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StrategicGrant Recipients



StrategicGrant Recipients

The purpose of Strategic Grants is to generate innovative and collaborative research projects in the areas where identified gaps in cardiovascular health exist.

2021 Strategic Grants

We are excited to announce 2 recipients of the 2021 Strategic Grants programs, focussing on Mental Health and Heart Disease, and Behaviour Change.

Professor Andrew Boyle, The University of Newcastle

Project title: Improving the Well-Being of Patients with Acute Decompensated Heart Failure: A Randomised Controlled Trial

Depression is highly prevalent and associated with increased hospitalisation and mortality among patients with heart disease. A whole-person care approach to depression management, encompassing mental wellbeing, behavioural risk factors and treatment adherence, is needed. This study will test whether a well-being app for patients discharged with Acute Decompensated Heart Failure reduces depression. Via the app, patients will be prompted to monitor depression and clinical outcomes and offered tailored self-care advice. Outcomes will be assessed monthly via brief measures for depression (PHQ-2 and PHQ-9) and healthcare utilisation. The patient’s cardiac team will track real-time patient data, and receive automated emails if patients enter high risk data. General practitioners will receive automated emails for patients reporting high levels of depression and encouraged to schedule a patient consultation. This novel process will prioritise urgent patient mental health needs while empowering the patient with self-care knowledge.  

Investigator Team:

  • Professor Rob Danson-Fisher, University of Newcastle
  • Professor Nick Zwar, Bond University
  • A/Professor Nick Collins, Hunter New England Health
  • Dr Breanne Hobden, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Kristy Fakes, University of Newcastle

Partner Organisation:

  • Hunter New England Local Health District

Associate Professor Eleanor Quested, Curtin University

Project title: Scale-up of the Australian Fans in Training (Aussie-FIT) men’s health behaviour change program: a randomised controlled hybrid implementation trial

Research shows that a 12-week program run in UK soccer clubs (Football Fans in Training) is effective in supporting men to get to a healthier weight and sustain changes 3.5 years later. We created an Australianised version, Aussie-FIT, and our pilot in Western Australia (WA) found it attracts men living with obesity and supports them to make changes to their physical activity, eating behaviour, weight, and well-being. We have also shown Aussie-FIT to appeal to men with cardiovascular disease, for whom it can play an important role in secondary prevention. This project will substantiate the program’s longer-term impact on cardiovascular health by undertaking research with a larger sample and longer follow up. We will also determine how Aussie-FIT deliveries can be sustained in WA; implemented across other States and Territories (Queensland, Northern Territory); scaled to appeal to a wider audience (e.g., via deliveries in rugby); and identify potential adaptations with marginalised populations such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

Investigator team:

  • Professor Andrew Maiorana, Curtin University
  • Professor James Smith, Menzies School of Health Research
  • A/Professor Toby Pavey, Queensland University of Technology
  • Professor Graham Hillis, Royal Perth Hospital
  • Dr Tracy McCaffrey, Monash University

Partner organisations:

  • Australian Football League – Northern Territory
  • West Australian Football Commission
  • Queensland Rugby League
  • Cancer Council WA (Live Lighter campaign)
  • Healthy Stadia

2020 Strategic Grants

In 2021 we awarded 8 researchers who were successful in the 2020 Strategic Grants programs, each of them exploring different facets within emerging fields of cardiovascular research, listed below.

Professor Gail Garvey, Menzies School of Health Research

Project title: Improving cardiovascular health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer

Cardio-oncology is a new and rapidly expanding clinical field that has the potential to significantly improve survival and quality of life for people with cancer. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience poorer outcomes from cancer and heart disease, and equity is at the heart of this project.

We will investigate the prevalence and impact of adverse cardiovascular events after cancer and explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients and their health professionals’ perspectives to gain insight into how cardiovascular risk is discussed and used in cancer treatment decision-making. The information will guide the development of resources for health professionals to support the optimal and equitable clinical management of cardiovascular risk in people living with cancer, as well as inform the development of other targeted and priority driven strategies.

Our focus on understanding cardio-oncological care and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may help eliminate these inequalities and the knowledge gained from this project will guide system improvements that will benefit all Australians.

