A major study is going to explore whether apps, wearables, social media and artificial intelligence could help prevent chronic diseases developing like diabetes.

The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) has donated more than $1.1m (£599,000) to the University of South Australia so the team can investigate how impactful technology can be on someone’s health.

In Australia, chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, anxiety, heart disease and many cancers are the leading causes of illness, disability and death in the country.

Lead Researcher and Associate Professor Carol Maher from the University of South Australia said: “Poor lifestyle patterns – a lack of exercise, excess sedentary behaviour, a lack of sleep and poor diets – are leading modifiable causes of death and disease in Australia.

“Technology has a huge amount to offer in terms of improving lifestyle and health, especially in terms of personalisation and accessibility, but it has to be done thoroughly and it has to be done well.”

With nearly 40 per cent of chronic disease thought to be preventable with changes made to lifestyle and diet, the research will look at how technology might be used to prevent poor health outcomes.

Professor Maher added: “Research plays an important role in helping understand the products that are most effective, which will see us working with existing commercial technologies and applying and testing them in a new way, as well as developing bespoke software for specific, unmet needs.

“The great advantage of technology-delivered programs is that with careful design, once they are developed and evaluated, they can be delivered very affordably and on a massive scale.

The researchers said that one of the challenges they may face is working with people who are intimidated and scared by new technologies, such as older people.

Professor Maher said: “Change can be hard, but when we’re making leaps in the right direction to improve lifestyle and health of the Australian community, these changes are worth considering.”

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