Strength in numbers for better health

Funding: Federal Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie, announced funding for health and medical research at HMRI on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.HEALTHand research teams from NSW and the Hunter have joined forces to becomeone of Australia’s first accredited Centres for Innovation in Regional Health.

The collaboration –known asNSW Regional Health Partners –aligns clinicians and researchers across the Hunter New England, Central Coast and Mid-North Coast districts of NSW.

It’s accreditationby the National Health and Medical Research Council recognises the strength of the alliance, a HMRI spokesperson said, and positions it to putresearch into practice for the benefit of rural and regional communities.

Federal Assistant Minister for Health,Dr David Gillespie,was in Newcastle on Thursday to make the announcement, and offeraseed grant of $225,000 to the health partnership.

The funding would come under the Medical Research Future Fund’s $10 million Rapid Applied Research Translation program.

“Making health care more effective for people is the aim of all health and medical research, and these developments ensure that the Hunter and regional NSW is right at the forefront of this trend,” Minister Gillespie said.

He alsoconfirmed that a one-off grant of $5 million in federal funding would go towardstheHunter Institute of Mental Health and The Black Dog Institute for the prevention of anxiety and depression.

Helen Christensen, director of the Black Dog Institute, said they would use the funding to roll out strategies to prevent depression and anxiety on a large scale.

“The message is that prevention is better than a cure,” Professor Christensen said.

“People may not realise, but you can actually prevent anxiety and depression.

“Even in school kids, if we can get the proper programs into schools, we can reduce depression and anxiety by 22 per cent, which is huge.”

Professor Christensen said small scale studies had shown that prevention worked.

With the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, they needed to show that it could work as a model for what could be done on a national scale.

”We’ve got ambitious outcomes that we want to achieve,” she said.

“We want to make a difference to kids, we also want to improve workplace mental health.

“We always talk about prevention of things like skin cancer, and the things we can do, this is about preventing anxiety and depression.

“We’re in that space of‘How do you do it’, rather than what we already know, which is that it is possible.”

The NSW Regional Health Partners is made up of Hunter New England, Mid North Coast and Central Coast local health districts, Calvary Mater Newcastle, the universities of Newcastle and New England, HMRI and Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network.

The “prestigious” accreditation as a Centrefor Innovation in Regional Health wasbased on the group’s achievements in health and medical research, research translation, research-infused education and training, and health care in a regional or remote setting.