Karen and Thomas ARC Grants

Two IHMRI affiliated research projects receive over $2.1million in funding

Professor Karen Charlton and Professor Thomas Astell-Burt were awarded 2022 Future Fellowships, and close to 2.1 million in total funding, under the Australian Research Council funding scheme announced on Tuesday 13 September.

Future Fellowships are awarded to outstanding mid-career researchers to undertake innovative research in areas of national importance.

Creating a sustainable, healthy, and equitable food system

Professor Karen Charlton, from the School of Medical, Indigenous and Health Sciences, is an internationally recognised nutrition scientist. She was awarded her ARC Future Fellowship and funding of $1,066,940 over four years for her project, “Creating a sustainable, healthy, and equitable food system”.

“Urgent action is needed to reduce the environmental impact of the food system in Australia,” Professor Charlton said.

“Current food production methods and dietary patterns are unsustainable in ensuring supply and supporting human and planetary health. What is needed is a more local approach to food systems and livelihoods.

“This project aims to develop a ‘paddock-to-plate’ food strategy in regional NSW that can be up-scaled to other areas.

“We will work with key stakeholders (growers, agribusiness, food retail, Indigenous land affairs, civil society organisations, local governments) to co-design solutions that can be adopted through online farmers markets, a Love Local food initiative, and transformation of university campus food environments.”

Nature-based strategies to reduce loneliness

Professor Thomas Astell-Burt’s Future Fellowship project, “Generating evidence for nature-based strategies to reduce loneliness”, aims to develop effective and scalable community-focussed solutions to the loneliness epidemic and has been awarded funding of $1,046,924 over four years.

Professor Astell-Burt is Professor of Population Health and Environmental Data Science in the School of Health and Society and an international expert in the relationship between nature and human health. He co-leads a multi-university research group called the Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab (PowerLab).

“Loneliness and despair are reportedly increasing due to social and economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Professor Astell-Burt said.

“At the same time, governments in Australia and elsewhere are investing in community greening to improve liveability and to combat climate change; this is a major opportunity for positive change.

“My work has shown that these greening strategies can reduce loneliness and despair. This can happen not only by bringing people together for rest and play, but also by providing settings for solace and respite, and by mitigating factors that isolate people indoors, such as heat and violence.

“Greening cities equitably and finding ways to enable and empower people to spend more time in nature could hold the keys to a more sustainable, equitable and socially nourishing post-COVID recovery. Yet, little evidence-based guidance exists on how to do this equitably and effectively. 

“My work will address this evidence-gap to aid the development of strategies that reduce loneliness and despair. Connecting with nature may be an effective way we can reconnect with each other.”

Article originally published via the UOW Media Centre

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