Two free online dementia courses run by the University of Tasmania which have proved popular in places as far flung as Botswana and Chile have taken out gongs at an an export awards ceremony.
The Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre was awarded top honours in the health and biotechnology category of the Tasmanian Export Awards for its free online courses which have been undertaken by 220,000 people from 185 countries.
The winning courses, ‘Understanding Dementia’ and ‘Preventing Dementia’, belong to a category of free online courses known as MOOCs – an acronym for Massive Open Online Course.
Wicking Centre Director Professor James Vickers said the award recognised the impact the education model was having on what was a rapidly increasing global health issue.
He said the courses have so far attracted participants from places including Nigeria, Chile, Namibia, China, Botswana and Nepal.
“It was wonderful to receive the award and quite unusual for a university,” he told ABC Radio Hobart on Wednesday. “It’s good recognition of the global reach of the MOOC.”
Winners in other categories of the awards included a wine maker, a software company and a honey producer.
Professor Vickers described dementia as “probably the biggest health issue facing humankind in the 21st century”.
“It’s not that we’ve done a great job in curing all the other diseases but we’ve certainly done a better job at managing and preventing them,” he said.
“At the moment the diseases that cause dementia are incurable but we’re starting to understand how you might reduce your risk through things you can do in your lifestyle, but that’s still not an absolutely proven science.”
He says the dementia MOOCs use current evidence to stay up to date and guide participants through the very latest science in the area.
The Wicking Centre now proceeds to the national awards, which will be held in Canberra on November 27.