Spectacles for millions of Chinese schoolchildren, thanks to Queen's University and the Ulverscroft Foundation

Nathan Congdon - Crossed arms SMLA Queen’s researcher will be advising on a Chinese government plan to distribute millions of free and low-cost spectacles to schoolchildren in China in order to dramatically improve educational achievement, especially in impoverished, rural areas.

Professor Nathan Congdon, the newly appointed Ulverscroft Chair of Global Eye Health at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, met with the Chinese Ministry of Health in Beijing last week to urge the implementation of a national programme to hand out free and low-cost glasses.

The work of Professor Congdon and his team is being made possible by a gift of £800,000 from the UK visual-impairment charity, The Ulverscroft Foundation.

The proposed project will fund spectacles for millions of children in all 31 administrative areas of China and will cost around £100m over three years. It is envisaged that training for rural eye doctors in making measurements for glasses will also be included.

Traditionally, there has been a misconception in China that wearing glasses weakens the eyes, with the result that very few children wear them. Additionally, schools in many rural and poor areas tend to use blackboards more than textbooks, meaning that near-sighted children are not able to keep up with their lessons.

The proposal builds on years of research by Professor Congdon and his colleagues in China and at Stanford University into eye health in China and its effect on schoolchildren’s performance. His latest research study, ‘Seeing is Learning’, was the first published trial to examine whether giving out free spectacles could improve academic results. Carried out in rural western China in 2012-13, it involved 20,000 children at 250 schools and the results were published recently in the British Medical Journal.

Further details can be found here.

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New Chief Scientific Advisor appointed

Ian Young is currently Professor of Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, where he was also Director of the Centre for Public Health from 2008-2014. Health Minister Simon Hamilton has welcomed the appointment of Professor Young as Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Welcoming the appointment, Minister Hamilton said: "I am delighted to announce Professor Ian Young is the Chief Scientific Advisor to this Department. Ian has had, and continues to have a long and distinguished career.

"This was recognised in a very tangible way earlier this year when, as part of the Northern Ireland Healthcare Awards, he received a special recognition award for his achievements and contribution to clinical practice. His scientific knowledge and expertise will be of immense value to me and others in this Department in formulating and developing policy to enhance the health and wellbeing of patients, clients and the population more generally.

"He will be an excellent ambassador for research in Northern Ireland’s health and social care sector. Our reputation for leading edge research continues to grow internationally, and will be enhanced further following the establishment of a Northern Ireland Genomic Medicines Centre, which I announced last week. Ian’s role will be pivotal in ensuring our continued success."

Professor Young will provide leadership across the Health and Social Care (HSC) sector enabling the provision of high quality evidence to improve care for patients, clients and the general population, adding to our knowledge and understanding of health, disease, diagnoses, treatment and care.

One of Professor Young’s early priorities will be working with the Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency and the wider HSC in the delivery and implementation of this Departments Research and Development Strategy, 'Research for Better Health and Social Care'. This strategy defines the Department’s research priorities for the next 10 years replacing the previous 2007 strategy. The Strategy and accompanying Implementation Plan will soon be with the Minister for his consideration of approval for publication. As Chief Scientific advisor, Professor Young will have an central role in ensuring that Northern Ireland maximises the opportunity for patients, the HSC and Academia following the announcement of Northern Ireland's selection as a Precision Medicine Catapult Centre of Excellence.

Further details can be found here.

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CPH Firewalk and coffee morning for Guide Dogs NI

GDB firewalk

On Thursday 8th October, Jackie Kelly, Aisling Gough, Claire Jess, Michael O’Rorke, Angela Mullen and Jacci Allison walked across hot coals outside the front of the Lanyon Building at Queen’s to raise some much needed cash for Guide Dogs for the Blind (NI).

The money raised from online donations and a coffee morning held in CPH will be put to good use within Northern Ireland, to help partially sighted and blind people live a normal life, through training and supplying Guide Dogs, raising awareness and recruiting volunteers and much more besides.

