$1.4 million NHMRC grant for Western researchers tackling diabetes epidemic

Professor David Simmons, School of Medicine and Translational Health Research Institute (THRI)

Western Sydney University has been awarded $1.4 million to lead a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Project focused on tackling the diabetes epidemic within Sydney’s Pasifika communities.

The project, The Pasifika Preventing Diabetes Programme, will see Professor David Simmons from the School of Medicine and Translational Health Research Institute (THRI) lead a team of multi-disciplinary researchers and professionals spanning 13 health and industry partners, who will contribute an additional $3.1 million to the project.

Professor Simmons said the funding will prove vital in addressing the growing epidemic and reiterating the importance of community-based solutions when it comes to diabetes.

“Pasifika communities have some of the highest rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes globally, with high rates of diabetes complications including hospitalisation and dialysis. This combined with pre-existing inherited predispositions to diabetes are amplifying obesity and diabetes rates within these communities,” he said.  

This funding will see the expansion of a pilot study, Le Taeao Afua (LTA), led by Professor Simmons and Dr Freya MacMillan from the School of Science and Health and Translational Health Research Institute (THRI)  – which involved delivery of a lifestyle programme through three Sydney Samoan Churches – to a larger randomised trial introducing the LTA intervention into 48 Sydney Pacific churches over the next 51 months. Professor Simmons said expanding the LTA intervention is set to make a huge impact.

“Our pilot study showed that community-based solutions can make a big difference. Participants were more active, and with their greater knowledge were more aware of how to eat more healthily, and shared these healthy habits with their families and communities. Seeing this project expanded on such a large scale will no doubt help us enormously in the fight against this growing epidemic,” said Dr Simmons.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Deborah Sweeney said Western Sydney University is extremely pleased to receive this significant funding.

“This funding success speaks to our reputation as an institution with research strengths in disciplines of critical social and economic significance, and reiterates our commitment to translating research excellence into real impact on the communities we serve,” said Professor Sweeney.

This funding is part of a $440 million Federal Government investment, through the NHMRC, for world-leading health and medical research projects designed to improve the lives of all Australians. Medical research is one of the core elements of the Federal Government’s $104 billion Long Term National Health Plan.

Western Sydney University was also named as a participating institution for a successful Centres of Research Excellence grant. Professor Andrew Page from the School of Medicine and Translational Health Research Institute (THRI) has been named as a CI for the grant – administered by the University of Sydney and awarded $2,495,765 from the NHMRC – titled,Reducing suicidal thoughts and behaviours in young people presenting for health care. 

In addition, Professor Page was named alongside Adjunct Principal Health Economist at the Translational Health Research Institute Adjunct Associate Professor Kenny Lawson as a CI for a Partnership Project – administered by UNSW and awarded $1,195,014 from the NHMRC – titled, Watch Me Grow: Changing practice to improve Universal Child Health and Developmental Surveillance in the primary care setting.


30  August 2019

Emma Sandham, Senior Media Officer.