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HRB invests €7.5m to support new research leaders

The Health Research Board (HRB) investment will support five new research leaders to conduct research programmes that will deliver evidence to directly inform changes in health policy and practice.

a number of small cubes stacked in a pyramid shape with icons of heads and lighbulbs to symbolise 'ideas'

Each research leader has developed strong partnerships with different parts of the health sector and will include public and patient perspectives in their work.

Projected outcomes include:

  • evidence-based strategies to support the effective roll-out of the Sláintecare reform programme
  • a reduction in infections and the use of antibiotics
  • an Irish centre of excellence for implementation science to get research used in practice
  • better psychosocial supports for young people with severe mental health challenges
  • ensuring that older adults receive tailored care to meet their needs.

According to Dr Darrin Morrissey, CEO of the HRB: 'It is essential that we support health research leaders who can deliver solid evidence to improve decision making, practice and policy in relation topical health issues such as health service reform, mental health and antimicrobial resistance'.

Each HRB funded programme will be conducted over a five-year period. The five awards are listed below. For further information on any of the projects, or to speak to any of the researchers directly, please contact the university press office in question.

Towards Dynamic Resilience in Health System Performance and Reform

This programme will be led by Dr Steve Thomas, from Trinity College Dublin.

'This research supports overarching Sláintecare policy', says Dr Thomas. ‘The health system in Ireland is embarking on arguably the most radical transition it has ever planned with the Sláintecare reform programme to deliver universal healthcare. The challenge for health system policy makers and managers is to maintain the resilience and stability of the Irish health system to allow effective reform to occur whatever the circumstances, whilst not undermining system performance’.

‘This research programme examines the key challenges facing the Sláintecare reform programme and evaluates strategies to facilitate its effective and thorough implementation in a complex adaptive system. It explores the legacy of the austerity period and how this has changed the health system for good or ill and reviews the causality of how shocks to the system challenge or even facilitate reform. In particular, it evaluates public sector staff engagement over time both as a sign of resilience and a precondition for the implementation of effective change’.

Collaboration to reduce Antimicrobial use and Resistance and identify opportunities for improvement and Awareness (CARA)

This award will be led by Dr Akke Vellinga at NUI Galway.

'Superbugs cause resistant infections which are difficult to treat and pose a serious threat to human health’, says Dr Vellinga. 'This programme will combine, link and analyse data from multiple already existing databases about infection, antibiotic prescribing antibiotic resistance and other healthcare- information. The CARA data-infrastructure will be set up with dashboards for other researchers, clinicians, and healthcare workers to visualise relevant and linked data. Using data visualisation, we will be able to identify opportunities to reduce infections and antibiotic use and improve health care'.

Health Services Research Centre for UnderStanding TailOred iMplementation Involving Stakeholders, Evidence and skills Development (CUSTOMISED) for policy and practice

This programme will be led by Dr Sheena McHugh at University College Cork.

'My research will try to answer one of the most pressing and difficult questions facing health systems around the world’, says Dr McHugh. 'How do we actually implement effective changes in everyday healthcare in a way that is acceptable and practical for health professionals and service users?'

'Starting with services for diabetes and older people living in the community, our research team will use a range of methods to identify and prioritise barriers to implementation, select appropriate strategies to remove those barriers and then test and evaluate their effect. We plan to establish a national hub to connect researchers with health professionals, managers and policy makers at local, regional, national levels of the Health Service Executive (HSE), who will use our results to implement changes in their own settings'.

Improving psychological supports for youth mental health

This research award will be led by Professor Gary Donohoe at NUI Galway.

'This research programme will focus on developing ways to improve social recovery during the early stages of psychosis, and will seek ways to personalise treatment to individual needs', says Professor Donohoe. 'Serious mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, are ranked among the top causes of years lived with disability'.

‘My research will build on what is currently known about psychotic disorders and their treatment, and will seek to improve the quality of psychosocial interventions currently available for affected young people. Specifically, it will focus on developing new interventions to improve psychosocial function in individuals attending the Early Intervention for Psychosis programmes currently being trialled by the Health Service Executive (HSE)'.

Towards an integrated model of care for older adults transitioning from the Emergency Department to the community

This research will be led by Dr Rose Galvin at the University of Limerick.

According to Dr Galvin,

'This research programme responds to key actionable strategic priorities identified in national ageing, emergency care and integrated care policies relating to the development and delivery of a continuum of high-quality care services that are responsive to the needs and preferences of older adults'.

'Older adults frequently attend the Emergency Department and research suggests high rates of adverse outcomes following emergency care. This research programme seeks to develop and implement an evidence-based model of integrated care for older people who are discharged from the Emergency Department, that is planned around their needs and choices, and supports them to live well in their own homes and communities'.

The project will involve collaboration and engagement with service users, advocacy groups, health decision makers and health practitioners.