The Bupa Health Foundation is one of the leading charitable foundations dedicated to health in Australia.
We are committed to improving the health of the Australian community and ensuring the sustainability of affordable healthcare.
Through our collaborative partnerships, we play a leading role in nurturing new ideas and approaches that can improve the health of all Australians. Our work is directed towards encouraging innovations and pioneering efforts through:
Since our inception in 2005, we have invested close to $26 million across our five focus areas:
To further our commitment to improving health, we foster a collaborative approach to our partnerships. Through active engagement with our partners and by sharing the incredible resources of Bupa, we help translate ideas into reality.
We are proud to have invested in over 100 partnerships across the country and remain committed to contributing to a strong economy by helping promote and ensure better health for all Australians. The Bupa Health Foundation 10 years Highlights Report (PDF 33.2Mb) showcases a range of initiatives that are doing just that.
Current Wellbeing Initiatives
The Bupa Health Foundation supports programs that encourage people to take up and maintain healthy behaviours - at home, at school, and in the workplace.
Around 60 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese. This research builds on preliminary clinical trial data suggesting the outcome of a very-low-energy diet (VLED) can be predicted using participants' variables.
The project will examine if 12-month weight loss results can be predicted at the outset of a VLED-based program. After completion, the findings will be used to guide more careful direction with VLEDs, a commonly used treatment in hospital weight-control clinics, to better match people to suitable treatment options.
Oxytocin nasal spray can powerfully impact a range of social cognition and social behaviour variables relevant to the diagnosis of autism. Previous research of the Brain & Mind Research Institute suggests substantial variation in response to the spray across individuals in regards to observed benefits.
This project employs a 12-week open label trial of oxytocin nasal spray in children with autism to identify patients who benefit from this treatment and the associated neurobiological changes that predict such changes. Outcomes provide the necessary leap in knowledge to advance oxytocin as a treatment for autism and our knowledge of the nature of improving social dysfunction. If proven, this project could significantly enhance the quality of life for children with autism and their families.
This is a longitudinal study of 1600 women in Victoria diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Over a period of at least five years, these women give us an insight into their lives following treatment by providing information through annual questionnaires to follow the physical, psychological and socio-economic consequences of breast cancer, looking at the broader outcomes of treatment beyond simply surviving.
The women were recruited both directly from the community and through the Victorian Cancer Registry in their first year after diagnosis. The findings will help provide a basis for the development of targeted management strategies to address issues affecting women with breast cancer. It will also guide further specific research where issues of significant need or poorer than expected outcomes can be identified. Other issues that may not otherwise have been considered significant may also be discovered.
This is the first Australian study to evaluate the broader health and social outcomes as well as women's needs after their breast cancer has been diagnosed and treated. It is also one of only a few studies worldwide that tracks women in this way from early diagnosis through subsequent years.
The study has been extended to explore the long-term health outcomes 3-5 years post treatment.
From a public health perspective, efforts to prevent depression are crucial if we are to reduce costs and improve health in the whole community. However few trials have tested interventions aimed at reducing symptoms and preventing depression.
Following studies which show that fish oils may prevent depression and suggestions that they are an acceptable remedy to older adults, this initiative is the first to investigate whether omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplements are effective in reducing rates of depressive symptoms, reducing incidence of new cases of major depressive disorder and reducing cognitive decline associated with ageing. The study also looks at whether brain changes in those risk factors for vascular disease are reduced by administering fish oil.
The CSIRO has developed a blood-test that can diagnose CRC at an early stage when the chance of cure is 80%. This blood test could also significantly improve CRC screening participation and compliance in the Australian population. The project will evaluate this non-invasive blood test with current screening programs for CRC to ascertain the following: 1. Determine its usefulness as a secondary screening tool to stratify patients for colonoscopy, or to reduce the number of unnecessary colonoscopies, thereby decreasing health costs; 2. Confirm that this test is superior in performance to faecal occult blood testing (FOBT).
Approximately one in six people (17 per cent) aged over 40 suffer from urge incontinence: urine leakage when there’s an urgent need to use the toilet, often requiring those affected to wear pads to prevent clothing being soiled. One third of sufferers do not benefit from standard treatments (anticholinergic tablets) and therefore they seek expensive surgical treatments that have limited benefit.
Previous research has shown almost half of those affected have urinary tract infections, with two small studies finding that antibiotics benefit these patients. The proposed randomised clinical trial will examine whether antibiotic treatment significantly relieves urge incontinence in refractory patients.