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Queen’s University Belfast represented at the EU Platform for Better Oral Health

EU Platform for Better Oral HealthOn October 13, the Second European Oral Health Summit took place in Brussels, gathering oral healthcare stakeholders, experts and leading policy makers from across Europe for a high-level policy round table, and presenting solutions to Europe’s oral health problems. Dr Gerry McKenna, President of the European College of Gerodontology and Senior Lecturer / Consultant in the Centre for Public Health was an invited participant. During the Summit, the collection of best practices in oral health promotion and prevention across Europe was presented, outlining the scale of the oral health problem in Europe, and containing 28 examples of oral health prevention and promotion programmes from across Europe which the Platform sees as possible solutions. Dr Paula Vassallo, Chair of the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe stressed that “the examples demonstrated in this report highlight that solutions to Europe’s oral health problems do exist. The European Commission and Member States should establish a formal mechanism such as a Joint Action on Oral Health to ensure the proper evaluation and roll-out of these programmes across the European Union, for the benefit of the oral health of all citizens.”

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National recognition for Queen’s University’s public health research

Frank KeeResearch from Queen’s University will feature in an exciting new online programme, ‘Improve and Protect.’ The programme will explore some of the UK’s major public health challenges and the work being carried out to address these issues by various organisations including the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland, based at Queen’s University.

‘Improve and Protect’ provides a unique platform to raise awareness and debate around some of the threats to the public’s health and will highlight the need to educate and empower individuals to take responsibility for their own health.

This new programme features the research at Queen’s University being carried out by Dr Mark Tully and Dr Ruth Hunter on the Physical Activity and the Rejuvenation of the Connswater (PARC) study, a successful partnership with Connswater Community Greenway to evaluate the development of a 9km linear park with the aim of improving the environment, enabling physical activity with new pathways and cycle ways and connecting local communities.

The documentary also features Dr Aisling Gough and Dr Gary McKeown from Queen’s University, who are working in partnership with Cancer Focus NI and the Public Health Agency to test the effectiveness of using social media to communicate public health messages. This novel project investigates how Twitter can be used to spread messages about skin cancer prevention within the adult population in Northern Ireland.

Professor Frank Kee, Director of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence at Queen’s University said: “This programme highlights how the world class research being undertaken at Queen’s University is advancing knowledge and changing lives.

“It is important that all of the research that we do is relevant to the needs of end users, for this is key to having an impact on policy and practice, and the two examples showcased in this documentary highlight how it is possible to partner with communities and practitioners to have a real impact on their needs.”

The current affairs style programme, which was launched at the Royal Society for Public Health Annual conference and Awards Ceremony in London, will combine news-style reports highlighting what some of the leading organisations aims are to improve the public’s health.

To view the film click here.

The programme is introduced by national news reader Natasha Kaplinsky and the ‘Improve and Protect’ film was produced by the Royal Society for Public Health and ITN Productions.

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Success at the Great Queen’s Bake Off

fungi cakeCongratulations to CPH’s answer to Mary Berry, Samantha Livingstone, who took 2nd prize in the Great Queen’s Bake Off, which took place recently in the Great Hall. The purpose of this competition was to promote sustainable food, with participating bakers encouraged to use as many local and Fairtrade ingredients as possible.

The cake itself was a four layered chocolate and vanilla sponge, filled with vanilla butter cream and covered with milk chocolate butter cream and sugar paste, which was textured and then airbrushed to replicate the stump of an oak tree. Everything on the cake, including the oak leaves, acorns and fungi (the bracket fungus is Ganoderma and the common red fungus Amanita muscaria) were all edible. The cake took approximately 8-10 hours to complete.

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Double first prize success at Gastroenterology conference

Ulster Society of Gastroenterology Many congratulations to CPH researchers, Mr Ronan Gray and Dr Helen Coleman, for winning first prizes at the Ulster Society of Gastroenterology (USG) Autumn 2015 meeting.

Ronan, a surgical registrar, won first prize for his oral presentation on COX-2 expression, aspirin use and colon cancer survival. This work was funded by a Cancer Research UK Clinical Research Bursary that has led Ronan on to his current PhD work in statins and colon cancer survival as part of a Northern Ireland HSC R&D clinical fellowship.

