Multi-million pound investment to improve region’s health

Experts from Fuse are leading a national project to address health inequalities in the country and focus on the prevention of poor health.     

A new government £16 million health improvement programme in the North East and North Cumbria will be led by Fuse Senior Investigator Professor Eileen Kaner (pictured) and involve many other academics from the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health.

It has been awarded to a collaboration involving 56 organisations led by Newcastle University and hosted by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

The NIHR has today announced its funding for Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) to tackle key issues facing our health and social care system, including increasing demands on services due to an ageing population and aspects linked to austerity.

A collaboration between universities, the NHS, local authorities, voluntary organisations, charities and businesses will tackle issues causing health and care inequalities in the region. These will include developing ideas which will try to give children the best start in life and which help keep people healthier at home for longer. 

It is the first time that the North East and North Cumbria has received this funding. It will be used to support researchers, practitioners and members of the public who will work together to improve health and also shape how care is delivered.

Improving health and wellbeing

Themes will focus on aspects such as prevention of poor health, staying healthy with long-term conditions, supporting children and families, integrating health and social care for physical and mental health difficulties, inequalities across communities, using new technology and information to improve lives.

Fuse Director Professor Ashley Adamson will lead the Prevention, early intervention and behaviour change research theme alongside Fuse Senior Investigator Professor Falko Sniehotta.  Fuse members will also lead the cross-cutting themes:

  • Inequalities and marginalised communities (Prof Clare Bambra and Dr Monique Lhussier);
  • Evaluating change with pace and scale (Prof Luke Vale); and
  • Knowledge mobilisation and implementation science (Dr Peter van der Graaf).  

"The ARC funding allows researchers to focus on the biggest health and social issues in our area and develop real solutions that reflect the needs and views of people living here"

Professsor Eileen Kaner

Fuse expert Eileen Kaner, Professor of Public Health & Primary Care Research at Newcastle University said: "We are excited about receiving this funding because of the new opportunities it will bring to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the area.

"Our region has challenges due to its geography and there are more health problems that need to be addressed than other parts of the country. Therefore, it is apt that we have been asked by the NIHR to take a national lead on prevention and also on health inequalities.

"The ARC funding allows researchers to focus on the biggest health and social issues in our area and develop real solutions that reflect the needs and views of people living here.

"Much of the work will focus on the lives of people in the community rather than in hospital, especially people with common long-term physical and mental health problems."

The ARCs vision for the North East and North Cumbria is to achieve ‘better, fairer health and care at all ages and in all places’. 

The core funding provided by the NIHR is £9 million for five years, however, regional partners have contributed an additional £7 million.

Great example of collaboration through Fuse

One project that will be rolled out across the North East and North Cumbria, as part of the ARC, is a scheme which has successfully doubled the number of pregnant women who quit smoking.

Although many women are aware of the dangers of smoking while pregnant, some need additional support to help stop smoking during pregnancy.

A smoking cessation programme, known as babyClear©, is a key example of cross-sector collaboration that has involved a variety of experts involved in public health issues.

BabyClear© follows the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance around smoking in pregnancy by screening pregnant women for smoking using carbon monoxide monitoring.

Any woman still smoking when she first sees a midwife, at around eight weeks into pregnancy, is given information about the risks to their unborn baby and put in contact with agencies that can help support her to quit.

Researchers collaborating through Fuse revealed that in a study of 40,000 mothers-to-be, the number of women helped to stop smoking due to babyClear© almost doubled.

The team from Teesside University and Newcastle University found that women who did not smoke in pregnancy went on to have babies that were more than half-a-pound heavier at full term than those who continued to smoke.

Even women who quit smoking during their pregnancy were shown to have heavier babies than those mothers who smoked throughout pregnancy.

An animation has been created to highlight the results of this research, with the intended aim of raising awareness of the findings and helping to inform future service delivery.  Watch the animation below.

Understanding patients’ needs

Views of patients, their families and members of the public will be sought so that the ARC projects reflect problems that are important to local communities.

There will be 15 ARCs across England, each aiming to improve the lives of people in their region, together they will tackle some of the biggest health issues facing the country. The government is giving a total of £135 million to the ARCs.  

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: "As the population grows and demand on the NHS increases, it is paramount we develop the next generation of technologies and improve the way we work to ensure the NHS continues to offer world-leading care.

"The UK has a proud history of cutting edge health research and by supporting the great minds in health and social care, this funding has the potential to unlock solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and revolutionise the way patients access treatments in the future."

Last modified: Thu, 11 Jul 2019 09:55:22 BST