This collaborative project between Deakin University, The University of Melbourne, Barwon Health and the Royal Melbourne Hospital extends a study initiated in 2002, which demonstrated that maternal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) level during late gestation was associated with infant long bone length at birth. The infants in this birth cohort turn 9 years old from late 2011 though to 2013, which presents a novel opportunity to investigate the relationship between gestational vitamin D levels and important indices of childhood growth. These include body size, proportions and composition, adiposity, muscle mass, and bone geometry, density and estimated bone strength.
Current Chronic Disease Initiatives
The Bupa Health Foundation is proud to be partnering projects that will help to tackle health challenges affecting many of us including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Our work is focused on helping people to manage their conditions, improving patient outcomes, and reducing health costs.
The project involves the development, testing and rollout of an online training tool for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory conditions. It aims to provide them with easily accessible information relating to the self-management of their disease, and to help them increase their understanding of their condition, reduce the number of exacerbations and improve their overall quality of life. This tool will also provide the benefit of increasing access to patient health information for those in rural and remote settings, in addition to supporting those with community access difficulties.
is common in people with diabetes mellitus. Although the links are not well understood, it is clear that poor mental health can have a significant impact on people's ability to manage their illness. For example, depression can present a major barrier to effective and sustainable behavioural change in diabetes patients with obesity.
Treatment approaches in this context tend to make the mistake of separating the physical illness and the patient's emotional reaction to it. This initiative adopts a 'whole-person model' in developing and evaluating an integrated 'chronic disease self-management' education program for people with type 2 diabetes, obesity and depression.
The program, constructed around a patient manual, provides key information about disease management and skills training designed to help facilitate self management. Patients are encouraged to consider how their body, thoughts, feelings, and their health behaviours are all connected.
Chronic disease is one of the biggest challenges facing health services. This program is evaluating an approach to patient self-management of their illness based on telephone health coaching from nurses and other professionals.
Managing a chronic condition more effectively can lead to considerable gains for the patient and health system by helping to avoid emergency hospital admissions that are both undesirable for the patient and expensive to maintain. This study compares different groups of patients, some of whom will be offered telephone health coaching, to evaluate and establish its impact on managing chronic diseases.
Eye diseases such as glaucoma, retina damage caused by diabetes, and age-related macular degeneration, cause more than 50% of blindness in Australia. This project will deliver a technology-driven, user-friendly screening system to identify people with these conditions. The system can be used at optometry or diabetes clinics, improving access, reducing waiting times and potentially reducing vision loss.
Squamous epithelial cancer is the most common cancer in Australia. Professor Ian Frazer, the inventor of the cervical cancer vaccine, is leading this initiative to examine skin cancers and their precursor lesions for genetic signatures of viruses, and for protein signatures of specific immune responses, which might predispose patients to developing squamous skin cancer. Understanding the link between immune status and the development of skin cancer, and targeting certain viruses could hold the key to developing preventions and treatment options for people who develop or have a predisposition to develop skin cancer. This could include the development of a potential skin cancer vaccine.
In partnership with the University of New South Wales, Flinders University, Monash University, Bond University, University of Queensland, the Royal College of General Practice (RACGP) and National Heart Foundation of Australia, this 4-year project is investigating how to improve chronic disease management in general practice. It is the first time that such a partnership has been formed to prevent chronic disease in Australian general practice.
Carotid stenosis (main brain artery narrowing) causes about 10 per cent of all strokes. A/Prof Abbott’s discovery is that over the past three decades stroke risk has fallen by 80 per cent (to ≤1 per cent) with appropriate medication and a healthy lifestyle in symptom-free patients with carotid stenosis. Although surgery or stenting are recommended for stroke prevention in these patients in leading guidelines, the project demonstrates that these procedures are now more likely to harm than help patients and waste significant health resources.
The project focuses on putting A/Prof Abbott’s now independently validated findings into practice to better prevent stroke and other complications of vascular disease on a global scale.
Information technology (‘telemedicine’) will be used to help nurses manage foot ulcers in people with diabetes living in remote areas of Australia. Foot ulcers are a serious complication of diabetes, and people in remote areas have limited access to wound care specialists. If this model is successful, and rolled out to rural facilities, it will provide greater access to specialist wound care, and reduce hospitalisations and amputations in people with diabetes.
There is a major opportunity to reduce death and disability from chronic disease by improving the current variable uptake of evidence-based guidelines into routine healthcare. HealthTracker is an electronic point-of-care decision support tool that improves the identification of patients at high risk of heart disease within the general practice setting.