Ronan was among three CPH researchers (pictured) who were selected by the USG committee for the four oral presentation slots up for grabs at the conference, so well done also to Dr Úna McMenamin for presenting her work on metformin and colorectal cancer survival, and Dr Andrew Kunzmann who presented on dietary fibre and colorectal adenoma and cancer risk.

Dr Helen Coleman also won first prize for her poster presentation on lifestyle factors in relation to oesophageal achalasia risk, which is a rare condition affecting the function of the gullet. Helen, Úna and Andrew are all funded by the Cancer Research UK Population Research committee or the HSC R&D National Institute for Health Research.

The USG conferences have evolved considerably in recent years, now attracting over 100 delegates from gastroenterology, surgical, nursing and allied health professions, and showcasing a wealth of International speakers. Well done to all involved!

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Vascular Access Society of Britain and Ireland success

Vascular Access Society of Britain and IrelandCongratulations to CPH postgraduate student Dr Agnes Masengu (2nd year MD student) who won the prize for best oral presentation at the 2015 Vascular Access Society of Britain and Ireland (VASBI) conference in Manchester 2015. She was awarded the Ali Bakran Shield for her oral presentation (Pre-operative Radial Artery Volume Flow is Predictive of Arteriovenous Fistula Outcomes) and is pictured here with Dr Jennifer Hanko.

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Queen’s Medical students @ W5

‌Congratulations to third year medical students, Anna Cullen and Jamie McBurney, who have just finished three weeks of training at W5 as part of their Student Selected Component (SSC) ‘Communicating Public Health@W5’. SSCs are a vital component of the medical degree, facilitated by the Centre for Medical Education at Queen’s, and allow students to develop transferable skills outside of the usual medical curriculum.

Anna Cullen and Jamie McBurney at W5Working under the mentorship of Aideen Johnson, Senior Educator at W5, Anna and Jamie worked intensively over three weeks to learn about the work of W5, and to design and deliver two workshops to Year 11-14 students as part of a ‘Build a Health Baby’ event on their final day. This was designed to tie-in with ‘Baby Day’ which took place on 27th September 2015.

Jamie and Anna led two interactive workshops: an ethics-workshop, where they encouraged students to debate the decisions that multi-disciplinary teams have to make every day when treating very sick children, and a lab-based workshop, where students got to grips with actual placentas and umbilical cords!

W5 is a partner of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland, and this SSC is a great example of how W5 and Queen’s University Belfast are working together to help communicate important public health messages to all age groups. Dr Helen Coleman, a Lecturer in the Centre of Excellence for Public Health and member of the SSC management committee, worked with Aideen to develop this new SSC for 2015, which will hopefully run again in future. However, it won’t be Aideen at the helm next time, as we wish her luck in her new PhD studentship in the Centre of Excellence for Public Health!

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CPH Firewalk and coffee morning for Guide Dogs NI

GDB Coffee morning‌As part of Guide Dog Week, brave staff members Jacci, Michael, Angela, Jackie and Clare will be taking part in a FIREWALK in front of Queen’s University Belfast on 8th October at 8pm so please come and watch, cheer and donate! The event is part of Guide Dog Week, to raise some much needed funds for the continued and excellent work of Guide Dogs NI.

Participants will be walking over hot coals up to 1200F, in the hope of raising over £700 for this special cause. So put your best paw forward, donate generously here, and help us blaze a trail for Guide Dogs NI.

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Cancer Research UK Population Research Postdoctoral Fellowship

Una McMenaminDr Úna McMenamin, Research Fellow in the Cancer Epidemiology and Health Services Research Group, has recently been awarded a prestigious 3-year Cancer Research UK Population Research Postdoctoral Fellowship to study the causes of upper gastrointestinal cancers, including oesophageal and stomach cancer.

Cancers of the oesophagus and stomach are both much more common in men than women and it has been speculated that sex hormones (mainly oestrogens) may be responsible. Oesophageal and stomach cancers often have a devastating prognosis, with less than 20% of patients still alive 5 years after their diagnosis. Identifying new targets for prevention or treatment of these cancers is therefore vital.

