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Horses and e-health the focus of research grants


Steve Spinks
13 June 2012
Optimising performance in horse racing and investigating the sharing of electronic health information are two areas of research awarded $77,000 to Southern Cross University under the Australia-China Science and Research Fund.

Professor Shi Zhou and Associate Professor Allan Davie, of the School of Health and Human Sciences, have been awarded $32,120 in the promotion of welfare for racing horses by optimising training methodology.

“This will allow Australian researchers from Southern Cross University and horse racing industry personnel to meet with research partners at Tianjin University of Sport and Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography - Chinese Academy of Sciences to develop new projects that aim to develop training methods for optimising performance while at the same time improving animal welfare by reducing the risk of injury and overtraining,” Professor Shi Zhou said.

“Injury and overtraining caused by improper training can result in both a high cost to the racing industry and increased stress to the horses and their owners. The breakdown rate for horses in training is an alarming statistic. For example, in two-year-olds shin soreness was found to be the most common condition affecting some 80 per cent of horses in training in Australia, and causing wastage in the industry through lost training time and poor performance.

“In a review paper of the injuries in the industry it was reported that an important threat to the welfare of the athletic horse was a failure of an appropriate preparation of the horse for competition, resulting in earlier fatigue during a race and increasing the risk of injury. China has a developing racing industry that will encounter the same issues.

“Associate Professor Allan Davie has developed training concepts/methods that aim to reduce the risk of injury while improving performance. These concepts and methods have been adopted by many trainers around the world. The proposed research aims to determine the efficacy of certain training methods and combine the expertise and advanced technology available at the Australian and Chinese partner institutions to examine the suitability and biological mechanisms of these training methods in addressing the problems that have direct impact to the horse industry. The outcomes of the research may also have implications to human athletes.”

Meanwhile, Dr Jun Xu – and a team of Southern Cross Business School researchers including Dr Xiangzhu Gao, Dr Golam Sorwar and Professor Peter Croll – have been awarded $45, 000 to work on improving electronic systems for the sharing of personal health information. One of the objectives in this project is to explore privacy and security concerns as well as availability issues of electronic health information.

“This project will promote science and research collaboration with Beijing University of Technology and other partners to share information on the current status of electronic health in Australia and China and to develop frameworks and strategies for future work in sharing electronic personal health information,” Dr Jun Xu said.

“It is hoped we will be able to examine the status, practices and challenges of e-health in the two countries and through this gain an understanding of associated issues in the area of personal health records. We also hope to develop a framework, a platform, systems, policies and action plans for sharing personal health information electronically between China and Australia.”

Photo: Associate Professor Allan Davie.