HRB Centre for Health and Diet Research

The vision for the Centre for the next five years:
The overall vision for the CHDR over the next five years is to contribute to the promotion of the health and wellbeing of the population through the development of a sustainable and internationally competitive National Research Centre for Public Health Nutrition which will:

(i) produce and effectively disseminate high quality evidence to guide public policy, health promotion and clinical practice on the prevention and management of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other obesity related disorders;
(ii) increase our understanding of the determinants and modifiers of food choice and other food related behaviours;
(iii) ensure continued and deepening collaboration and cohesive activity between the participating third level institutions at national level in public health nutrition and related disciplines;
(iv) consolidate the existing partnerships with the Institute for Public Health in Ireland, safefood, the Department of Health/ HSE and other non-academic stakeholders
(v) sustain and develop links with relevant international Centres of Excellence in public health nutrition and related disciplines;
(vi) continue applications for support from National (North-South) and EU funding programmes with particular reference to Horizon 2020;
(vii) continue to facilitate, undergraduate, Masters and Doctoral level training in Public Health Nutrition including sustained engagement with the SPHERE programme, a 4-year structured PhD scholar programme in Health Services and Population Sciences Research;
(viii) work with Enterprise Ireland and other relevant agencies and partners to develop technologies to support healthy choices and the maintenance/achievement of healthy weight in children and adults.

In addition to setting out plans for leveraging additional grant funding (from HRB interventions Panel, HRB fellowships, commissioned projects from safefood, applications to the Wellcome Trust, applications to SFI, applications to Horizon 2020) the application included a letter from UCC (prof Anita Maguire, VP Research and Innovation) setting out a vision for how it is committed to ensuring that the centre id sustained at the end of the next round of funding. This included details of a plan to provide additional space and infrastructure for the CHDR, funding support for the ongoing administration costs of the centre and an overview of the UCC College of Medicine and Health strategic plan for the next 5 years which included development of an internationally competitive Public Health institution in UCC based on explicit criteria in terms of staffing, research funding and outputs.

Over view of work packages for next five years:

The existing five research clusters will be reconfigured into six new cross cutting work packages (WP's) with each work package having a core leadership group:. The work packages include:

1. Disease burden and population health modelling;
2. Exposure and outcome measurement in public health nutrition;
3. Diet, obesity and health across the life course;
4. Interventions in public health nutrition;
5. Evaluation frameworks in public health nutrition;
6. Knowledge transfer and dissemination.

Work package 1 - Disease burden and population health modelling: This WP will consolidate the ongoing work addressing the prevalence and incidence of obesity, diabetes, CVD and other obesity related conditions (including cancer). The work will include analyses of trends over time and projected future disease burden and costs. WP-1 will seek to leverage for Ireland the resources and infrastructure provided by the international 2010 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) research programme.

Work package 2 - Exposure and outcome measurement in public health nutrition: The focus of work for WP-2 will be on the development and exploitation of new methods for the assessment of diet and physical activity and the evaluation of key outcomes in public health nutrition, including novel anthropometric indices and biomarkers. This work will extend the existing work and outputs on dietary pattern analysis and will include new work on meal pattern analyses and work on the analysis of a loyalty card dataset from a major Irish food retail chain. It will address measurement error and related methodological issues in the analysis of repeated measures (including repeated Food Frequency Questionnaires , dietary recalls, accelerometry data over 7 days and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure) using latent class methods and functional data analysis.

Work package 3 - Diet, obesity and health across the life course: The focus of work for this WP will be on the investigation of causal associations between diet and related relevant exposures and major health outcomes in pregnancy, childhood, middle-age and later life (including the assessment of inter-generational effects) using observational research designs. WP-3 will focus on the analyses of both new and existing diet, health, lifestyle and consumer behaviour databases. It will draw on the outputs from WP-2 and will seek to optimise potential synergies with regard to field survey methods, instruments, bio-banking, measurement of biological markers and the development and application of novel statistical methods, including methods appropriate for life-course analyses. This work will consolidate and extend areas of current strength within the CHDR while addressing new and exciting research hypotheses including work with UCC's Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) on the potential role of gut microflora in obesity, diabetes, CVD and mental health.

Work package 4 - Interventions in public health nutrition: WP-4 will focus on the design and conduct of intervention studies addressing the prevention and management of obesity and diabetes across the life-course in clinical, workplace and community settings and on the use of system level interventions (including collaborative work with the food retail sector) to promote healthier food choices. In developing this important agenda, the CHDR will consolidate and extend its ongoing work over the past five years on three large scale intervention projects addressing diet in pregnancy (ROLO study), diet in the workplace (Food choice at work study) and an intervention study focused on the management of morbid obesity in childhood(Integrating technology and paediatric weight management. A randomized controlled trial).

The WP-4 team will collaborate with HSE colleagues in the design and conduct of a randomized controlled trial of the HSE's Triple P programme. The focus of this work is on the prevention and management of childhood overweight and obesity through a parenting intervention. This team has also developed a proposal for an intervention study in the management of morbid obesity in adults for which additional peer reviewed research grant funding will be sought over the next 12 months. The proposed SMILE Study (Self-Monitoring Intensive Lifestyle Environment Intervention) is a randomised trial comparing the effect of surgical and non-surgical interventions on weight loss, metabolic activity and quality of life outcomes in severe obesity

Work package 5 - Evaluation frameworks in public health nutrition: In WP-5 we will work with the HSE, safefood and other agencies to develop and implement an evaluation framework for interventions in public health nutrition, drawing on international experience and best practice, developing new methods as appropriate and responding to specific national initiatives in this area. The focus of work for WP-5 will be on leveraging (via the established links with Professor Harry Rutter, formerly Director of the UK Obesity Observatory) international experience and work in the evaluation of both policy interventions and interventions targeted at individual or group level in the area of public health nutrition with particular reference to an Evaluation Framework for Obesity Prevention Policy Interventions developed by the U.S. CDC-funded Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation and the Standard Evaluation Frameworks (SEF's) for individual and group level interventions produced by the UK National Obesity Observatory. Work package 6-Knowledge transfer and dissemination: The five research work packages will be interlinked and supported by a dedicated knowledge transfer infrastructure, building on the existing expertise and resources of the Institute for Public Health in Ireland and on the existing collaboration with safefood in knowledge dissemination.

The CHDR will further enhance existing human capacity in public health nutrition research through education and training at undergraduate, masters and doctoral level (researchers attached to the CHDR supervised a total of 38 Masters dissertations, 16 PhD theses and 2 MD theses through first phase funding; two researchers linked to CHDR have been appointed tenured posts with a focus on public health nutrition in UCC). It will enhance the range and quality of public health nutrition data resources, with increased sharing and pooling of datasets. The CHDR had established an Irish network of food and physical activity research (IFPAN) and through this network CHDR will coordinate Ireland's involvement in DEDIPAC and other future collaborative initiatives.

In particular, the CHDR will produce and effectively disseminate high quality evidence addressing the three core questions on the nutrition-related health and wellbeing of the population:

- Why should something be done? (the burden of disease and the distribution of exposures/risk factors in the population),
- What should be done? (the evaluation of causal relations between exposures/risk factors and health outcomes),
- How should it be done? (Producing the evidence to guide the selection of effective interventions that will reduce the burden of disease in the population).

Award Date
20 June 2014
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Ivan Perry
Host Institution
University College Cork
Health Research Centres