Dr McMenamin will be using data from large UK cohorts to investigate the association between blood levels of sex hormones in both males and females, and the risk of oesophageal and stomach cancer. Dr McMenamin will also be examining the influence of reproductive and menstrual factors, and whether taking anti-oestrogen medications (commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer) may have a role for upper gastrointestinal cancer risk also.

During her Fellowship, Dr McMenamin will travel to the Belgian Cancer Registry in Brussels, Belgium and the National Cancer Institute in Washington DC, USA, to work with world-leading experts there. These collaborations will mean that this research could have meaningful impact for patients both here in the UK and globally.

The findings from this work will provide novel information on the causes of the unexplained sex disparity in oesophageal and stomach cancer incidence. This could ultimately lead to the development of future prevention strategies, particularly for those at high risk of developing these cancers. For further information on the Cancer Epidemiology group’s research click here.

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Care in the Sun Campaign

Thunderclap campaignCPH Researchers, together with Cancer Focus NI and the Public Health Agency are running a feasibility study funded by the MRC on whether Twitter is effective for disseminating public health messages. In this case they are disseminating the “Care in the Sun” core messages.

As part of this, throughout August and September they are running a #KnowYourSkinNI social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

On September 1st they are holding a “Thunderclap” to promote the campaign. We encourage all staff and students to pledge their support for the campaign via this link:

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CPH Summer Studentship Scheme

This year, CPH hosted 11 summer students who all participated in the CPH Summer Students Symposium on Wednesday 29th July.  Congratulations to you all, particularly Conor Brown and Alan McCrorie (pictured below right) who shared first prize for the best presentations on the day.

CPH summer students 2015a

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National Cancer Intelligence Network Cancer Outcomes Conference in Belfast

Professor Patrick Johnston, Professor Sir Richard Peto, Dr Isabelle Soerjomataram, Miss Sara Hiom, Professor Michel Coleman and Mr Richard Stephens.  Chairs and speakers for the International Issues in Cancer session.Congratulations to the Staff of the N. Ireland Cancer Registry which hosted the National Cancer Intelligence Network Cancer Outcomes Conference 8th-10th June. The conference took place in the Europa Hotel and attracted a total of 506 delegates to Belfast for what was the biggest and judging from the feedback, the best Cancer Outcomes Conference to date.

Pictured left: Professor Patrick Johnston, QUB Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Richard Peto, Dr Isabelle Soerjomataram, Miss Sara Hiom, Professor Michel Coleman and Mr Richard Stephens. Chairs and speakers for the International Issues in Cancer session.

Delegates had the opportunity to hear leading experts discuss emerging research, service evaluation, clinical audit and analysis, and explore how cancer intelligence is influencing wider public health and policy.

Dr Jem Rashbass, Professor Robert Steele, Miss Sara Hiom, Dr Michael McBride, Mr Chris Carrigan, Mrs Margaret Grayson and Dr Mick Peake.  Chairs / Speakers at opening session.  Changing clinical practice : the importance of routine data and cancer registries.Speaking about the Conference Dr Gavin said "The conference has received very positive feedback and all were very impressed with the Scientific Program. The City Hall and Titanic Belfast were great venues to host the conference dinners. It was a lot of hard work but very rewarding!!

Pictured right: Dr Jem Rashbass, Professor Robert Steele, Miss Sara Hiom, Dr Michael McBride, Mr Chris Carrigan, Mrs Margaret Grayson and Dr Mick Peake. Chairs / Speakers at opening session. Changing clinical practice : the importance of routine data and cancer registries.‌

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€2 million boost for leadership in ageing research

Claire McEvoyThe Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) today announced four new CARDI Fellows from its third leadership funding call. The call is a joint venture with the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) and two of the research fellows are being funded under its Beeson Career Development Awards in Aging Research. The leadership programme is aimed at supporting and building capacity in ageing research across the island of Ireland and promoting the development of future leaders.

The new CARDI fellows are Dr Sheena McHugh, University College Cork and Dr Céline De Looze, Trinity College Dublin (TCD). The Beeson-sponsored CARDI Fellows are Dr Claire McEvoy, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Dr Matthew O’Connell, TCD.

