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Press Release

Press release

€10 million for HRB Research Centres to tackle specific health needs

2 April 2008

People suffering from diabetes or obesity and vulnerable patient groups including the elderly, children, pregnant women and drug users will benefit from new research which will be conducted in two 'virtual' HRB Research Centres. Mary Harney, Minister for Health and Children, will announce €10 million in funding through the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation (SSTI) today to fund the centres which will provide a hub for health research efforts of eleven universities, institutions and hospitals.

People suffering from diabetes or obesity and vulnerable patient groups including the elderly, children, pregnant women and drug users will benefit from new research which will be conducted in two 'virtual' HRB Research Centres. Mary Harney, Minister for Health and Children, will announce €10 million in funding through the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation (SSTI) today to fund the centres which will provide a hub for health research efforts of eleven universities, institutions and hospitals*.

Health Research Centres are virtual hubs for research across a number of disciplines and institutions, driven by a common health priority and a commitment to improve healthcare. The aim is to ensure that: -

  • the research is driven by identified needs within the health system nationally
  • the research findings around a common priority area are shared and any duplication of effort is avoided
  • the outcomes of research are relevant and applied to the health system
  • the research will be translated into care or lead to a change in practice

Announcing the funding Minister Harney said;

'Scientific and health research are sectors which open up great potential for those who are committed to innovation. It is a clear sign of progress to see national health priorities being targeted in a coordinated manner that will focus expertise and effort, help achieve economies of scale and encourage information sharing that will lead to improvements in patient care'.

According to Dr Mairead O' Driscoll, Director of Research Funding and Strategy at the HRB;

'These Health Research Board Centres are the first to be established in Ireland. They will meet a demand for a better understanding of how to tackle dietary problems and the needs of vulnerable patient groups. Our objective is to support research linked to national health priorities to improve people's health and the effectiveness of the health system and these centres will help to achieve this'.


The HRB centre for Primary Care Research will have its virtual base in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The research team* will undertake a programme of work that examines the quality of care provided to vulnerable patient groups - the elderly, children, pregnant women and drug users. Through the research programmes the team hope to: -

  • identify quality standards for safer prescribing of medicines for Irish patients
  • improve diagnosis in primary care so that patients receive appropriate and timely treatment or referrals if required
  • develop new Information and Communications Technologies that will improve patient care and promote self-management among patients with chronic illness. 

According to Professor Tom Fahey, Principal Investigator at the centre;

'Funding for this HRB Centre for Primary Care Research is important because it recognises that we can do more to identify and improve the quality of medical care that vulnerable patient groups in Ireland receive'.

The HRB Centre for Diet, Diabetes and Obesity will have its virtual base in University College Cork. This centre will be co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The research team** aim to produce internationally competitive research that will contribute to the evidence base for public policy, health promotion and clinical practice on the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders. The research team aim to: -

  • better align public policy with research findings on diet and obesity in Ireland
  • contribute to the knowledge based economy by developing an e-learning inter-institutional MSc programme in Public Health Nutrition for staff employed in the healthcare system on the island of Ireland
  • make the best use of the databases that we already have on diet and health in Ireland to study population trends in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and related conditions
  • increase our understanding of the factors influencing consumer food choice
  • harness, co-ordinate and promote the activities of academics, practitioners and policy makers working in the food and health sectors in Ireland.

According to Prof Ivan Perry, Principal Investigator at the Centre;

'This HRB centre for Diet, Diabetes and Obesity will provide the opportunity to address fundamental research questions on the prevention and management of obesity and diabetes as part of an internationally competitive research consortium'
 

An outline work programme for each HRB Research Centre is attached.

Notes for editors

The Health Research Board underpins an emerging research and development culture throughout our health services and universities.  Our aim is to improve people's health, build health research capacity, underpin developments in service delivery and make a significant contribution to Ireland's knowledge economy.

*HRB Centre for Primary Care Research involves researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Queens? University Belfast (QUB), the Coombe, Tallaght and St James's Hospitals.

**HRB Centre for Diet, Diabetes and Obesity involves researchers from University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD), the Institute of Public Health (IPH), Holles Street and St Vincent's Hospitals.

OUTLINE WORK PROGRAMMES

HRB Centre for Primary Care Research

This centre will undertake a programme of work that examines the quality of care provided to vulnerable patient groups - the elderly, children, pregnant women and drug users. Research activity and outputs will comprise three separate work packages.

  • Work package one will establish standards for the quality of care provided for these vulnerable groups, with a particular emphasis on prescription drugs that promote effective medicines management. (Institutions: RCSI, QUB TCD)

  • Work package two will focus on evidence-based diagnosis, establishing a register of clinical prediction rules (CPRs) relevant to primary care and undertaking systematic reviews of common clinical conditions in relation to the diagnostic accuracy of symptoms, signs and diagnostic tests available to GPs. The register and systematic reviews will be disseminated through the Cochrane Collaboration. (RCSI and TCD)

  • Work package three will be based around the development and evaluation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) interventions that are based on the outputs of work packages one and two. The centre will develop computer-based clinical decision support systems to enable safer evidence-based practice for health professionals, and decision aids and self management ICT programmes to enhance self-care for patients. (RCSI, TCD and QUB).


HRB Centre for Diet, Diabetes and Obesity

This centre will produce internationally competitive research that will provide the evidence base for public policy, health promotion and clinical practice on the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders. The work is divided into five specific clusters.

CLUSTER ONE (UCC, Institute of Public Health and School of Public Health and Population Science at UCD)

  • Provide a critical research base for the establishment of an Obesity Observatory for Ireland (in collaboration with the Institute of Public Health).
  • Refine and develop statistical 'population prevalence models' for diabetes and other nutrition-related chronic diseases.
  • Conduct the first ever 'National Burden of Disease' study in Ireland focused on obesity and nutrition related risk factors.

CLUSTER TWO (National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, School of Public Health and Population Science at UCD)

  • Examine the effects of a mother's diet during pregnancy on foetal growth and risk of obesity in childhood. This will be examined in two inter related studies an ante natal cohort study and a randomised controlled trial during pregnancy.

CLUSTER THREE (UCC)

  • Estimate the effects of specific dietary exposures and patterns on the prevalence, incidence and population trends in obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and major Cardio Vascular Disease points.
  • This will be achieved through cross-sectional and longitudinal studies which will involve representative samples groups of middle-aged men and women.

CLUSTER FOUR (St Vincent's University Hospital, School of Public Health and Population Science, UCD)

  • Establish a national obesity cohort based on a database of severely obese adults and children who have been referred to specialist obesity hospitals here in Ireland. This will provide a database that is a platform for quality assurance in the management of obesity, permit testing of novel hypothesis related to predictors of treatment outcomes and facilitate the recruitment of patients for clinical trials.

CLUSTER FIVE (UCC, UCD)

  • Investigate the consumer cognitive response to food, focusing on socio demographical, psychological, physiological and health status factors that drive consumer food choice. Researchers working in this cluster will be able to use existing databases and draw samples from participants with and without diagnosed illness in CLUSTERS TWO - FOUR.

The virtual hub will be set up to provide administrative, project management, data management, bio statistical and communications support for all the research clusters contributing to the centre.

For more information contact:
Gillian Markey, Communications Manager
Health Research Board
m 00353 87 2288514
t 00353 1 2345103
e gmarkey(at)hrb.ie 

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