HealthTracker will be used as part of a quality improvement program that will provide GPs with audit and feedback tools to assist them in the utilisation of evidence-based prevention strategies that can improve heart health risk. The study is a 12-month Phase IV trial to introduce HealthTracker to 100 general practices in a Medicare Local.
It is hoped this local level approach will demonstrate how adoption of evidence-based guidelines in clinical practice may be implemented on a national scale.
Current Healthy Ageing Initiatives
Australia's population is ageing at a rapid rate and is likely to continue to do so in the coming decades.
The health, independence and wellbeing of older people are therefore becoming issues of increasing importance. The Bupa Health Foundation supports a range of initiatives that aim to help realise the potential of healthy ageing.
This study will investigate whether measuring brain activity in people with early dementia can predict their response to cholinesterase inhibitors, medicines that may enhance cognitive function and stabilise memory. Imaging techniques (PET and MRI) will be used to measure the activity of specific (cholinergic) nerves in the brain, to help doctors decide whether to prescribe the cholinesterase inhibitors. This individualised treatment could improve outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
These researchers will conduct a clinical trial comparing two different care plans in people who have had hip or knee joint replacement surgery. The study will compare the length of time patients stay in hospital after surgery with an Early Mobilisation Plan compared with Standard Care. The results will help to improve health outcomes, and the standard and cost-effectiveness of care for these patients.
The aims of this research are to:
The project will identify gaps in healthcare for around three million Australian women aged 40-65 years and develop best practice guidelines for Australian health practitioners.
Every year over one million people over the age of 65 are given anaesthesia during a health procedure. While there is laboratory evidence showing that anaesthesia promotes the risk of Alzheimer's disease, the extent of any relationship between the two is currently unknown.
This project compares the incidence of Alzheimer's in elderly patients who have previously received anaesthesia with those who have not been anaesthetised. It is aimed at helping researchers understand whether there is an association of anaesthesia with Alzheimer's disease, which, potentially, has far reaching consequences for medical practice across the world.
This initiative is trialling a model of GP employment in Australian residential aged care facilities (RACFs). The project will demonstrate impacts in terms of resident outcomes and healthcare resource utilisation in an Australian context. This can provide valuable information for policy makers in terms of determining the viability of a model.
This project has the potential to drive a radical change in the way care is delivered in the Australian aged care sector and systematically addresses the escalating problems with providing quality care to increasing numbers of residents in aged care facilities.
Current Empowering People about Their Health Initiatives
For many, healthcare used to be a case of 'doctor knows best'. But it's now recognised that people can help look after their own health if they are empowered with information and confidence.
The Bupa Health Foundation is investing in work that empowers Australians in looking after their health in areas where the need for empowerment is greatest.
This project will develop and test an integrated e-health system to help support and enable cancer survivors to achieve and maintain health and wellbeing, and achieve better cancer outcomes. The e-system will contain tools and resources to help cancer survivors monitor, assess and self-manage their own health needs through the delivery of standardised assessment tools and tailored, evidence-based self-management information.
Royal Far West (RFW) provides research and healthcare services for children from rural and remote NSW to ensure that country children have the opportunities to access specialist clinicians. RFW Speech Pathology unit has developed an innovative therapy program which uses technology mediated solutions to address the chronic problems of access and consistency in speech therapy. The program draws on the clinical delivery of speech services through tele-health solutions in partnership with local schools and community based therapy aides. The evidence obtained will assist in the knowledge of delivery of speech pathology care services within the rural health context.
The project aims to develop a cutting edge, innovative digital 'centre of empowerment' for adults with acquired disability. Featuring tips and techniques for everyday activities, information, interactive self directed rehabilitation tools and finders for local support and assistance, it will provide people with the 'how' of living with disability. The platform will use a shared decision making approach, engaging users to help shape its content and functionality, ensuring a highly interactive and responsive solution centre. The platform will be built for use by different groups, representing diseases that result in acquired disability, with the pilot phase outlined here built around stroke recovery.
Based on the latest scientific research that links brain health and a reduced risk of dementia, to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system, BrainyApp is the world's first dementia risk reduction App designed to help people monitor and improve their Brain-Heart health.
BrainyApp was developed by Alzheimer's Australia and Bupa Health Foundation to raise awareness of the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, and to help people live a 'brain healthy' life. There are 267,000 Australians currently living with dementia, with this number anticipated to increase to around 580,000 within the next 20 years. There is something people can do, however, to reduce their risk of developing dementia: that's where BrainyApp comes in!
