Sydney Public health researchers awarded top grant

Public health researchers at the University of Sydney tackled one of the biggest issues facing modern healthcare: turning healthy people into sick patients due to over-diagnosis and over-treatment made possible by new, highly sensitive screening and diagnostic tests.

Sydney Public health researchers awarded top NHMRC grant
Learn more about Sydney Public Health School

A panel of seven experts explored the hotly debated topics at a public forum from on May 30 at the university.

“We will consider a radical idea that sometimes wiser healthcare means less healthcare. Or at least, less healthcare for people who don’t need it, so we can give more healthcare to people who need it,” said Professor Alexandra Barratt, from the Sydney School of Public Health.

The research team was recently awarded a $2.5-million National Health and Medical Research Council grant to establish a Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) to develop strategies to mitigate the over-diagnosis and over-treatment issues.

“Recently, we have witnessed an explosion of new diagnostic and screening technologies available including advanced imaging, biomarkers and genomic tests. Some of these tests are even marketed directly to the public,” added Professor Barratt, CRE Chief Investigator.

“Ideally these tests improve health by identifying diseases or risks that need to be treated; however, sometimes these tests lead to over-diagnosis and over-treatment which not only harms patients but wastes health resources through unnecessary procedures.

“The CRE will focus on cancer and cardiovascular disease. New diagnostics are already appearing in clinical use in these areas, and these diseases account for a large burden of death, disease and health care spending in Australia.

Public health researcher and ethicist Associate Professor Stacy Carter said, “Most importantly, this research is about improving health outcomes for patients, in Australia and internationally.

“Our findings will assist patients, citizens, healthcare funders and health professionals to adopt helpful new technologies and avoid harmful new technologies to get the best possible outcomes from our healthcare system.”

Health psychologist Professor Kirsten McCaffery said “We are an internationally leading, multidisciplinary team and Australia is at the forefront of this new area of research. This funding puts us in a unique position to continue and expand the world class work we are doing.”

Public Health at the University of Sydney

The public health program at the University of Sydney focuses on the prevention of illness and the promotion of health, with practitioners playing a proactive rather than a reactive role, especially with regard to the coordination of relevant community resources. The program provides the opportunity to develop skills and acquire knowledge essential for the effective practice of public health, including the effective management of community health problems.

Program: Master of Public Health
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intakes: March and July
Duration: 1 year

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