NHMRC launches cognitive decline centre

The push for more industry-led research has gained momentum with the launch of Australia’s first cognitive decline partnership centre, jointly funded by the NHMRC and four health and aged care organisations.

Above: A/Prof Susan Kurrle

By Linda Belardi.

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital’s Associate Professor Susan Kurrle has been named as the lead investigator of Australia’s first centre for cognitive decline research. 

The cognitive decline partnership centre – jointly funded by the NHMRC and four industry partners – was launched by the Federal Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler this afternoon in Perth, marking the beginning of a five-year research program. 

The $25 million initiative will focus on cognitive and related functional decline in older people and was set up with the purpose of aligning research with industry priorities.

Announced research projects under the partnership include developing GP guidelines for the diagnosis and management of dementia to improve care in the home, and addressing the stigma attached to dementia through community education.

A Vitamin D administration program in aged care facilities will also be carried out by Professor Ian Cameron of the University of Sydney’s Northern Clinical School to improve bone density and assist with falls prevention among residents. 

The University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Sarah Hilmer will lead a project to better understand the quality use of drugs in older people with cognitive impairment.

The centre’s ‘virtual’ head office will be located at Hornsby Hospital in NSW, but the partnership involves the work of five states (excluding Tasmania), nine universities and the input of 13 different professions.

A/Prof Kurrle said the centre is unique because it brings together clinicians, consumers, aged care providers and policy and decision-makers to work in tandem with researchers. 

“As the first of the Better Health Partnership Centres to be established, it signals something new in the research of some of our most pressing health and social concerns,” said Kurrle.

“In cooperation with our industry partners and our team of talented investigators, we will extend the research base of cognitive decline such as dementia in a way that directly affects the delivery of care in the community, in residential aged care and in acute and sub-acute health services,” she said. 

The focus of the centre will not be on evaluating specific health care interventions to cure or even to prevent cognitive decline but rather on supportive care in a variety of settings.

Minister Butler said the centre would help people living with cognitive decline to remain in the community, living productive lives for as long as possible. 

Along with the NHMRC, the centre’s funding partners include Alzheimer’s Australia, HammondCare, Helping Hand and the Brightwater Care Group. Industry partners can also nominate sector-based investigators to become part of the centre’s investigative teams.

HammondCare Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Judd, said the partnership heralded a new approach to research whereby the needs of the sector would drive the research program.

Helping Hand Chief Executive Ian Hardy said the great strength of the centre was its “focus on those key factors which affect the quality of life of those living with dementia, whether in the community or in residential care, and their families.” 

The centre’s work plan, management structure and budget have just completed a process of peer review and approval for funding through the NHMRC. 

A/Prof Kurrle is Clinical Director and Senior Staff Specialist for Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital’s Division of Rehabilitation and Aged Care and the Curran Chair in Health Care of Older People at the University of Sydney’s Medical School.

To read more about the history of the collaborative project see: NHMRC targets dementia and cognitive decline.

Tags: butler, cognitive-decline, dementia, kurrle, nhmrc,

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