Professor Thomas Astell-Burt from UOW's PowerLab

UOW ‘nature prescription’ randomised trial for chronic disease management receives $1.5 million

UOW ‘nature prescription’ randomised trial for chronic disease management receives $1.5 million

Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) supported project will investigate physical activity in nature for cardiometabolic disease in people aged over 45 years

A team of researchers, led by University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Professor Thomas Astell-Burt, has secured funding through the MRFF Effective Treatments and Therapies program to test the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of a co-designed nature prescription in Australians over 45 years old.

Professor Astell-Burt said contact with nature may be a key way to sustain regular physical activity in people with heart disease and diabetes.

“Contact with nature has well-documented mental, physical and social health benefits. Our national survey indicates 72 per cent of physically inactive Australians aged over 45 years with cardiometabolic diseases would accept a nature prescription, yet there are none on offer.

“We aim to co-design and test a nature prescription intervention that enables this target group to spend more time in nature and thereby reap the rewards of sustained physical activity for cardiometabolic health.

“People are more likely to start and maintain lifestyle change if it aligns with their intrinsic motivations and can be conducted in settings that empower them to adopt the new behaviour.

Co-lead investigator, Professor Xiaoqi Feng of the University of New South Wales' (UNSW) School of Population Health, said:

“Nature’s green and blue spaces - parks, forests, lakes, rivers and beaches - offer a largely underutilised, low/no cost opportunity in chronic disease management that can both attend to people’s interests and provide attractive settings for sustained increases in physical activity and reductions in stress and loneliness.”

“The Physical Activity in Nature for Cardiometabolic Diseases in People Aged 45y+ Trial will shed light on how we can increase time in nature in an acceptable, sustained, scalable, and cost-effective way for people with high potential to benefit from being more physically active.”

The MRFF is an ongoing research fund that aims to transform health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability. The Effective Treatments and Therapies Grant supports medical research and innovation projects that develop, implement and/or validate scalable approaches for personalised exercise programs to maximise disease risk factor reduction and adherence in adults and approaches for effective community-led physical activity programs co-designed with a priority population.

The project will bring together a large team of university and community health partners including UOW, UNSW, the University of Sydney, Griffith University, Western Sydney Local Health District, BC Parks Foundation, Primary & Community Care Services and The George Institute for Global Health (see full list of investigators and institutions below).

UOW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Patricia M. Davidson said, “UOW is leading the way in researching community health solutions, with an emphasis on sustainable solutions to the major health crises we face in the 21st century.”

Cardiometabolic diseases such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes are among the most commonly managed conditions in primary care. There is considerable evidence that physical activity, including walking, aerobic and resistance training, is key to patients effectively managing these conditions.

However, current physical activity prescriptions and programs can be undermined by low uptake and adherence, to a large extent because they are often viewed as too complex, costly, time consuming and interrupting daily routine. Enabling and empowering people to spend more time in nature may be an attractive alternative way of sustaining physical activity and cardiometabolic health for many people.

The PANDA Trial investigators are:

Professor Thomas Astell-Burt, UOW

Professor Xiaoqi Feng, UNSW

Dr Monique Francois, UOW

Professor Julie Redfern, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Stewart Vella, UOW

Professor Evangelos Pappas, UOW

Dr Katarzyna Olcoń, UOW

Associate Professor Rowena Ivers, UOW

Professor Glen Maberly, Western Sydney Local Health District

Professor Lennert Veerman, Griffith University

Professor Marijka Batterham, UOW

Professor Elizabeth Halcomb, UOW

Dr Sonali Gnanenthiran, The George Institute for Global Health

Associate Professor James Baker, Primary & Community Care Services

Assistant Professor Melissa Lem, BC Parks Foundation PaRx

Professor Patricia Davidson, UOW

Sumathy Ravi, Western Sydney Local Health District

Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, Western Sydney Local Health District

Janine Dawson, Western Sydney Local Health District


Further information on the trial is available here.