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UWA researchers awarded $2.5 million for dementia prevention

Monday, 23 April 2018

A research team led by Dr Kate Smith at The University of Western Australia has been awarded $2.5 million in federal funding to reduce the prevalence of dementia in Aboriginal Australians.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, the Honourable Ken Wyatt, visited UWA today to announce five successful projects awarded National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding;  part of a $14 million commitment over five years for research into dementia in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Minister Wyatt said studies by the UWA-led team in a seven-year longitudinal project in WA’s Kimberley region suggested up to one in eight Aboriginal people aged 45 and over were affected by dementia. These findings have since been replicated in urban NSW. Dr Smith, an occupational therapist who works as a Research Fellow with UWA’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health, said the funding would enable her research team to develop and trial a health management program at Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, targeting the key dementia risk factors for Aboriginal people previously identified by the research team.

“Sadly, older Aboriginal Australians have one of the highest rates of dementia and cognitive impairment in the world – three to five times that of non-Indigenous Australians,” Dr Smith said. 

“Given the rapidly ageing Aboriginal population, the significant impact that dementia has on Aboriginal communities and the financial cost to society, there is an urgent need to develop and roll out programs that are effective in reducing dementia in Aboriginal Australians.”

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater said the University was recognised Australia-wide for its strength in Aboriginal health research and education and provided considerable expertise, programs and resources.

“We are delighted to see researchers of the calibre of Dr Smith awarded funding to address such an important health issue among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Professor Freshwater said.

The Dementia Prevention and Risk Management Program for Aboriginal Australians (DAMPAA) is a five-year research project that will include a randomised controlled trial of a physical activity and cardiovascular management program in Perth and Geraldton, to target key dementia risk factors for Aboriginal Australians.

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