UofG shares in funding for leading disease prevention projects

Issued: Thu, 09 May 2019 08:00:00 BST

Two University of Glasgow projects have gained awards in the first ever round of funding by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP). UKPRP is investing £25 million into understanding and influencing the social economic and environmental factors that affect our health.

The two successful projects received UKPRP Network Awards and are being led by Professor Laurence Moore and Ruth Dundas of the MRC/CSO University of Glasgow Social and Public Health Sciences Unit.

The UKPRP funding has been earmarked for projects tackling the bigger picture factors behind the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - illnesses that can’t be passed from person to person - such as heart disease, obesity, poor mental health, cancer and diabetes. NCDs make up the vast majority of illnesses in the UK, accounting for an estimated 89 per cent of all deaths. These projects aim to deliver real changes that reduce the burden of these diseases on our health and social care systems and enable people to live longer, healthier lives.

Ruth Dundas leads the MatCH-Net: Maternal and Child Health Network, which will receive £408,000 over four years. This project will harness cross-country administrative data to evaluate national policy impacts on maternal, infant and child health and health inequalities.

MatCH-Net aims to lay the groundwork to develop research programmes to exploit linked, population-level administrative data to evaluate the impact of policies and determinants of maternal and child health across the four UK nations.

Ruth Dundas said: “We are delighted to receive funding from the UKPRP for MatCH-NET. Currently there is a wealth of under-utilised administrative data across the four UK nations. Having devolved UK Administrations has meant there has been policy divergence which may have differing impacts on maternal and child health.

“This funding means we can build a network of researchers, data holders and policy makers to map these two data and policy landscapes and plan future evaluations of these national-level policies.”

Professor Laurence Moore leads PHASE: The Population Health Agent-based Simulation Network, which receives £402,000 over four years. This network will focus on the application and use of agent-based models among researchers and decision makers in order to develop insights into the interdependent and interacting processes that result in non-communicable diseases and health inequalities.

Professor Moore said: “Key population health challenges are complex and intractable; ignoring this complexity leads to naïve explanations and ineffective solutions. We are really excited to have this opportunity to work across disciplines and with decision makers and industry in widening the use and understanding of agent-based models in population health research and practice. These simulation-based methods have great potential to unlock the inherent complexity and inform future policy and action.”

It is accepted that no single research funder has the resources or expertise to address these complex issues on their own, which is why a partnership of twelve funders including charities, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) research councils and the UK health and social care departments established the multimillion-pound UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) in 2017.  UKPRP research grants aim to develop, test and refine new, practical and cost-effective approaches to preventing non-communicable diseases at this bigger picture level, which will in turn help to reduce health inequalities across the UK.  

Professor Dame Sally Macintyre, Chair of the UKPRP Scientific Advisory Board and Expert Review Group Panel said: “These newly funded, well designed projects will help to lift the lid on the social, economic and environmental factors affecting our health.

“By investing in these interdisciplinary teams and drawing on a wide range of knowledge and expertise, UKPRP is supporting work that will have real life benefits for both policy makers and the wider public alike.

“Non-communicable diseases place a huge burden on us all and we hope that this investment will help to provide practical and tangible solutions that will positively impact people’s lives and health.”

This first tranche of awards has focussed on two types of awards:

  • Consortia awards are big interdisciplinary research programmes funded for five years to tackle a specific challenge to prevent people becoming ill (primary prevention). They aim to generate and implement new ideas that can deliver change at a population-level.
  • Networks which are granted up to four years funding to develop new communities of researchers from diverse disciplines (including experts not previously involved in prevention research), to tackle NCD prevention.

The eight awards (four Consortia and four Networks) will bring together leading researchers, as well as local and national policy makers, charities, non-government organisations (NGOs) and the public. 

A second UKPRP funding call for proposals for consortia and networks will be launched in autumn 2019.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) administers the initiative on behalf of the UKPRP funding partners. The UKPRP partners are: 

  • UKRI Research Councils:  Medical Research Council (MRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Charities: British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, The Health Foundation
  • Government: Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, Health and Care Research Wales, National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), Public Health Agency (NI)

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk orelizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

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