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Medical activity in the mountains: Charles Perkins Centre Nepean

17 May 2017
Blue Mountains medical research centre thriving

Catch up with the latest happenings at Charles Perkins Centre Nepean. From the Centre’s current projects to NHMRC grant applications and the Nepean Family Obesity Service, the Centre has a lot to offer.

Charles Perkins Centre Nepean continues to grow and thrive in 2017 as a centre for innovative and collaborative research.

The CPC Nepean strategic vision

A key focus of the CPC Nepean strategic vision is to bring together leading researchers from across a variety of disciplines and link them to the resources available at the Nepean Hospital campus including clinical networks, infrastructure and patient cohorts. This vision was successfully implemented in 2016 through the establishment of several new research partnerships, cementing CPC Nepean’s role as a catalyst for collaboration.

Maternal oral health and pregnancy outcomes

CPC Nepean facilitated the establishment of a multi-disciplinary team of investigators to develop a research study envisioned by Professor Joerg Eberhard, Chair of Lifespan Oral Health, Faculty of Dentistry, and Professor Ralph Nanan, Sub Dean of Research and Director CPC Nepean. Linking in with the themes of the Developmental Origins of Disease Project Node, the study will investigate the effect of maternal oral health on adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage.

The collaborative team brings together not only researchers from the university, but also clinicians from the Nepean Centre for Oral Health and the Nepean Hospital Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department, further strengthening the relationship with the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.

Maternal health literacy interventions

Another collaborative venture initiated in 2016 was to partner with Professor Kirsten McCaffery, Leader, Health Literacy Chronic Disease Network Node, in running a study to investigate the influence of a maternal health literacy intervention provided to pregnant women. Professor McCaffery had already run the intervention successfully at other locations in Sydney and CPC Nepean was able to link the study team with clinicians and midwives at Nepean Hospital to enable the recruitment of pregnant women from the Nepean area and enlarge the study cohort.

Preconception weight loss

Professor Nanan continues his collaboration with Dr Adrienne Gordon, Project Leader of Preconception, Pregnancy and Childhood Cohort Study, The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders on PRE-PLAN: A randomised trial to assess the impact of preconception weight loss for overweight or obese women.

Other collaborations to date

In addition, A/Profess Jinman Kim, Director, Visual TeleHealth Labs & Nepean TeleHealth Technology Centre continues to be a valued collaborator of the CPC Nepean on a variety of innovative technology-based projects. Several more collaborations are in the formative stages including a further study with Professor Joerg Eberhard on maternal oral health, which has preliminary support from BUPA healthcare group, and a clinical trial of an obesity intervention in collaboration with Professor Ian Caterson, Director, Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders. All of these partnerships highlight the ability of CPC Nepean to facilitate access to unique patient cohorts through its strong relationship with Nepean Hospital and the Local Health District.

NHMRC Project Grant submissions

Professor Nanan has joined with other CPC collaborators to submit several NHMRC Project Grants. The proposed collaborative research projects span a range of CPC-related themes.

Extreme heat policy in sport

One such collaborator is A/Professor Ollie Jay, Director of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory, Faculty of Health Sciences, and Leader of the Climate Change and Adaptation Project Node. The proposed study will deliver for the first time an extreme heat policy for child and youth sport that is grounded in laboratory-based evidence.

Neonatal heat balance

CPC Nepean is also collaborating with Professor Jay on a study to investigate the monitoring and regulation of neonatal heat balance under radiant warmers. This study will be carried out in partnership with the Nepean Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Babies developing food allergies

Another project submitted to the NHMRC scheme is a collaboration with A/Prof Deborah Palmer, Head of the Childhood Allergy and Immunology Research Team at the University of Western Australia. This research trial will seek to determine whether mothers regularly eating more eggs and peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding will reduce food allergies in their babies. Furthermore, a NSW Health Translational Research Grant has been sought for a study in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

The Nepean Family Obesity Service

In February 2017, the newly established Nepean Family Obesity Service began seeing its first patients and will have an official launch in the coming months. It is a joint venture between the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, Primary Health Network, University of Sydney Nepean Clinical School and the Charles Perkins Centre Nepean.

Throughout 2016, Professor Ralph Nanan and Professor Stephen Simpson, Academic Director, Charles Perkins Centre, were heavily involved in a collaborative effort to acquire funding to establish this multi-disciplinary obesity service at Nepean with a unique family focus.

The goal is not to merely target obesity in individual patients but to engage in a family-orientated holistic approach involving a medical and allied health team. In its role as an ‘ideas incubator’, the Charles Perkins Centre Nepean is already supporting this new initiative by devising and hosting a series of think tanks. These workshops are designed to bring together the brightest minds from across a variety of disciplines (including psychology, exercise, diet, information technology, bio-banking, oral health and the microbiome) to discover how each area of expertise can be channelled to produce the best evidence-based clinical practice and research for the Service, and ultimately the best care and health outcomes possible for patients and their families.

The first think tank - on the psychology theme - was held in early March 2017 and received very positive feedback from the Service staff and participants alike. The second think tank to be held in late April – on the theme of diet – promises to be even better.

Where we are now

The Charles Perkins Centre Nepean, though commitment to its vision and strategies for growth, currently has more than 50 active research collaborators, 13 studies underway, 10 post graduate students and 13 CPC Nepean-badged publications, to date. Rapid growth has outstripped resources and the CPC Executive Committee has approved the recruitment of an additional 0.5 FTE Project Officer to work alongside Dr Anthea Karlov in the running of the Centre.

With the recent announcement of a $576 million upgrade to Nepean Hospital, scheduled to commence in 2018, and a pledge for a further expansion stage, CPC Nepean’s unique position in this environment as a dynamic and innovative leader in research and education has once again been highlighted.

Overall, 2017 promises to be another year filled with opportunities to work towards the goal of delivering life-changing health outcomes for the residents of greater Western Sydney.

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