Non Communicable Disease Unit

Research Overview

Chronic disease is a serious and widespread threat to the health and wellbeing of people both in Australia and overseas. Most notably, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus are leading causes of disease burden and premature death. The Non-communicable Disease Unit combines existing world-class expertise and capabilities of Professor Brian Oldenburg and his team, addressing key gaps in the prevention and management of chronic disease. Particular areas of focus are:

  • Collaborating with industry and other partners in Australia and internationally to develop and rigorously evaluate digital health programs for the prevention and management of chronic disease.
  • Developing, implementing and evaluating ‘real world’ lifestyle and community-based interventions to improve the prevention and control of chronic disease in resource constrained settings and countries;
  • Understanding the multiple determinants and complex pathways to the causation and outcome of chronic conditions, including co-morbid mental health conditions;
  • Developing and evaluating contemporary approaches to build individual and institutional public health research capacity of developing countries.


Professor Brian Oldenburg, Unit Head

Dr. Tilahun Nigatu, Project Manager – International Projects

Dr. Kishori Mahat, Research Assistant

Ameera Katar, Project Officer – National Projects

Allissa Desloge, International Trainee

Dr. Chamila Thilakarathne, International Trainee

Dr. Shilanthi Seneviratne, International Trainee


Dr Motjaba Lotfalian

Dr. Kishori Mahat

Dr. Nitin Kapoor

Shurong Lu

Enying Gong


Dr. Badri Thapa

Mr. Christopher Bates

Dr. Fabrizio D’Esposito

Dr. Helen Louise Walls

Professor Kavumpurathu Thankappan

Dr. Leslie Johnson

Dr. Mojtaba Lotfalian

Professor Richard Soutby

Mr. Robin Zhou

Professor Robyn Tapp

Dr. Sathish Thirunavukkarasu

Dr. Zahra Aziz


Northern Health: Northern Centre for Health Education and Research

Professor Oldenburg and The University of Melbourne have a long-standing relationship with Northern Health, and more recently, the Northern Centre for Health Education and Research. Since opening the center in 2015, the University of Melbourne has undertaken extensive collaborative training and education of students and health professionals with Northern Health. The uniquely diverse population in the Northern Health region and the high prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, rheumatic diseases and COPD, and the strong relationship between members of Northern Health and the university, makes it a great testbed site for the numerous technological interventions constantly being developed by the NCDU, to improve self-management of chronic diseases and to improve health literacy and health outcomes amongst the population. The NCDU and the University of Melbourne have several current collaborations and have several future ones planned with the Victorian Government and Tata Consultancy Services. These include training courses for a new health workforce, programs to reduce hospital readmissions, technology studies, programs to improve health and digital literacy, and programs to address social isolation and loneliness within the uniquely diverse population.


NHMRC Partnership Grant: 'Improving the health of people with type 2 diabetes using ICT'

NHMRC Project Grant: 'Depression, anxiety and outcomes following a heart attack: How are they related?'

NHMRC Project Grant: 'Evaluating a group diabetes prevention program for high risk individuals in Kerala, India'

International Research and Research Training Fund (IRRTF): The University of Melbourne 'ENCORE program'

NHMRC Project Grant: the long-term effects of a peer led lifestyle intervention programs on diabetes progression and cardiovascular risk: the Kerala Diabetes Prevention Program

NHMRC GACD: Scaling up interventions to improve the control of hypertension and diabetes in partnership with the governments of Kerala’s and Tamil Nadu” Leveraging India’s national NCD program

NHMRC: Centre for Research Excellence in Interactive Digital Technology to Transform Australia’s Chronic Disease Outcomes. This centre will optimise user experience, increase integration and produce safety guidelines for interactive digital technologies – mobile apps, chatbots, and wearable devices – to increase the impact and widespread use of technology to reduce the personal, societal and economic costs associated with chronic diseases.

Research Opportunities

This research project is available to PhD, Masters by Research students to join as part of their thesis.
Please contact the Research Group Leader to discuss your options.