The four research fellows will receive funding to carry out vital research into ageing issues, including communication strategies and cognitive impairment; the links between diet and cognitive decline; frailty, mobility and disability; and falls prevention for older people with diabetes.
“CARDI is delighted to announce four new Fellows under its Leadership Programme and we look forward to working with them to develop their skills as high quality researchers in ageing,” said Professor Davis Coakley, CARDI co-chair. “The collaboration with AFAR marks an important development for ageing research. The research funded under this programme promises to provide key evidence to policy makers and benefit older people, as well as creating a new generation of leaders within the academic community in Ireland, North and South.”

Dr Thomas Gill, Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Beeson Career Development Award commented, “The quality of applicants for the CARDI Fellowship was outstanding, making the review highly competitive, and we were pleased with the selection of the new CARDI fellows who are well positioned to make important contributions to the field of ageing research.”
“We are delighted to support two CARDI fellows through our Beeson Program in Ireland”, said AFAR Director of Grant Programs, Odette van der Willik. “The Atlantic Philanthropies’ investment in ageing research through the Beeson Scholars and the CARDI Leadership programmes is greatly impacting the health and quality of life of older adults throughout Ireland.”

The announcement of the four Fellows brings to nine the total number of Fellowships awarded under CARDI’s Leadership Programme and an investment of some €2 million in ageing research. The other Fellows are Dr Joanne Feeney, Dr Joanna McHugh, Dr Charlotte Neville and Dr Mark O’Doherty based in QUB, and Dr Aisling O’Halloran based in TCD. For more information go to

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CPH Year 2 Student Symposium

‌Congratulations to this year's winner of the Second Year Student Symposium, Désirée Schliemann.

schliemann Student presentation winner 2015Désirée’s research is supervised by Professor Jayne Woodside and Dr Michelle McKinley and aims to identify strategies to encourage a positive dietary behaviour change in workplaces. As part of her PhD she currently leads a complex workplace nutrition intervention study and is going to evaluate its impact on employee’s overall diet, health and job satisfaction.

Thanks to all those who presented. Pictured (from left to right) with Désirée are CPH staff members and moderators for the day, Dr Gareth McKay, Dr Helen Coleman,  Désirée Schliemann and Professor Mike Clarke.

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New era in pre-cancerous disease research

Charlene_Lesley_Omolara‌This summer sees the launch of an exciting new era in pre-cancerous disease research for the Cancer Epidemiology and Health Services Research Group at the Centre for Public Health:

  1. Dr Charlene McShane has been awarded a prestigious Cancer Research UK Population Research Postdoctoral Fellowship to study Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS), which is the pre-cursor for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood.
  2. Ms Omolara Sanni, a first year PhD student and a graduate of our Masters in Public Health course, is funded by an International Queen’s University Belfast PhD studentship to begin a new research project on endometrial hyperplasia, a pre-cancerous condition for cancer of the womb. 
  3. Dr Lesley Anderson, a Lecturer in Cancer Prevention, has been awarded funding from Cancer Research UK to investigate the role of infections in the progression of Barrett’s oesophagus, to its related cancer, oesophageal adenocarcinoma. 

These three new bodies of work build upon the groups continuing pre-cancerous disease research work on Barrett’s oesophagus and colorectal polyps, which can develop into bowel cancer. The infrastructure for much of this research is facilitated by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, which is funded by the Public Health Agency.
So why is it important to study pre-cancerous conditions? Well, even though these conditions can develop into cancer, the vast majority of patients with these conditions will not develop cancer. It is important that we can better understand these diseases in order to identify those individuals at highest risk of cancer, so that appropriate treatments and surveillance can be targeted to the people who need them most. For further information on the Cancer Epidemiology group’s pre-cancerous disease research please click here.

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BMJ Women’s Health Award 2015: Runner Up

BMJ Awards 2015The Women with Diabetes Team were runners up of the Women’s Health Award 2015 at the prestigious British Medical Journal Awards in London. The team were also shortlisted for the Northern Ireland Healthcare Award earlier this year- the only University team.

