Nasser Bagheri

Hotspots of dementia risk in Australian communities: an approach to better targeting preventive interventions

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Nasser Bagheri headshot
Award
2015 BB & A Miller Research Grant for Lifestyle Prevention of Dementia
Project Snapshot

Chronic illnesses such as dementia, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are predicted to rise significantly in Australia over the next few decades, posing challenges that will need to be met by effective preventive medicine strategies and health services planning.

This project will develop and apply new methodologies to identify hotspots of dementia risk in local communities using general practice records and spatial analysis techniques. This will allow interventions to be targeted at the right place, at the right time, and to the right people. It will also examine the possible link between hotspot areas and built environment characteristics and lifestyle. We hypothesise that dementia risk hotspots will be highly clustered in environments with higher densities of fast-food outlets, lower socio-economic areas, and fewer green spaces that support physical activity. This work will provide an innovative tool to help address the predicted dramatic rise of dementia in Australian communities and the technique can be used for other chronic diseases.

Detailed Project Summary

This project will develop and apply new methodologies to identify hotspots of dementia risk in local communities using general practice records and spatial analysis techniques.

Despite recent advances in the development of high-resolution dementia risk assessment tools, a real-data approach to mapping and identifying hotspots of dementia risk in Australian community has never been tried before in Australia – and the benefits will be numerous.

Finally, the risk maps themselves will be overlayed and contrasted against other available geocoded data for the detailed regions in question, allowing us to investigate correlations between dementia risk levels and demographic variations and features of the natural and built environment (e.g. fast-food outlets and density of green spaces). We will also provide all participating practices with a risk score for each patient which may increase awareness of the importance or risk exposure in the clinical community and further develop dementia literacy in this cohort of patients.

Furthermore, a wealth of data available in general practice (GP) databases lies unused for population-based prevention strategies; this project will make use of this rich clinical data. This innovative approach will open up a rich new vein of knowledge for ongoing research that will directly empower health professionals and policy makers to mitigate and manage the burden of dementia in Australia.

Where are they now?

Dr Nasser Bagheri is a Research Fellow at the Australian National University (ANU), recipient of an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship and leads a spatial epidemiology team in the Department of Health Services Research and Policy, ANU. His research has focused on chronic disease risk assessment, particularly, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and dementia with a particular interest in spatial variation and quantifying the impact of modifiable risk factors including lifestyle and built environment on chronic disease.