Project works alongside Indigenous collaborators, and is in the process of designing an intervention to encourage smoke free homes in remote communities.  The effects of incentives for householders combined with managing and monitoring indoor second-hand smoke exposure will be evaluated. 
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A new approach to allergy testing in Australia

An AITHM research team is working to develop Australia’s first wide spectrum finger prick allergy test using assay microarray, which would prove a huge leap forward in allergy tests in Australia, building testing capacity and ensuring resources are better targeted to tackle the problem.
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The impact of behavioural counselling on PAD sufferers

New research will study the efficacy of behavioural counselling provided by allied health professionals to promote physical activity among people with PAD, with the aim of developing an effective approach for health systems to manage the problem.
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New modelling needed to develop therapeutic approaches to manage PAD

Currently there are no drugs specifically aimed at managing Peripheral Artery Disease in patients who are unlikely to benefit from intervention approaches. While there is significant interest in new therapeutic approaches, the challenge for researchers remains the inability to translate the results of pre-clinical animal trials to human patients.
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Drug therapy to treat abdominal aortic aneurysm

Researchers are participating in an international trial to examine the potential of Telmisartan, a drug used to combat high blood pressure, to treat patients with AAA. QRCPVD has also published research investigating the impact of anti-coagulants on inhibiting the growth of aortic aneurysm in animal models.
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Developing a simulation model to improve cardiovascular disease risk prediction and treatment.

Researchers are building a simulation model to get better measures of risk of heart disease and premature death. This research is based on a large linked cohort of 2800 Indigenous adults from north Queensland remote communities, which looks at reasons for the excess cardiovascular risk in this group.
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Designing culturally-based physical activity interventions to prevent obesity in Indigenous populations.

With support from the North Queensland Health Foundation (NQHF) and Apunipima Health Council, researchers are evaluating a culturally tailored eight week physical activity intervention among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in rural communities. Overall levels of physical activity and step counts, metabolic markers, perceived quality of life and other health behaviours and outcomes are measured before, immediately, and one week after the intervention.
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Economic evaluation of Indigenous health worker management of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes in north Queensland

New research published by the CCDP team investigated the economic value of intensive management by Indigenous health workers of Indigenous adults with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes in rural and remote Queensland. It was proposed that providing health workers with close linguistic and cultural links could play an important role in contributing to better health outcomes.
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Could worms help in the fight against type 2 diabetes?

Along with developing and strengthening health systems to combat the rampant increase in type 2 diabetes among Indigenous populations, AITHM researchers are also examining new therapeutic approaches to tackle this debilitating disease. The CCDP team has examined the role worm infections may play in reducing the instance of metabolic syndrome and ultimately type 2 diabetes.
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AIP-2 protein successful in suppressing asthma

Research by the Institute’s Dr Severine Navarro has found a protein secreted by hookworms, the AIP-2 protein, suppresses asthma in mice and shows promising results as a treatment for allergies in humans.
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