A new RMIT health sciences hub will support multi-disciplinary clinical research into new treatments for chronic diseases.
The Health Sciences Research Hub features sophisticated equipment which will measure the physical and psychological results of treatments following clinical interventions.
The multi-disciplinary facility will provide space for practitioners to conduct high-quality laboratory-based and clinical research in areas such as pharmacology; diabetes and obesity; respiratory, skin and sleep disorders; chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders; and public health and health services.
Professor Margaret Gardner AO, RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, said RMIT was the largest education provider in Australia for Chinese medicine, chiropractic and osteopathy and the field of community and health services was one of its major teaching priorities and research strengths.
"The Health Sciences Research Hub provides a state-of-the-art resource that will enable researchers in the areas of Chinese medicine, manual therapies, nursing and psychology to work together in partnership and to critically assess the efficacy and effectiveness of clinical interventions," Professor Gardner said.
Although the health sector in Australia employs more than 1.2 million people, there has been a significant workforce shortage due to the increasing demand for meeting the health needs of an ageing population and for those afflicted with chronic diseases.
Professor Gardner told those gathered at the recent launch that RMIT had stepped up to address Australia's escalating health needs.
"RMIT aspires to be a leader - not just in teaching, but also in research - in the area of evidence-based healthcare," she said.
"If Australia is to successfully meet the ever-growing challenges posed by chronic diseases and an ageing population, we all need to work together effectively.
"This includes closer collaboration between medical practitioners and complementary therapies, which will become more important as this century progresses."
Researchers at the facility will be able to carry out electroencephalography (EEG) and neurosensory testing; blood and vascular analysis; spirometry and measurement of exhaled gases; musculoskeletal, balance and gait analysis; pain analysis; cognitive testing; face recognition and eye tracking; and polysomnography and sleep analysis.
Professor Calum Drummond, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice-President, said chronic diseases represented about 70 per cent of the national and international health burden.
"They are currently inadequately managed by Western medicine," he said.
"Consequently a significant proportion of chronic disease sufferers use complementary medicine, allied health and physical therapies as part of their therapeutic regime.
"The Health Sciences Research Hub will enable researchers to undertake multidisciplinary investigations of health disorders that commonly afflict Australians.
"It will bring clinical and other researchers together so that they can undertake novel research between disciplines and will provide a place for researchers from other schools, particularly Medical Sciences and Applied Sciences, to collaborate on inter-school research projects.
"Our undergraduate students learn about the nexus between teaching and research.
"The state-of-the-art facilities in the research hub will be used to demonstrate principles of clinical treatment and assessment, thereby establishing the foundations of evidence-based enquiry in the next generation of graduates."
The Health Sciences Research Hub consists of a suite of rooms at RMIT's Bundoora campus west and includes a variety of advanced technologies to measure the effectiveness of clinical interventions for respiratory, skin and sleep disorders.
This will include a two-bedroom sleep laboratory equipped for overnight polysomnography, plus a sleep technician's observation room that can measure overnight heart rate, blood oxygen levels, brainwaves (EEG), breathing, snoring and physical movement.
There is also a variety of advanced technologies to measure the effectiveness of clinical interventions for musculoskeletal function and pain.
This number is set to double once a new clinic is opened next year.
Patients will also be recruited for clinical trials from RMIT and the surrounding Bundoora community, and in the coming years, the Hub will reach out to the wider Whittlesea community and the Northern Hospital - specifically in the area of rehabilitation.