AITHM James Cook University

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Intersection between infectious and chronic disease

Patients with immune systems weakened by infection and malnutrition are more likely to go on to develop chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, while those with immune systems compromised by chronic illness are far more susceptible to infection than healthy individuals.

AITHM research is increasingly focused on this intersection, or ‘double burden’, of chronic and infectious disease, which has a devastating impact across our region, especially among populations and health systems least able to cope.

This ‘double burden’ is prevalent among the worlds most socially and economically disadvantaged communities around the Tropics and comes at an enormous cost. It can be devastating for patients and their families, places huge economic pressure on individuals, families and communities, and poses a serious problem for already strained, and poorly developed health systems.

AITHM research focuses on how best to manage the burden on patients, while strengthening and building workforce capacity in struggling health systems, targeting resources where they are most effective in combating the problem.

The Institute’s researchers examine the complex interaction between chronic and infectious disease, and the differing patterns of prevalence between climatic zones, racial groups and between urban and rural and remote populations. The research has a particular focus on those diseases which are endemic in our region, including diabetes, TB, heart disease and rheumatic heart disease. A main focus for AITHM in this field is how best to develop and support health systems capable of coping with the problem.

The impact of chronic conditions on severe infection risk in Indigenous adults

Australian adults are hospitalised for infection at a significantly higher rate than their non-Indigenous counterparts, placing a heavy human and financial toll on communities.
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Mobile phones targeting TB and diabetes in Papua New Guinea

Following a successful AITHM Capacity Building Grant, lead researcher Associate Professor Usman Malabu leveraged his initial results and secured a further US$228K from the World Diabetes Foundation to train health care providers in PNG to diagnose and treat diabetes and TB with the help of mobile phones.
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