1384.6 - Statistics - Tasmania, 2006  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/04/2006   
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Contents >> Health >> Health services and research >> Menzies Centre for Population Health Research

The Menzies Research Institute is a population health research organisation attached to the University of Tasmania that utilises the distinctive characteristics of the Tasmanian community for its research. Tasmania is an ideal population to research due to:

      • its stable population and extensive genealogical records,

      • the small island geography, and

      • a community that participates freely as study participants, volunteers and supporters.
The Centre specialises in epidemiology and public health. Past successes include:
      • highlighting the importance of vitamin D in the development of bones in children and adults,

      • showing evidence of the link between early life sun exposure and susceptibility to multiple sclerosis,

      • discovering genes that causes disease, and

      • showing the link between infant bedding and childhood asthma.

The Centre's current research program includes:
      • a focus on preventing diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis, cardio vascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, epilepsy and infant health,

      • continuing research into the link between infant bedding and childhood asthma,

      • exploring the complex link between environmental and genetic causes of disease, and

      • undertaking nationwide studies, and collaborating with interstate and international researchers. The Institute's work continues to extend throughout Australia and the western Pacific and southeast Asian regions.

Particular projects:
    • The Childhood Determinants of Adult Health (CDAH), the first study within Australia that will show the long-term consequences of childhood obesity and physical inactivity. CDAH involves more than 5,000 participants across Australia who in 1985 took part in the Australian Schools Health and Fitness Survey. Data from the 1985 study provided the national benchmark for health and fitness levels, including obesity levels. The study participants will undergo 40 minutes of testing, which aims to measure risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in later life.

    • For the past three years, the Institute has been gathering extensive environmental and biological data on Tasmanians with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and a control group of Tasmanians without the condition. In 2003, researchers at the Institute provided the first evidence from an analytical study that low sun exposure, and therefore low ultraviolet radiation, was associated with the development of MS. Observations to date from the various MS studies being conducted at the Institute suggest that the genes involved in sunlight exposure may play a role in the development of MS.

    • One Institute study has found adults who had more contact with younger brothers or sisters during their first six years of life have a reduced risk of MS.The research found that increasing amounts of time spent in contact with a younger sibling aged less than two years in the first six years of life was associated with reduced risk of developing MS, possibly by altering childhood infection patterns and related immune responses.

    • A new research project at the Institute will examine factors that may contribute to the risk of falls, loss of balance and dementia as people get older. Researchers will examine the relationship between factors affecting vascular health and age-related changes in the brain structure and function. Previous research has suggested that such factors may be involved in causing changes in brain structure that are common with increasing age.

    • The Tasmanian Parkinson's Disease Research Project will study Tasmanian families with more than one family member affected with Parkinson's disease. The research team hopes to examine the contribution of known Parkinson's disease-causing genes in the identified families, and to discover other genes that have not been linked to the disease before.

For further information, visit the Menzies Centre for Population Health Research website: www.menzies.utas.edu.au.

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