Researching our way to better health
The story of our nation’s health challenges can be told in the numbers - half of us have a chronic condition, almost two thirds of us aged 18 or over are overweight or obese and around 45% of those aged 16-85 will experience a mental health illness in their lifetime (1). As we grapple with these challenges, health and medical research is vital in helping us understand the causes, finding optimal treatments and achieving better outcomes for patients.
This year, Medibank has invested $1.6 million to support 30 active projects. We’ve partnered with more than 30 organisations to focus on key health priorities that impact the quality of life for millions of Australians and cost the health system billions each year - including osteoarthritis, low back pain, obesity and mental health.
Chronic pain affects too many Australians to be ignored, and for the 2.2 million (2) living with osteoarthritis, it can be a daily reality. Osteoarthritis is also costing our health system $3.75 billion and the economy around $22 billion each year (3). We’ve collaborated with the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney to support two important initiatives that aim to optimise osteoarthritis treatment:
Professor David Hunter has led a research committee in partnership with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to conduct a two-year review of all current evidence and research from Australia and worldwide, and consult with a broad range of experts to produce updated guidelines for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis.
With over 20% of patients who have undergone a total knee replacement dissatisfied and underwhelmed with their surgery (4), Professor Peter Choong is leading a group of researchers trialling a new multidimensional tool to provide a more rigorous screening program to assess patient suitability for total knee replacement surgery.
For many Australians, low back pain might be an accepted part of everyday life, but it has a vast impact, accounting for 30% of all chronic pain in Australia (5).
We’re exploring how virtual reality can be used effectively to help with chronic pain, collaborating with Swinburne University’s Department Chair of Health and Medical Sciences, Associate Professor Rachael McDonald.
We’ve also teamed up with the University of Queensland to test the effectiveness and impact of a new web resource MyBackPain.org.au that will empower people with back pain with the knowledge and confidence they need to take control of their pain management and treatment.
And while Australia might still enjoy the stereotype of a nation of fit and healthy people, we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. This is particularly pronounced in the older Australian community, affecting one in five of our seniors, equal to almost one million people (6).
- We’re supporting a range of initiatives which improve the outcomes of people considered overweight or obese, including ‘Better Knee, Better Me’, a world-first clinical trial to prove the effectiveness of non-surgical intervention with osteoarthritis sufferers, co-led by Professors Rana Hinman and Kim Bennell, with a team of researchers from the University of Melbourne.
Meantime, mental health issues are on the rise in Australia and research shows young Australians are worst affected (7) with one in four 16-24-year-olds experiencing a mental health issue in the past year. It’s estimated that one million Australians with mental health conditions are going untreated each year (8).
- In conjunction with Professor Michelle Lim at Swinburne University and Dr Jay Spence we’re researching the effectiveness of a new app and online platform designed to show users the skills they need to manage their mental health.
As we await the final outcomes of these trials and studies, we are inspired by the passion and commitment of those involved - driven to help improve the lives of millions.
About the Medibank Better Health Foundation
Over the past seven years, the Medibank Better Health Foundation has worked to be a catalyst for positive change by funding health and medical research and translating and disseminating research insights to promote healthy behaviours, inform policy and improve clinical practice.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – Australia’s Health 2018
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Osteoarthritis. Cat. no. PHE 232. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 25 September 2019,
- Arthritis Australia March 2014, A Time to Move: Osteoarthritis | A national strategy to reduce a costly burden, Page 4.
- Wylde, V., et al., Persistent pain after joint replacement: prevalence, sensory qualities, and postoperative determinants. Pain, 2011. 152(3): p. 566-72
- Henderson JV, Harrison CM, Britt HC, Bayram CF, Miller GC. Prevalence, causes, severity, impact, and management of chronic pain in Australian general practice patients. Pain Med 2013;14:1346-61.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.. Obesity trends in older Australians.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4364.0.55.001 National Health Survey:First Results 2017-2018
- Productivity Commission into mental illness 2019