Online CBT program for people experiencing health anxiety by Prof Jill Newby


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St Vincent’s Clinic Research Foundation plays an essential and unique role in supporting early research, which is critical in establishing a track record for further funding.

In 2014, Professor Jill Newby’s research project developed an online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program for people experiencing health anxiety (illness anxiety disorder).

Severe health anxiety is a debilitating condition affecting up to 750,000 Australians yearly but remains one of the least studied and treated anxiety conditions. People with severe health anxiety believe they have or are at higher risk of developing a severe disease based on how they interpret their bodily symptoms.

The development of this online CBT program revolutionised healthcare for individuals with health anxiety, offering an accessible and affordable option regardless of their location or financial means. It improved the quality of life for people with this condition and provided an alternative to traditional face-to-face care or medication.

The program’s success led to its implementation in Canada and the USA, and adaptations have been made for pregnant women with anxiety and cancer survivors concerned about cancer recurrence.

“Although relatively small ($30,000), this grant helped kick-start my career and establish a track record in this research area. Obtaining grants to support the development of treatments, particularly in the early phases, is incredibly challenging. Without this grant, it would have been impossible to develop the treatment and conduct the extensive research we have accomplished over the past few years. The grant has been instrumental in building a track record of successful grants, which subsequently allowed me to secure larger grants, fellowships, and other research awards.”

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The St Vincent’s Clinic Foundation grant has made a huge difference in helping people experiencing health anxiety by providing an easy-to-access, affordable treatment to help them improve their quality of life and reduce their anxiety. It highlighted a rarely recognised and little-understood mental health problem. It set the foundation for a range of research projects that explore how we can use digital mental health services to help people suffering from mental health issues in the community.