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Leading the healthcare transformation

The Innovation Campus’ $500-million Health and Wellbeing Precinct will revolutionise the integration of research, clinical practice and patient-led care and deliver sustained benefit to the Illawarra. UOW Commercial Development Director, Chuck Stone, reveals just how.

Rapid urban growth and an increasingly ageing population are major challenges facing governments, businesses and communities into the future. The University of Wollongong is a leader in health and research education, committed to delivering real and substantial benefit for people and communities.

The UOW Health and Wellbeing Precinct, which will soon transform 7.5 hectares of the southern end of Innovation Campus, is a key driver in this strategy.

The Health and Wellbeing Precinct will include the $50-million IntoHealth facility, Australia’s first primary and community health clinic to offer truly integrated, patient-centred healthcare. It will also be home to independent and supported retirement living and cutting-edge aged care facilities. Our research and teaching is deeply embedded throughout, translating research into action and training a new generation of innovative and transdisciplinary healthcare professionals.

The bold aim of the precinct is to dramatically improve the level of community-designed and preventative healthcare in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven. It also offers many opportunities beyond advancing health, incorporating supporting retail, child care and commercial facilities with resulting social and economic benefit.

Plans are progressing well, with the university finalising commercial negotiation with Lendlease as our development partner for the project late this year. Construction is expected to commence in 2020, with the first facilities operational by 2022

Setting new standards in integrated care

UOW IntoHealth will be the beating heart of the precinct, connecting the adjacent network of community, research, residential and aged care facilities. Modelled on the successful patient-centred approach of international leaders including the Mayo Clinic in the United States, it will be a centre of excellence in integrated healthcare. It will have a clear mandate to address key health issues facing the Illawarra, from chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity to mental health, disability and mortality rates.

Designed to complement the region’s existing hospitals and health services, IntoHealth will deliver exceptional non-surgical care focused on preventative health issues to both public and private patients. It brings together general practitioners and medical specialists, physiotherapists, dieticians, dentists, pharmacists pathologists and more – all in one location, collaborating with our world-leading researchers.

The facility will enable widespread community access to a continuum of healthcare for every stage of life, all within a technology-enabled context. It will also engage the broader local population more actively with the campus, creating a hub for wellbeing and extending our lively, connected community.

Powering translational research and applied education

Our teaching and research are integral components of this unique model of care. IntoHealth opens unlimited possibilities for translation of research into clinical practice, and will be closely linked with UOW’s Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) to enable innovation in healthcare technology.

The precinct will enhance UOW’s already strong multidisciplinary focus on aged care. It will empower new opportunities for innovation in research and teaching in fields such as nursing, nutrition, physical activity and rehabilitation, psychological wellbeing and mental health, and technological development for supported living.

For student and supervisors in our medical, nursing and allied health schools, it offers a unique opportunity to engage more directly with patients across the full range of services, including aged living, for the development of better patient-centred models of care. There is also great potential for students and researchers from other disciplines to learn and contribute, particularly in fields such as engineering, information technology and the social sciences.

Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of the development, and UOW will actively engage with a wide range of strategic partners to deliver on the particular health challenges and needs of our region.

Redefining retirement living

Providing exceptional aged care while maintaining independence and quality of life can make a meaningful difference to our wellbeing as we grow older. The first stage of the Health and Wellbeing Precinct will incorporate an 108-bed aged care facility, with future stages to include 199 independent retirement living units, all supported by integrated and innovative on-site aged care services. Operated in partnership with an aged living services provider, it will link research, teaching and learning with exceptional care and generate in excess of 200 job obbortunities.

Residents will also be able to tap into a vibrant, intergenerational on-campus community supported by organised activities and clubs, academic courses, swimming and gymnasium facilities, entertainment and cultural programs and a wealth of cafés and restaurants. By offering the full spectrum of care and living facilities on site, residents can transition through various levels of care while being able to live in the same home as part of a cohesive community for the rest of their lives.

Beyond health

The UOW Health and Wellbeing Precinct is poised to make a significant positive impact on health and wellbeing in the Illawarra, supporting an overburdened local health system and offering innovative, integrated care. By focusing on preventative health in particular, it has the potential to make real inroads into tackling avoidable diseases, both locally and further afield.

But the lasting benefits extend far beyond this primary objective. Our economic modelling predicts that each year over a ten-year period, the precinct will be responsible for avoidance of around $2 million in private care costs, save hospitals approximately $0.8 million incurred as a result of avoidable emergency department presentations and deliver $5.2 million in patient health benefits.

It will also generate a wealth of local employment opportunities in aged care, healthcare and research, and in the retail and hospitality sectors. By building on the retail and commercial prospects available at Innovation Campus, it offers businesses abundant growth potential, which in turn creates further investment.

A strategy for wellbeing

The Health and Wellbeing Precinct is a key element in UOW’s overall Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which aims to address global and regional challenges related to healthy living. It is a comprehensive plan to advance the future of learning and teaching, research, clinical and workforce development needs for our region and beyond, building on the collective talent of UOW’s people and partners.

The facilities under development here at Innovation Campus will set new benchmarks in healthcare. Importantly, the Health and Wellbeing Precinct will provide an inspiring model for other regional areas across Australia and the globe – a crucial step in leading the change.

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