NHMRC funding to solve health issues

More than $430,000 has been awarded to La Trobe University researchers to solve critical health issues, as part of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Postgraduate Scholarships scheme.

The researchers will explore a range of important social and health issues, including screening for reproductive coercion, understanding back pain in elite athletes, treating bacterial vaginosis and preventing arthritis in young people after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery.

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Professor Susan Dodds said the funding will help these outstanding researchers make a difference locally and globally.

“Though these projects span diverse areas of research – including immunotherapy, exercise science, and women’s health – they are all focussed on enhancing quality of life, particularly in younger people,” Professor Susan Dodds said.

“The outcomes will make a tangible difference to individuals and communities across Australia and beyond.”

Postgraduate Scholarship recipients:

Dr Larissa Trease - $135,002

Despite being in peak physical condition, athletes experience low back pain at a higher rate than other members of our community. The reasons for this are not well understood and the advice to "keep active" that is given to non-athletic patients is less appropriate for athletes. This project will recruit and follow 300 elite athletes for one year to identify risk factors for athlete lower back pain. The project will also measure the cost of lower back pain in terms of episodes of pain and training time lost.

Dr Lachlan Batty - $101,377

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common in young and active people. The development of knee arthritis after ACL injury and ACL surgery is a concern because it can lead to a situation where a young patient has an "old knee". This scenario is a major cause of disability and is very challenging to treat. This research is important in identifying patients at risk of premature arthritis and to facilitate prevention, treatment and better outcomes for this young patient group.

Ms Desiree LaGrappe – $101,542

This research will create and test a short set of questions about behaviours used to control the pregnancy choices of another person. Researchers aim to help health care workers talk to clients about making a safety plan and planning a pregnancy. The questions will be tested in the Victorian Maternal Child Health Service where nurses currently ask about domestic and family violence. Researchers will also review research papers and talk to nurses, their clients and experts to learn about their opinions.

Dr Hiu Tat Chan – $97,640

Bacterial vaginosis is very common in reproductive aged women. Current therapies are not very effective. However bacterial vaginosis is linked with poor reproductive health outcomes in women and new therapies are needed. Phages are viruses that attack bacteria, and CPR bacteria are a group of little-known bacteria that parasitise other bacteria. This research will investigate how phages and CPR bacteria affect vaginal health and develop new bacterial vaginosis therapies.

Media contact: Kate O'Connor - 0436 189 629, k.o'connor@latrobe.edu.au