Developed by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the South Eastern and Belfast Health and Social Care Trusts, the resource, in both DVD and website delivery, is aimed at women with diabetes and healthcare professionals who care for them. As well as a website helping women to prepare for pregnancy, the resource has an evidence based e-learning component aimed at all healthcare professionals who care for women with diabetes- GPs, pharmacists, practice nurses etc. The resource offers a unique opportunity to educate women and healthcare professionals on the importance of planning for pregnancy and also provides a direct link to local pre-pregnancy care clinics in Northern Ireland for those who are actively seeking to plan for pregnancy.

Babies born to women with diabetes are more likely to be affected by congenital anomalies, including spina bifida, heart and kidney anomalies. However, it is well established that good blood glucose control before and during pregnancy can reduce this risk!

Find out more on our website-
Follow us on twitter-
Contact Dr Aisling Gough for further information:

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Cancer Research Open Day

In truly collaborative style, researchers from the Cancer Epidemiology and Health Services Research Group took part in the first Cancer Research Open Day at Queen’s University Belfast, hosted at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology on Saturday 9th May. This event attracted hundreds of visitors of all ages, and allowed members of the public to see first-hand how researchers in Belfast are helping to combat this devastating disease.
Cancer Research Open DayOur Population Cancer researchers were present in force at the Open Day, offering activities on population study designs, information on lifestyle and cancer risk and survival, and demonstrating how our research is helping to improve life after cancer for individuals and their families. A great day had by all and this event will run again in 2016! For further information on the Cancer Epidemiology group’s research click here.

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Why infertility is becoming a public health issue in Europe

‌Infertility is becoming a public health issue in Europe. Declining birth rates over the past 50 years mean that Europe is only producing 1.6 children per woman – hardly satisfactory to compete on the global stage against increasing populations of fit and able youth from the emerging economies of India and China.fertility And the problem is getting worse: couples reporting infertility in centres across Europe is increasing by 8-9% annually.

Although the UK pioneered assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as IVF and artificial insemination in 1978, success rates are still as modest as they were 35 years ago – only one in four couples get the baby they so want. That said, up to 5% of children born in Europe are from ART. But the fact is: if we want to exploit ART for societal growth, success rates need to improve.

To read the rest of this article published in The Conversation click here.

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Dr Gerry McKenna delivers Spring Invitational Lecture in Switzerland

Gerry McKennaGerry McKenna delivered the 2015 Spring Invitational Lecture at the University of Bern on 28th May.  He was invited by Professor Martin Schimmel and Professor Adrian Lussi, Director of the Faculty of Dentistry.  The title of his presentation was “Managing the Ageing Population: an evidence-based approach to Gerodontology”.  Gerry is the current president of the European College of Gerodontology and discussed a range of issues including dental management of older patients, nutritional outcomes and health economics in his lecture.  

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Evidence Aid researchers join international effort in Nepal

Researchers from Evidence Aid based at Queen’s University Belfast have joined international efforts in Nepal following the devastating earthquake in which 5,000 people are known to have died and more than 10,000 have been injured.

Evidence Aid, led by academics at Queen’s University is an international initiative set up to provide the latest evidence on the effects of interventions before, during and after disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. It helps people distinguish what works from what doesn’t work, and to avoid what might be harmful. Today Evidence Aid is providing much needed knowledge support to health workers in Nepal. Through its key partners in the region and in international agencies such as the United Nations and World Health Organisation, it’s providing evidence-based resources to help focus relief efforts.

Evidence Aid provides free access to reliable, independent summaries of the effects of different interventions, actions and strategies. Many of these come from the Cochrane Collaboration, the foremost source of robust research evidence for healthcare globally. Evidence Aid was founded by Cochrane’s former global chair, Professor Mike Clarke, now at Queen’s University Belfast, the day after the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day 2004.

Professor Mike Clarke, based in the Centre for Public Health in Queen’s University Belfast said “The people of Nepal need to receive effective aid, based on robust evidence. We’re making this information available free to all, helping people make the best possible decisions and choices amidst the chaos and the devastation.”

