University of Queensland projects funded to help improve health outcomes

11 Oct 2022

Investigating air quality to create healthier homes and determining if fusion surgeries are the solution for low back pain are the focus of two University of Queensland projects funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Professor Kevin Thomas from UQ’s Queensland Alliance of Environmental Health Sciences will lead a team to test the air quality in 25 Australian homes and another 200 in 7 different countries across Europe.

“Australians are estimated to spend roughly 90 per cent of their time indoors, yet we understand little about the air pollutants that may be present in our homes,” Professor Thomas said.

“As part of a broader European study, this project will assess air and dust samples from Australian homes, along with the urine samples of residents.

“These samples will help us to characterise indoor air pollutants, map their sources and determine impacts on health and promote healthier home environments.

“The results will hopefully help to guide policy and industry towards approaches to improve indoor air quality.”

This research project is part of a larger study titled INQUIRE, a European Union Horizon project with Australian participation that aims to protect citizen health by providing knowledge, tools, and measures to substantially improve indoor air quality. 

Project lead and Director of the Education and Research Alliance at the Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Services, Metro North Health, UQ Professor Nadine Foster is leading a collaborative team to deliver a randomised clinical trial to investigate the effectiveness of lumbar spine fusion surgery.

“Low back pain (LBP) is the most common musculoskeletal problem in Australia and is the leading cause of activity limitation and work absenteeism,” Professor Foster said.

“Whilst education, self-management, exercise, and cognitive interventions are recommended in guidelines and the current Australian Low Back Pain Standard, some patients do not improve with these treatments and may be considered candidates for lumbar fusion surgery'.

“Our research will provide evidence as to whether patients with persistent, severe LBP who have tried nonsurgical treatments without success and who have degenerative lumbar spine disease may benefit from lumbar fusion surgery.

“Our aim is to provide world-leading evidence to compare the clinical and cost effectiveness of lumbar fusion surgery versus best conservative care. We are conducting two trials, one in the UK and one in Australia, to address this”.

“The trial will also build orthopaedic and pain research capacity in Australia.”

Media:  UQ Communications; Bridget Druery,, (+61) (0) 435 221 246.