Australia succeeds in bid for longevity centre!


The International Longevity Centre Global Alliance, a multinational consortium sharing research, policy and knowledge related to population ageing, has announced overnight that a bid for an Australian centre has been successful.

The Australian bid was made up of 11 organisations including consumers, aged care providers, academics, researchers and policy advisors.

International Longevity Centre – Australia (ILC–Australia) will join the international alliance of centres which includes the UK, US, Japan, Singapore, Brazil, and South Africa.

The mission of the centres is to help societies address longevity and population ageing in positive and productive ways.

The organisations behind the Australian bid said it involved more than two years of hard work and collaboration.

The acting head of ILC–Australia, Professor Julie Byles from the University of Newcastle, said that international collaboration offered an opportunity for Australia to focus its efforts in ageing research, share its knowledge, and learn from other countries.

“The consortium represents a range of interests including consumer peak bodies, aged care providers, academics, researcher and policy advisors. This gives the group great advantage in driving evidence-based change,” Professor Byles said.

“The aim is to support a better experience of ageing at a societal level, including better services, better community structures and better government policies.”

Sandra Hills, CEO of Benetas, one of the 11 organisations involved, welcomed the news of the successful bid, and said ILC–Australia represented a chance to work with international stakeholders on significant projects.

Ms Hills said the consortium would now work to provide a framework agreement for the new centre and begin its role across a number of important policy areas.

The 11 member organisations behind ILC–Australia are:

ILC–Australia will be supported by a sponsorship model. Corporate organisations looking to invest in a social purpose will find ILC–Australia a valuable opportunity for driving international collaboration and supporting ageing populations, Professor Byles said.

“It will act as a bridge between evidence, policy and practice on societal ageing issues. It will have an international focus, bringing new ideas into Australia, extending and sharing databases, and sharing innovation arising from Australia to a wider audience.”

ILC–Australia will foster long-term, independent policy analysis, research, advocacy and knowledge translation. The centre will concentrate its efforts on the social effects of longevity, with a focus on:

  • health and wellbeing
  • workforce participation
  • diversity
  • economic status
  • intergenerational issues
  • transitions (retirement, widowhood)
  • aged care
  • frailty
  • a good death (including advance care directives and palliative care)

Study reveals truth about diet in pregnancy

Researchers from the University of Newcastle have found there is no universal consensus on what constitutes an optimal diet for women before, during and after pregnancy, despite a glut of nutritional information being available.

Dietitian and PhD candidate, Ellie Gresham, led a team conducting the largest ever meta-analysis and systematic review of international research trials pertaining to dietary interventions for expectant mothers, dating from 1978 to 2011.

The initial search found more than 5,000 relevant articles, of which more than 2,300 were exhaustively screened. Included were studies that provided dietary counselling and/or food interventions. The collective results were then used to determine the overall effect of diet on neonatal and infant health.

“Our aim was to analyse whether dietary interventions had an effect on pregnancy, neonatal and infant outcomes,” Ms Gresham said.

“We found there was a positive effect on birth weight and a reduced incidence of low birth weight using whole foods and fortified foods as dietary interventions. Fortified foods included foods and drinks with higher levels of nutrients.”

Results of the review have now been published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, accompanied by an editorial from researchers at the UK’s University of Southampton Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit.

Evidence shows small babies are more likely to start life in neonatal intensive care, and maternal nutritional status can have lasting effects on offspring health and wellbeing.

“It’s an important time for both mother and child but we still can’t pinpoint what is optimal,” Ms Gresham said.

“While there are national dietary guidelines we can’t say to expectant mums that if you follow this particular diet you will have a healthy baby.

“From here, more high-quality research is needed for pre-conception diets, through pregnancy and lactation phases and finally subsequent pregnancies. This will help determine the most crucial times to pay attention to diet.”

Low birth weight affects approximately 8-10 per cent of Australia’s newborns. The research found no significant effects on other outcomes such as placental weight, head circumference and infant deaths.
Editorial author, Professor Keith Godfrey, said the review was the largest of its kind to date.

“The review provides some clues to help improve the health of the next generation, and also highlights the challenges in providing sound advice for pregnant mothers, Professor Godfrey said.

“While it is clear that diet in pregnancy can affect immediate outcomes, far less is known about diet around the time of conception or the consequences for the child’s health in later life.”

Ellie Gresham is a member of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing. The centre works in conjunction with HMRI’s Public Health Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

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Young women becoming more active, and more stressed

Young Australian women are fatter, fitter and more fraught today than they were in the mid-’90s, according to the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health researchers.

The 17-year study, led by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Julie Byles and University of Queensland’s Professor Gita Mishra, found that 70 per cent of women aged between 18 and 23 in 2010 met Australian guidelines for physical activity, compared with 59 per cent in 1996.

Professor Mishra said that while this finding was encouraging, the percentage of overweight and obese young women was increasing.

“In 2013, 33 per cent of the young women surveyed were overweight or obese, compared with 20 per cent in 1996,” she said.

Professor Julie Byles said researchers also found that the prevalence of stress in this age group was higher than in the previous generation of young women surveyed in 1996. She said about half the young women surveyed said they had experienced high or very high psychological stress in the past year.

“The rate was even higher, 55 per cent, for women aged between 18 and 20 years, which probably reflects the stressful transition period between adolescence and young adulthood,” Professor Byles said. “Worryingly, we also found that 59 per cent of these young women had experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year, while 45 per cent had engaged in self-harming behaviour.”

Other notable findings in the report titled Health and wellbeing of women aged 18 to 23 in 2013 and 1996:Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health include:

Physical health: More than one in five young women reported frequent severe tiredness, back pain, headache or period pain, while one in four reported trouble sleeping – double the incidence reported in 1996. About one in three young women had low iron levels, and one in 25 young women had asthma.

Smoking: From 1996 to 2013, the percentage of women aged 18 to 23 who had never smoked increased from 53 per cent to 63 per cent, while there was also a substantial decline in the percentage of current smokers from one in three (32 per cent) to less than one in five (19 per cent).

Drinking: In 2013, one in four young women (26 per cent) drank alcohol weekly or more frequently (compared with 29 per cent in 1996). There was little change in drinking patterns since the 1996 survey.

Violence: One in five young women had experienced physical or sexual violence in the past 12 months while 56 per cent had experienced either form of violence at some point in their lives.

Bullying: One in five young women said they were bullied in the past 12 months while 70 per cent had been bullied at some point in their lives.

Intimate partner violence: The percentage of women who had been in a violent relationship had increased to 13 per cent in 2013, up from 11 per cent in 1996.

Impact of education: Women with less than a year 12 education fared worse in almost all categories surveyed – reporting poorer mental health; higher incidence of being bullied; more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence; more likely to have not used contraception and been pregnant at some stage; less likely to have received the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.

Get to know us!

The Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing focuses on individual health care and societal factors that affect the health of men and women across the life course.

The centre creates and capitalises on significant data assets to provide research for the development of health and social policy, and service delivery programs within Australia.

The centre also includes the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for International longitudinal Studies on Gender, Ageing and Health.