Associate Professor Rachel Conyers, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Project title: Improving cardiovascular outcomes in patients who receive cardio-toxic cancer therapies Our project aims to improve the cardiovascular outcomes of Australian cancer survivors through a national network of multidisciplinary cardio-oncology services. These services will deliver centralised hubs of expertise, with protocolised risk assessment, guideline directed cardiac surveillance and enrolment within a suite of novel research studies to improve cardio-oncology outcomes, nationally.

Professor Peter Meikle, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

Project title: Early identification and treatment of heart disease to prevent heart attacks One Australian suffers a heart attack every 10 minutes, many without prior warning. The key role of cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and smoking in driving heart disease is well recognised and has been the target of primary prevention strategies for over 50 years. However, current risk stratification struggles to deal with the large intermediate risk group, resulting in either high treatment costs, or under treatment of at-risk individuals. This proposal brings together key investigators and large cohorts with individual-level patient data (clinical and molecular profiling) to deliver precision preventative health. We will develop and validate AI (artificial intelligence) based predictive models for risk stratification and personalised primary prevention of coronary artery disease. We will also develop a precision prevention pathway and a clinician/patient interface for the effective communication and management of cardiometabolic risk.

Professor Diane Fatkin, University of New South Wales

Project title: Is genetics useful for predicting outcomes in patients with atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm abnormality and often leads to heart failure or stroke. Our research will investigate how a person's genetic makeup might predict the risk of developing AF and its complications. This will generate new knowledge about the causes of AF and how genetic information can be used to improve and personalise therapies for individual patients. Importantly, we will assess patient attitudes to t genetic testing and the value and acceptability of receiving positive (or negative) genetic test results.  

Professor Jonathan Golledge, James Cook University

Project title: A program to reduce adverse events and improve quality of life of people with blocked leg arteries

1 million Australians have blocked leg arteries causing substantial leg pain, walking impairment and reduced quality of life and leading to a high risk of heart attack, stroke, hospital admission and death. Prior clinical trials have demonstrated that a range of secondary prevention treatments including medications and exercise therapy can substantially reduce the risk of adverse events and improve quality of life and function. Our previous research shows that these treatments are not effectively implemented. This study is to test a holistic medical and rehabilitation program that consists of personalised treatment sessions delivered via telehealth to optimise prescribed medications and rehabilitation. If effective, we will seek to widely implement it across Australia.

Professor Tom Briffa, University of Western Australia

Project title: Assisted self-management to prevent new life-threatening events for all in need after a heart attack

This study will establish the value of moving to a personalised, focused approach of preventing new attacks compared to routine care after a heart attack. It allows survivors to identify the key aspects to reducing their risk, the approach taken, goals set and maintaining engagement with health professionals in the three months after leaving hospital. The benefits of a personalised approach lay in both the potential for improved management of risk factors for an individual together with greater uptake and completion of the intervention across the entire population at risk. For each additional person completing personalised care it will translate to the reduction of up to 1 death and/or heart attack/stroke per improved risk factor. The study will clarify the optimal method of providing care post heart attack, inform international clinical practice, guidelines, policy and improve the outcome of heart attack survivors everywhere.

Associate Professor Lisa Moran, Monash University

Project title: Improving screening and management of women with cardio-metabolic conditions during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, women can develop certain conditions which can indicate that they have a higher risk of heart disease later in life including gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, fetal growth restriction or spontaneous preterm birth. Guidelines exist for some of these conditions to reduce the risk of heart disease following pregnancy including additional screening for risk factors for diabetes or heart disease and lifestyle management to optimise diet, physical activity and weight. However, there are currently gaps in clinical care where these guidelines are poorly taken up by women and health professionals and we don’t know how to identify women with these conditions at the highest risk of later heart disease. We will firstly identify the highest risk women for future heart disease from risk factors during in pregnancy and then adapt existing registers for screening and follow-up following birth to include these highest risk women. This work is crucial to develop targeted screening, prevention and treatment opportunities during and following pregnancy to reduce future heart disease in high-risk women.

Associate Professor Sarah Zaman - University of Sydney

Project title: Prevention of Heart Disease in Women with Non-traditional Risk Factors and High Calcium Scores

Currently, doctors use risk calculators to decide who is likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. However, these calculators often get it wrong in women – particularly women with female-specific heart disease risk, such as high blood pressure in pregnancy or early menopause and, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This study will determine if a simple CT-scan, that measures calcium in the heart arteries, can help decide which women benefit from early preventative medications and lifestyle changes. If successful, our study could help prevent a large number of heart attacks and strokes in Australian women.

Last updated12 March 2024