Associate Professor Anna Ugalde, Dr Cindy Needham and Professor Bodil Rasmussen will each lead potentially groundbreaking, life-changing health research projects from rural cancer care to nutrition interventions and First Nations health.

MRFF funding supports clinical trials to test the effectiveness and safety of new medical treatments, aiming to fill gaps in areas that need more research, support emerging researchers and their teams, and help researchers develop and bring their ideas to market earlier.

IHT’s successful projects are:

MRFF Early to Mid-Career Researcher Grant: Driving equitable cancer outcomes across Australia: establishing a nationally scalable model to embed best practice cancer care into rural health services – $4,899,021.10

Associate Professor Anna Ugalde, School of Nursing and Midwifery/QPS/Institute for Health Transformation

Cancer comes at a significant health care cost in Australia, particularly for rural and remote communities where cancer outcomes, including survival, are poorer.

The Optimal Care Pathways were developed through a multidisciplinary process drawing upon best evidence to provide guidance and expectations for quality cancer care. There is international evidence that the Pathways improve patient outcomes and they are a key part of the nationally-endorsed Australian Cancer Plan. However there have been no structured or coordinated implementation efforts in Australia.

Associate Professor Ugalde’s project aims to deliver implementation of the Optimal Care Pathways across rural and remote health services and establish a model for nationwide scaling. The program comprises three phases of work to understand the local rural healthcare contexts, build the necessary digital health tools and deliver a trial to test implementation of the Pathways.

The research team will work with government, health service and academic partners to enhance cancer care by reducing diagnosis times in rural communities, improving treatment initiation times and optimising continuity of care across the disease trajectory.

The CI team on the project are A/Prof Anna Ugalde, A/Prof Serene Yoong, A/Prof Camille Short, A/Prof Nicolas Hart, A/Prof Kate Gunn, Dr Rebecca Bergin, A/Prof Anna Wong Shee, A/Prof Anna Boltong, A/Prof Joel Rhee, Dr Deme Karikios, A/Prof Nicole Kiss, Dr Fiona Crawford Williams, Dr Lucy Leigh, Dr Anna Chapman, A/Prof Lan Gao.


MRFF Early to Mid-Career Researcher Grant: A spatial, systems and solution focused approach to understanding food environment factors that influence dietary risks of Australians living in rural and remote areas – $757,310.20

Dr Cindy Needham, School of Health and Social Development/GLOBE/Institute for Health Transformation

Australians living in rural and remote areas face shorter lifespans and higher rates of diet-related disease compared to city dwellers. Poor diet significantly contributes to this health disparity, highlighting the critical priority to improve the diet of rural and remote communities.

Food environments inform dietary practice, with rural and remote areas often lacking access to healthy food retailers in urban areas. However, little is known about how rural and remote Australians experience food environments, how these experiences shape dietary choices and how this could be adapted to drive healthier diet choices. Participatory research is needed to engage retailers, consumers and food suppliers so we can understand how environments drive behaviours and what changes would be both effective and acceptable to improve diet quality.

Dr Needham’s project will develop and test an online tool to engage with communities to understand how they access and purchase food and how this influences their dietary behaviour. The project will also provide an opportunity to co-design solutions interventions to address diet-related health and associated health-care costs in rural areas.

MRFF Consumer-Led Research: Guided Self-Determination: a codesigned self-management program for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples living with type 2 diabetes – $484,836.20

Professor Bodil Rasmussen, School of Nursing and Midwifery/QPS/Institute for Health Transformation

Diabetes contributes to 3.3% of the total disease burden experienced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. Type 2 diabetes is a significant contributor to morbidity and mortality among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and poses an additional risk of multimorbidity. There is a need for evidence-based, co-designed strategies to support self-determination in diabetes care for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Professor Rasmussen’s project aims to determine the feasibility and acceptability of a culturally tailored Guided Self-Determination (GSD) program to improve diabetes self-management and well-being for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples living with type 2 diabetes. The GSD program will empower Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, enable self-determination in the management of their type 2 diabetes and help to improve their wellbeing and quality of life.