Sydney seeks Latin partners in fight against NCDs

By Richard North

6 September 2012

A team of medical specialists from the University is visiting South America this month, looking to link with researchers and clinicians who are working on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The delegation is visiting Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and Sao Paulo to discuss international collaborations in key areas of research strength, and to explore staff and student exchanges.

NCDs, including diabetes, cancer and obesity, cause nearly two thirds of deaths globally. Better prevention and treatment through targeted, effective strategies at critical intervention points, offers the opportunity to improve health and quality of life for millions of people every year.

Three joint symposia with partner universities will be held in South America on Intervention Points for NCDs, focusing on the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases.

In Buenos Aires the University of Sydney is partnering with Universidad Austral, one of the leading medical schools in Argentina; in Chile, with the Universidad de Chile, the foremost research intensive university in the country; and in Brazil with Universidade de Sao Paulo, the highest ranked Latin American university.

Professor Bruce Robinson, Dean of Sydney Medical School, said: "The real story is that much of the burden of non-communicable diseases can be prevented through improved knowledge and effective intervention strategies.

"One of our delegates, Professor Louise Baur, is an international expert in preventing and reducing childhood obesity. The work she does through targeted interventions has resulted in significant reductions in body-mass index and happier, healthier children.

"We hope that through this seminar series in Latin America we will come to understand more about each other’s research expertise, and that in turn will open opportunities for collaboration with the goal of reducing the enormous burden of NCDs."

Another delegate, Professor Chris Maher, leads a research division focusing on the management of musculoskeletal conditions in primary care and community settings. With international colleagues he has developed the Physiotherapy Evidence Database or PEDro, the world’s most comprehensive database of physiotherapy randomised trials, systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines. The database is widely used in Latin America and has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish and four other languages.

In 2011 PEDro was accessed by more than two million users from 169 countries with Brazil, Colombia and Chile amongst the top 20. Brazil provided the third largest group of users, with 12.1 per cent of all traffic.

The Sydney delegation also includes Professor David Cook, Professor Stephen Twigg and Manuela Ferreira.

Professor Robinson said the spread of NCDs had led to an growing interest in international cooperation, education partnerships and policy recommendations.

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