The app is an evidence-based tool that uses the 'BrainyApp Survey' to find out how brain healthy people are and offers activities for the user to complete to help increase their 'brain health score'. It's never too late or too early to start, as brain function can be improved and protected at any age. To date, there have been over 280,000 downloads of BrainyApp. www.brainyapp.com.au
Current Promoting Affordable Healthcare Initiatives
Bupa Health Foundation is exploring initiatives that may help ease the increasing financial burden on healthcare services and strengthen the sustainability of Australia's mixed public and private health system.
Patients with advanced ovarian cancer have a high risk of recurrence after first line treatment and are routinely followed up in the clinic every three months after treatment. Providing a more structured approach to patient follow-up has the potential to improve outcomes for women with ovarian cancer.
This study looks at introducing a more rigorous and quantitative approach to detection of symptoms and side effects, complementing clinical follow up and leading to better patient care, using the MOST questionnaire. The improved detection of symptoms of recurrence by MOST will better identify and select patients suitable for second line chemotherapy, rather than rely on clinical assessment and the CA125 blood test alone.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people 50 years and older in Australia and is a major public health concern. The aim of this project is to conduct the first multi-centred randomised controlled trial of a new treatment to slow the progression of early AMD. This will be of significant community benefit by helping to improve the quality of life of older Australians and decreasing the level of care required. Further, the healthcare cost savings are potentially very significant. This project has the potential to substantiate a major breakthrough in the treatment of AMD.
Radiation proctitis is a debilitating condition causing rectal bleeding, faecal urgency and pain. It occurs in 5 – 15% of all patients who have had pelvic radiotherapy for treatment of cancers.
There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests oral vitamin A supplements assist in improving the symptoms for radiation proctitis. This study examines the evidence in a simple trial that could provide a solution to the problem that is significant for a small number of cancer patients.
There are approximately 17,000 new hip fractures in Australia each year. A hip fracture can be a devastating event for an older person as it can lead to poor functional outcomes, loss of independence, impaired quality of life, entry into Residential Aged Care Facilities and for some, death. Currently, many fractured hips are not recorded on the hip replacement registry. This project aims to address this gap in Australian data.
The primary goal of this project is to:
An angiogram is a common procedure recommended for diagnosing heart attacks. However, research suggests that angiograms are not routinely used for this purpose. This study will investigate how angiograms could be used more appropriately using specific patient information (including age, gender, risk factors and medical history) to improve clinical decision-making and patient care.
Despite the prevalence of evidence-based clinical guidelines and level 1 evidence, studies show considerable gaps between care regarded as appropriate and care received. This study will, for the first time, identify the appropriateness of healthcare delivered to children in Australia and barriers that prevent appropriate delivery, and test novel interventions to ensure appropriate evidence-based care can be delivered. In addition this project will examine the frequency and nature of adverse events involving children in our healthcare system, offering a unique opportunity to address safety deficiencies. The ultimate aim is efficient, safe and effective delivery of healthcare to children in Australia.
Weakening and expansion of the main abdominal artery (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, AAA) is a common problem in older Australians. This project is designed to evaluate the efficacy of telmisartan, a promising new medical treatment, in a carefully designed randomised pilot study.
Surgery is currently the only treatment available for AAA. It is expensive and associated with significant complications, and has also failed to benefit patients with early stage or small AAA. The five, small, randomised controlled trials examining the role of medications that have been published worldwide have failed to identify an effective treatment that has translated into clinical practice.
Preliminary data suggests that telmisartan could reduce the growth rate of small AAA by 50%. Such a treatment could reduce the number of patients requiring costly surgery; reduce the number of surgery-related deaths and complications; and provide a therapy more suited to the rapidly expanding group that typically develops AAA.
To be eligible, nominated researchers must be:
Only one application is permitted per person.
Who can nominate?
Nominations must be completed by research supervisors and/or department heads who are directly involved in the work of the researcher. Organisational approval of nominations is required.
What are we looking for in a nomination?
Nominations should clearly detail information about the Emerging Researcher, their area of interest, an overview of their research area and its potential impact on the health of Australians.
Nomination Form – 2016 Emerging Health Researcher
All fields must be completed to submit nomination.
Nominations close Friday 30 September 2016 (11.59 AEST)
What is the prize?
A total $25,000 (AUS) will be offered to the winner to pursue their chosen area of research. This will be presented as a cheque after the event.
In addition, profiling of the winner and the nominating organisation will take place across internal and external media.
How is the winner announced?
Selected finalists were invited to attend the annual Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Award event on 18 November 2015 where the overall winner was announced.
Congratulations to all finalists and to the 2015 Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher of the year – Dr Gabrielle McCallum