Tackling the problem of ‘lifestyle diseases’
Obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – and related conditions, such as renal disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancer – are the leading causes of mortality and disease burden in Australia.
Their prevalence is rising rapidly, with diabetes predicted to become the major cause of morbidity and mortality in the Australian community by 2016. Furthermore, the prevalence of these conditions is particularly high in disadvantaged groups, including Indigenous communities.
Taken together, these diseases have been identified by the World Health Organization as the major threat to the health and wellbeing of the global community.
The adverse health impacts of both obesity and diabetes are also higher in non-western European populations. In India, for example, the prevalence of diabetes in urban populations is close to 20 percent and projected to double within 11 years. Overweight Indians are 400 percent more likely than western Europeans to have diabetes, while Indians with diabetes are 300 percent more likely to have a myocardial infarction than a western European with diabetes.
Environmental, social, economic, and behavioural factors are all involved in the increasing prevalence of these diseases, all against a background of biologic mechanisms and genetic susceptibilities.
Shaping the future: benefit for all
If we are to reduce the prevalence, incidence, and health impact of these diseases, we need a broad-based and coordinated effort that integrates education and research in basic sciences, biomedical sciences, nutrition and exercise science, coupled with clinical and community studies.
The University of Sydney's new centre will deliver a wide range of benefits to our local, national and international communities, both for present and future generations. These benefits include:
- the development of novel approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and related conditions
- new knowledge that will help individuals avoid and manage these diseases, and enable governments to develop appropriate health services and policies that will reduce the burden on public health and finances
- improved population health in Australia and its region
- attracting more research expertise to Australia, through the provision of world-class facilities and strengthening the University’s international rank and profile (eg through securing an increased number and wider range of research grants, raising the number of peer-reviewed publications and increasing numbers of higher degree research students)
- attracting experienced clinicians back into research, resulting in a wider pool of expertise and complementary knowledge
- encouraging future generations of researchers by attracting the best and brightest school leavers to study in related fields, and inspiring more undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students to pursue relevant research.