The information is available free from the Evidence Aid website. It covers injuries, mental health and water-borne diseases; as well many other health topics relevant to the recovery of the tens of thousands of people affected by the earthquake. Whether someone’s got a computer or a smartphone, they can get the knowledge. It shows, for instance, that although you’re usually as safe washing a wound with tap water as with expensive sterile saline; if clean, drinkable water is precious after a disaster, there are better uses for it. It’s obvious, really, but chaos can get in the way of clear thinking. As another example, if you’re worried about post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD among the survivors, the evidence shows that a type of psychological counselling known as brief de-briefing is probably useless, if not harmful.

Since the earthquake, Evidence Aid has been in contact with members of the Cochrane Collaboration based in Nepal and, through them, frontline health workers in the country. It is also working through its partners in national and international agencies, to get the message to the response teams who are already there or on their way.

Claire Allen, Knowledge Manager for Evidence Aid said "We got in contact with colleagues in the region as soon as we heard about the earthquake. They’re telling us how useful the resources are and how they are being shared."

For media inquiries please contact Professor Mike Clarke, Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast email:

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Higher rates of heart disease and disability in Northern Ireland’s over 50s

Frank Kee CARDIDr Paul Darragh (Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Public Health Agency, NI), Dr Anne Nolan (Research Director, TILDA, Trinity College Dublin), Professor Bob Stout (Co-Chair CARDI, Professor Frank Kee (Director of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health and Deputy Director of the Centre for Public Health at QUB)
Older people in Northern Ireland are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than those in the Republic of Ireland. They are also far more likely to have a limiting long-term illness and disability, according to a study funded by CARDI launched today (Thursday 26 March 2015) in Belfast.

The study was led by researchers from the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.

Prevalence of heart disease and rates of associated disability are higher among men and those in lower socio-economic groups in both countries.

The study, led by Professor Frank Kee, Director of the Centre of Excellence and Deputy Director of the Centre for Public Health, examined the rates and impacts of heart disease among people over 50 by analysing existing datasets in Ireland, North and South.

Differences in health behaviours

It also found significant differences in health behaviours linked with the risk of heart disease. While rates of obesity and smoking in the over 50s are higher in the Republic of Ireland, rates of physical inactivity, diabetes and severe depression are higher in Northern Ireland.

The prevalence of coronary heart disease is 12% in Northern Ireland compared to 8% in the Republic of Ireland, while prevalence of limiting long-term illness is 80% higher in Northern Ireland. The research highlighted the particular vulnerability of men over 50 and people in lower socio-economic positions.

Significant differences along socio-economic, gender and age lines

Professor Frank Kee said: “When examining datasets on health among older people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland it is apparent that rates of heart disease and associated disability are higher in Northern Ireland. Significant differences also exist along socio-economic, gender and age lines. The findings illustrate the need to tackle key risk factors, especially physical inactivity among older people in Ireland, both north and south.”

Leading cause of death and disability

Dr Roger O’Sullivan, Director of CARDI, welcomed the findings: “Heart disease remains a leading cause of death and disability in both parts of Ireland and high by European standards. The number of adults who will have heart disease in their lifetime is projected to rise rapidly as our population ages. These new findings emphasise the need to bring forward initiatives to reduce the risks of heart disease.

The full report is entitled ‘Understanding disability in older heart disease patients in Ireland’. The research was CARDI under its 2013 data-mining funding programme. CARDI has prepared a research brief ‘Disability in older heart disease patients’ which summarises the main report and spells out some of the implications for policy and practice.

Read the full report here.

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Irish Ambassador receives prestigious healthcare award at Queen’s

Irish Ambassador receives prestigious healthcare award at Queen’sIrish Ambassador to Sierra Leone and Liberia, Dr Sinead Walsh, was presented with the prestigious Fiona Bradley Medal at a ceremony at Queen’s University on Saturday, 7 March, for her work to combat the Ebola virus in Africa.

The distinguished medal, which celebrates the contribution of the late Dr Fiona Bradley to promoting better medical practice, especially in the more disadvantaged areas of society, is awarded annually. Fiona was a lecturer in Trinity College, Dublin and family doctor in Ballymun until her untimely death aged 41.

The medal, awarded by the Fiona Bradley Foundation, is given to an individual or group who have made a sustained difference in healthcare in Ireland or internationally. This year the award recognised the “exceptional and dedicated work of Sinead Walsh in leading the Irish effort against the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone and Liberia.”

