New approaches to Early Detection of Chronic Disease


The aim of this project is to develop computational models to optimize the social and health networks involved in the early detection and prevention of chronic disease.


Professor Stephen Simpson, Professor Max Bennett, Professor Ian Caterson, Associate Professor Michael Charleston, Associate Professor Timothy Gill

Research Location

Charles Perkins Centre – the Judith and David Coffey Life Lab

Program Type



The program will provide a systematic review of empirical studies of health literacy to indicate the limitations of current literature and to highlight the importance of the proposed research agenda on social networks on preventive healthcare. In particular, it is noted that the individualistic premise of current literature in which individuals are treated as isolated and passive actors. Thus, low health literacy is considered simply as an individual trait independent of support and resources in an individual's social environment. To remedy this, this research will take into account social support network that people can draw on when problems arise due to their health literacy limitations. Examination of the proposed agenda will make two main contributions:

  • First, we will gain a better understanding of the causal effects of health literacy and identify missing links in the delivery of care for patients with low health literacy.
  • Second, if social support network buffers the adverse effects of low health literacy, more effective interventions can be designed to address differences in individuals' social support network system in addition to individual differences in reading and comprehension. More targeted and more cost-efficient efforts could also be taken to identify and reach those who not only have low health literacy but also lack the resources and support to bridge the unmet literacy demands of their health conditions.

Additional Information

The Life Lab creates a new kind of graduate and postgraduate training environment at the interface between life, social, economic and physical sciences. Its focus is to address the significant challenges we face from an unsustainable food system that degrades the environmental services it depends on, and creates significant societal health problems. A better understanding of the complexity of the environment-food-health nexus is critical. It is fundamental to building a sustainable society, and one that is more robust to future uncertainties. Our unique approach will be a world-first in shifting research on these growing challenges from treating symptoms to prevention.Life Lab will challenge existing paradigms and university models to create a research training environment in which traditional disciplinary boundaries do not apply. Our ambitious vision is to create an ‘innovation hub' where researchers from disciplines spanning physical, life and social and economic sciences will interface with business, government and agency leaders. It will develop integrated approaches to the challenges that threaten societal wellbeing, and train the next generation of experts with the skills required to find solutions.

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Modelling, disease prevention, early intervention, public health, social network theory, chronic illness, optimisation

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1696

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