Collage of Associate Professor Peter Kelly and Dr Briony Larance. Photo: Paul Jones

UOW researchers share in prestigious $2.5 million grant funding

UOW researchers share in prestigious $2.5 million grant funding

Research collaboration to improve alcohol and drug services in Australia

UOW researchers will collaborate on a project that aims to reduce the cost and burden of primary and comorbid alcohol and other drug problems in Australia.

University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers have been awarded a share of $2.5 million funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) scheme to support collaborative research projects to generate new knowledge that leads to improved health outcomes.

Associate Professor Peter Kelly and Dr Briony Larance, from UOW’s ,  and Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), will contribute to the Centre of Research Excellence in Alcohol and Other Drug sector capacity building for outcome focused, evidence based and cost-effective care.

Associate Professor Kelly is Co-Director of the new CRE. 

In Australia, alcohol and other drug use is the number one risk factor for death and disability across all age groups and costs the community over $23.5 billion annually. Alcohol, cannabis, methamphetamine, and heroin are the four drugs for which most people seek treatment.

“Alcohol and drug use has a large impact on communities here in the Illawarra, and across Australia. Our new Centre of Research Excellence is focused on working with government and non-government services across Australia to help improve service delivery within drug and alcohol treatment settings,” said Associate Professor Kelly.

“This involves bringing together people with lived experience, clinicians, and leading national and international researchers in the field.”

The collaboration unites a network of national and international researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ), University of Wollongong, University of NSW, King’s College London and the University of Newcastle.

CRE Director Professor Leanne Hides, from UQ’s School of Psychology, said the aim is to understand what treatments and services work best, increase capacity and deliver services in a cost-effective way.

“Treatment services across the country have increased by 45 per cent over the last ten years, however modelling shows the treatment need of between 44 and 73 per cent of people who could benefit are not being met,” Professor Hides said.

“That’s where this new CRE comes into play, by focusing on the outcomes of treatment we can help to make sure people are receiving treatment and that it’s the most effective for their needs.”

UOW’s existing research, through the Centre for Health Psychology Practice and Research and IMHRI, is largely focused on conducting collaborative trials with service providers in the community.

Associate Professor Peter Kelly from UOW’s School of Psychology

Associate Professor Kelly the Co-Director of the new CRE. 

“This new funding is vital in helping to continue this work. It will mean that we can continue to work in partnership with community services, conducting a series of projects that are focused on facilitating access to treatment and improving clinical decision making across health settings,” Associate Professor Kelly said.

The UOW research team’s work intersects psychology, addiction medicine, pain medicine, psychiatry and public health, to produce meaningful health outcomes.

“Often, clinicians are required to collect large amounts of data from their clients that are not reported back to them in ways they can meaningfully incorporate in their day-to-day practice or to improve their service,” Dr Larance said.

“Our CRE will provide the capacity needed to help shift the focus away from counting episodes of care, towards identifying the ways in which data and research can improve the quality and outcomes of our alcohol and other drug services.

“We know treatment is effective, but we still have a lot to learn about what works best for whom.”

Professor Jennifer L Martin, UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), congratulated the UOW researchers on receiving the grant.

“Congratulations to Associate Professor Peter Kelly, Dr Briony Larance, and the broader research team.” Professor Martin said.

“This latest funding win is a testament to the outstanding intellectual exchange and collaboration achievements by UOW researchers. I look forward to following the progress of the Centre of Research Excellence to improve alcohol and drug services.”

The highly competitive CRE scheme, administered by NHMRC, on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Health, provides support for teams of researchers to pursue collaborations in clinical, population health and health services research. The research aims to improve translation of research outcomes into policy and practice.

Main picture: Associate Professor Peter Kelly and Dr Briony Larance