The award was presented during the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Association of University Departments of General Practice in Ireland (AUDGPI), which was held in Riddel Hall at Queen’s. The meeting was co-hosted by the UKCRC Centre for Excellence for Public Health Research (NI).

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Northern Ireland’s Healthcare Professionals Take a Bow!

The cream of Northern Ireland’s healthcare industry took a bow last Thursday night as the sixteenth annual Northern Ireland Healthcare Awards took place at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. The glittering gala gives the Province’s healthcare professionals the opportunity to highlight their own work and to receive the accolades of their peers.

Organised by Medical Communications Ltd, publishers of pharmacy and healthcare magazines across the UK, the awards allow NI’s healthcare professionals to showcase their work in front of many of the profession’s current movers and shakers.

Among those receiving awards this year was Professor Ian Young, Professor of Medicine at Queen’s University, Belfast and Director of the Centre for Public Health, one of four research centres within the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences. 

Professor Young received the Special Recognition Award, which was sponsored by ABPI Northern Ireland, for his outstanding contribution not only to academia and research within Northern Ireland, but across the UK.

‘Professor Young is extremely deserving of this award,’ said Colette Goldrick, Chair of ABPI Northern Ireland, which sponsored this award. ‘Throughout his career he has focused – and continues to focus – on improving the health of the public at a regional, national and international level by increasing knowledge and by influencing clinical and public health practice and policy. His commitment to what he does is outstanding and he is a deserving winner.’

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Queen’s Graduates’ Association Scholarship- Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences

Jennifer MurrayJennifer Murray graduated from QUB in July 2014 with First Class BSc (Hons) in Actuarial Science and Risk Management. As a result of her achievements she was nominated for the Queen’s Graduate Association Scholarship on return to QUB to start a PhD programme with the Centre of Public Health in September 2014. Her research project is focused on physical activity behaviour change, an important research area as physical inactivity has become one of the leading risk factors for global mortality and non-communicable disease. In Northern Ireland, for example, over 60% of adults do not meet physical activity recommendations. Changing human behaviour is a complex process and requires complex interventions with psychological, social and environmental aspects. Previous interventions attempting to increase physical activity have had moderate effects and rarely achieve long-term behaviour change. Jennifer's PhD project is part of an NIHR funded trial of a novel Physical Activity Loyalty (PAL) scheme. This complex intervention will provide financial incentives to participants in a work-based setting for meeting physical activity behaviour targets to discover the processes of change from intervention to uptake, initiation and maintenance of physical activity behaviour. In understanding these mechanisms, the aim is to improve future interventions which should lead to a healthier, fitter, more physically active society. 

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women with diabetesAn educational website is empowering Women with Diabetes to plan for pregnancy

Developed by Queen’s University Belfast, the Belfast and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts, the ‘Women with Diabetes’ preconception counselling resource aims to increase awareness about the importance of planning for pregnancy.

The site aims to positively influence attitudes, self-confidence and intentions towards seeking pre-pregnancy care and preventing unplanned pregnancies.

The website originates from a DVD, funded by Diabetes UK, which was designed and developed in collaboration with women with diabetes.

The website features real women with diabetes who shared their experiences of planning for pregnancy, their knowledge of issues, including contraception, and the reasons why it is so important to plan.

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NIHR Career Development Fellowship

Ruth Hunter_photoDr Ruth Hunter, Research Fellow in the Centre for Public Health, has been awarded a prestigious National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Career Development Fellowship. In January she will be embarking on a three-year study of the impact of social networks in changing people’s physical activity behaviour, involving placements at Harvard, the Universities of Southern California and Cambridge.

Social networks (friends/family/colleagues) have significant impact on health and behaviours. However, we know little about how these networks can be used to influence physical activity. This Fellowship aims to undertake development work and pilot testing necessary to adequately design and evaluate novel social network enabled interventions, including: reviewing previous research; analysing social networks for workplace physical activity; simulation of network parameters to design an optimal intervention; and pilot testing the intervention. This Fellowship will address important knowledge gaps and build skills, capacity and evidence for social network enabled interventions for physical activity behaviour, which has significant potential for improved public health.

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