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Research Network to bring industry and community together in fight against epidemic of lifestyle diseases

28 Aug 2013

University of Sydney Business School Univative team

Back row: Prof. Elizabeth Cowley, Prof. Paul Griffiths, Prof. Corinne Mulley, Prof. David Grant, Prof.  Steve Simpson
Front row: Ms Clare Hughes, Prof. Chris Rissel, Assoc. Prof. Teresa Davis

The University of Sydney Business School has established a cross disciplinary research network in an effort to better understand the wide range of factors contributing to the current epidemic of lifestyle disorders. The network will bring together Government/policy makers, non-profit organisations and importantly, businesses keen to find solutions to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The 'Business of Health Research Network' was launched on 22nd August when researchers met with government, business and community representatives as well as health advocacy groups to "prioritise research at the interface of business and health".

"The link between health and business is very strong," said Network's co-leader Professor Corinne Mulley. "For example, the obesity debate embraces marketing, branding, advertising and food retailing and involves the private sector as well as public health advocates, policy makers and consumers."

"We expect to examine every aspect of this debate from consumer behaviour to attitudes towards exercise through to the role of public transport," added the Network's other co-leader, Associate Professor Teresa Davis. "Our intention is to bridge the gap between industry and the community on this issue."

The Academic Director of the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre, Professor Steve Simpson said that the overlap between Business and Health is sometimes an area of tension and ambiguity, growing out of the divergent goals that corporation and public health pursue.

Clare Hughes, Cancer Council NSW, talked of the barriers to collaboration between the corporations and health advocacy groups while John Lang of Alere highlighted the need to focus on the common ground such as employee and workplace health and productivity.

The key priorities identified by the meeting were -

  1. The need to balance the economic benefits of food industrialisation with social and community wellbeing with profits and/or tax revenues from commercial food production being channelled back into to community gardens, food access programs and public transport.
  2. The need to engage all sectors in Evidence Based Solutions with an emphasis on collaboration between corporations and public health in the areas of employee and workplace health using workplace champions, healthy eating campaigns and incentives for corporations and employees to engage in healthy behaviours.
  3. The need to evaluate existing interventions, promotions and initiatives and widen those that are working.