Unit shares in funding for leading disease prevention projects

Published: 8 May 2019

Two Unit projects have gained awards in the first ever round of funding by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP).

Published 9th May 2019

Two MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit 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.

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. The devolved UK Administrations means 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 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, 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.  

First published: 8 May 2019

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