CCmHI moves forward: major funding granted to improve diabetes management via mHealth

A total grant of around AUD1.4 million was awarded to The China Center for mHealth Innovation (CCmHI) at The George Institute China to improve management of diabetes in China via mobile health technology.

This grant, awarded to Associate Professor David Peiris and Associate Professor Puhong Zhang, is one of two major research grants totaling $2.5 million recently awarded to The George Institute by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Diabetes is the world’s fastest growing chronic disease. It is estimated that approximately 350 million people have diabetes globally, with more than 80% of them living in low-middle income countries.

In China, type 2 diabetes (T2DM) affects 113.9 million people, the largest number of any country in the world, and its prevalence is expected to continue to rise.

“We are facing a dramatically increasing disease burden, however few people with T2DM are getting adequate treatment.” Said Associate Professor Puhong Zhang, Head of the Diabetes Research Program and the Acting Director of CCmHI. “This new flagship study, called SMARTHealth Diabetes, aims to support the development and evaluation of a digital health intervention which is based on the best practice clinical guidelines to help T2DM patients better manage their condition and prevent complications.”

SMARTHealth Diabetes is a cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) which will recruit 2,000 people with T2DM from 80 communities (40 in Beijing and 40 rural villages in Hebei province). Mobile phone technologies will be employed to help overcome issues of access to effective health care.

“The key element of the intervention is the involvement of Family Health Promoters (FHP) –trained voluntary family members who are able and willing to support members in the family with chronic diseases to maintain a healthy lifestyle and adhere to disease monitoring plans and drug therapy.” Professor Zhang added, “In this study, the FHPs will be young adults who can access to the internet through mobile devices and be provided support to ensure evidence-based management of their family members.”

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council funded this study as part of the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD), which is an alliance of 10 of the world’s leading health research funding organizations and aims to reduce the global burden of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases by coordinating research across the world.

Professor Robyn Norton, Principal Director of The George Institute congratulated Professors Zhang and Peiris on this significant funding success. “Funding like the GACD grant will enable CCmHI to play a critical role in effectively targeting the leading causes of disease burden in China, and The George Institute is privileged to have a role in this effort.”   

Professor Anushka Patel, Chief Scientist of The George Institute for Global Health, and her team received the other grant to adapt and implement a lifestyle modification program to prevent T2DM in women with gestational diabetes living in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The research will involve conducting a randomised controlled trial to determine whether it can be effectively applied and affordably brought to scale in South Asia.