HSRAANZ Members Awarded NHMRC Investigator Grants

NHMRC Investigator grants provide researchers with flexibility to pursue important new research directions as they arise and to form collaborations as needed, to create innovative and creative research solving pressing health and medical problems.

Congratulations to the following HSRAANZ members awarded grants in this round.


Transforming acute hospital care to improve outcomes for stroke

Professor Sandy Middleton - Australian Catholic University

Stroke is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability world-wide. However, in spite of the availability of stroke management and care guidelines, patients do not always receive the best possible care due to variations in the implementation of these guidelines. Australian Catholic University’s Professor Sandy Middleton has been awarded $1.35 million in NHMRC funding to implement and test interventions to improve stroke care. Through this research, Professor Middleton aims to enhance the role of acute stroke nurses, improve stroke care in rural/remote hospitals and translate these findings globally. The outcomes of this project will not only be applicable to stroke care, but will also inform improvements in care for other diseases across local, national and international settings.

Professor Middleton said:

“This program of work will make a significant contribution to implementation science, examining effective ways to translate evidence into routine clinical care."


Embedding economics for cost-effective melanoma prevention, diagnosis and treatment

Professor Rachael Morton - University of Sydney

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and currently costs taxpayers more than $100 million annually. Professor Rachael Morton has been awarded over $1 million in NHMRC funding to evaluate the economic benefit of melanoma genomics for prevention, artificial intelligence-driven diagnostics, and immunotherapy. Professor Morton’s approach will include behavioural economics and evaluation approaches through the whole spectrum of prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma. This project, based at the University of Sydney, has the potential to transform targeted skin surveillance programs across Australia and identify achievable cost-savings to healthcare. The ultimate goals of Professor Morton’s research are to improve survival and quality of life for patients and enhance the sustainability of Australia’s healthcare system.

Professor Morton said:

“My vision is to embed behavioural economics and health economic evaluation in flagship melanoma trials.”

“Health economics is ideally placed to determine the value of investment in melanoma funding decisions, and better inform sustainable healthcare.”


Leaving no-one behind: community-driven approaches to eliminate HIV in Australia

 Dr Jason Ong - Monash University

Eliminating HIV from Australia is possible with effective HIV prevention methods like treatment as prevention (TasP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). However there are inequities in our HIV response with declines of new infections in Australian-born men who have sex with men but not in overseas-born Australian men. Dr Jason Ong's Investigator Grant will fund a program of research to inform HIV policy by using crowdsourcing methods to identify and share solutions from the community and evaluating the value of the proposed solutions.

Dr Ong said:

‘A lot of times these people are still “closeted”, so they haven’t come out to their communities and even to GPs they may not identify themselves as gay or at risk for HIV, So over the next five years, the project is looking at how we can better serve this group. How do we as the primary care workforce reach these people?’

‘It’s basically the idea of getting wisdom from the crowds. We get ideas from the affected community and then we develop those ideas rather than imposing certain policies.’


Advancing health economic evaluation measurement and design to support priority setting for vulnerable children

A/Professor Kim Dalziel – University of Melbourne

The aim of this fellowship is to develop a new program of research that directs health funding decisions for children to ensure they are fair and efficient with the following aims:

  1. Make possible the generation of quality adjusted life years (QALYs) in economic evaluation of interventions for young children. Develop new empirical research so that Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PEDsQL) scores can be used in economic evaluation.
  2. Quantify inequities in the design and financing of the Australian health system for vulnerable children including those with high needs.  This will impact the design and financing of the health system to ensure it is fair and delivers outcomes for all children and
  3. Bring advanced pediatric health economics methods alongside clinical research and strength translation to policy, thus reducing waste and improving fairness.


Patient centred volunteer program for people with dementia: a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial of the MyCare Ageing program

Dr Darshini Ayton, Monash University

As our population ages, reducing falls, dehydration and distress among hospitalised people with dementia and/or delirium will become increasingly important to shorten hospital stays and achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes. This vulnerable cohort requires a level of medical supervision that can be difficult to achieve due to resourcing. MyCare Ageing is a collaborative program co-designed with a range of stakeholders that provides companionship and practical assistance from trained volunteers. The program was implemented in three Melbourne hospitals in 2019; this funding will allow Dr Darshini Ayton to conduct a randomised controlled trial, process evaluation and cost analysis to provide an evidence base for expanding the program throughout other health services.


Optimising Engagement in Cardiac Secondary Prevention: A Health Literacy Approach

Dr Alison Beauchamp, Monash University

This study will follow over 400 people with myocardial infarction to explore the role of health literacy in self-management of cardiac risk factors. Baseline data will include a comprehensive health literacy questionnaire, and participants will be followed for 2 years to determine the association between health literacy and lifestyle changes. The study will also co-design health literacy interventions with patients and clinicians across three health services. These interventions will aim to increase patients’ long-term engagement with cardiac secondary prevention including uptake of cardiac rehabilitation


Improving the synthesis of medical evidence through a structured taxonomy

Assoc Prof Zachary Munn, University of Adelaide

Robust and trustworthy systematic reviews (and other evidence synthesis products) are essential to inform policy, legislation and clinical decision making. However, it has been argued recently that there is mass production of reviews that are often unnecessary, misleading and conflicted with most having weak or insufficient evidence to inform decision making.

As the awareness of the need for evidence informed choices continues to grow amongst the community, the breadth of evidence synthesis approaches also continues to expand. This project will investigate and improve the quality and science of the synthesis of medical research through the development of an evidence synthesis taxonomy. This will be a comprehensive resource for policy makers, academics, clinicians, consumers and all others who are interested in rigorous and transparent methods of evidence synthesis for informing knowledge, policy and practice.

Assoc Prof Munn said:

“We need trustworthy evidence to inform policy and practice. Our work aims to improve the quality of evidence synthesis products, ensuring the most appropriate methods are used for varying questions and purposes."