We are currently seeking to recruit 5 PhD studentships within the Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI (PHASE II), in the Centre for Public Health (School of Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences), the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, the Management School at Queen's and the Centre for Statistical Science and Operational Research (School of Mathematics & Physics). Closing date for applications is 31 May 2013. Funding is pending confirmation of final award documentation.
- The development of a peer led physical activity intervention to reduce social isolation in community dwelling older adults
- Developing statistical models to assess the effects of socioeconomic position on the incidence of and outcome from type 2 diabetes in older adults: evidence from the CHANCES cohort
- The effects of Evidence Aid on decision making in public health disaster situations
- Early life factors and mental health in early adulthood with specific reference to deliberate self-harm (DSH): a record linkage study
- Relieving over-debtedness and consequences for well-being
Some 70,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with a diagnosis of cancer made within the last 18 years (69,377 people as of 31st December 2010), according to a report being launched today by Queen’s University’s Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, in association with Macmillan Cancer Support.
Living with and beyond cancer provides the first ever detailed picture of cancer prevalence in Northern Ireland, which is defined as the number of living people who have ever had a cancer diagnosis.
The report reveals that the number of people living with cancer in Northern Ireland has risen by 3.5 per cent annually since 1993. The report was presented and led by Dr Anna Gavin of the Centre for Public Health. Further details on the report and it's contents can be found here.
Congratulations to the following members of the Centre for Public Health who were honoured at the School’s annual celebration of excellence dinner, hosted by the Dean of School, Professor Patrick Johnston on Friday 19th April 2013.
Our award winners were:
Dr Shivaram Bhat (pictured left) as the Centre’s best research student who graduated in 2012.
Professor Peter Maxwell for the most exciting, innovative research paper published in the last two years, Sandholm N, Salem RM, McKnight AJ, Brennan EP,…Maxwell AP (2012). New Susceptibility Loci Associated with Kidney Disease in Type 1 Diabetes published in PLoS Genetics (further information can be found here). Dr AJ McKnight (right) and Ms Jill Kilner (centre) collected the award on behalf of Professor Maxwell.
Carrying too many excess pounds while pregnant increases the risk of life-threatening health complications, a new study has revealed. Expectant mothers who are overweight or obese are also more likely to require costly, specialist medical care during pregnancy to prevent problems before and after birth. Their risk of gestational diabetes was increased four-fold and they were also three times as likely to have a stillbirth, premature delivery or a newborn requiring neonatal care as women of normal weight. "Obesity rates have doubled in the last 30 years. This study clearly demonstrates that being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases the risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes," said Dr Valerie Holmes from the Centre for Public Health at Queen's University Belfast who co-wrote the report. A team from Queen’s and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust monitored more than 30,000 mothers-to-be over an eight-year period. Further details available here.
British Transplantation Society prize winner, Dr Jennifer McCaughan, is a member of the Renal Research Group and currently undertaking an PhD in the Centre for Public Health. Her research has investigated the recent substantial increase in the proportion of kidney transplants still functioning one year after transplantation. This success is partly due to the development of new immunosuppressive drugs such as calcineurin inhibitors. While these drugs are very effective at preventing rejection, they may be toxic to kidneys in the long term. Her research has shown that if a kidney transplant is still functioning 12 months post transplantation, long term use of calcineurin inhibitor may be detrimental to transplant survival.
A study undertaken by Dr Aideen Maguire in the Centre for Public Health has found that the dispensing of psychotropic drugs to older people in Northern Ireland increases on entry to care homes. According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, antipsychotic drug dispensing in older people more than doubled from 8.2 per cent before entry to care homes to 18.6 per cent after entering care.
The study analysed prescribing data for over 250,000 people, aged 65 years and over living in Northern Ireland from 2008 to 2010, and looked at drug uptake within the older population during the transition from community to care. Further details can be found here.
Our Centre Director, Professor Ian Young contributed to an evening of talks on Local Talent, Global Impact, chaired by Professor Patrick Johnston on Wednesday 30th January 2013 at Riddel Hall. This was an evening of short presentations by four leading medical researchers to allow the audience to hear first-hand about their ground-breaking work and its impact on patient outcomes locally and globally. Professor Usha Chakravarthy (CVVS), Professor Joe Sullivan (CCRCB) and Professor Danny McAuley (CII) also took part and are pictured with Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson.
Dr Michael O’Rorke, Centre for Public Health research fellow, has been invited to present a guest lecture on the epidemiology and survival of human papillomavirus related head and neck cancer at a NUI Galway and Galway University Hospital symposium in May 2013, the findings of which were featured on the front cover of the December issue of Oral Oncology. Michael has also recently been asked by the editor of the European Journal of Cancer to be interviewed for a spotlight piece which will be linked to his recent publication on early-life exposures and risk of malignant melanoma. The results of this study, based on the analysis of 447,663 patients within the Northern Ireland Child Health dataset, supports a positive association with higher birth weight and potential protective effect of early-life immune modulation on adult risk of malignant melanoma.
This annual award from the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, has been established to recognise the considerable contributions and excellence of physician trainers in the UK. The Chiron Medal reflects one of the iconic images and current logo of the College; Chiron was a great healer in Greek mythology and highly revered as a teacher and tutor.
The Centre for Public Health are delighted their esteemed colleague, Professor Peter Maxwell, (pictured left receiving his award from College President, Dr Neil Dewhurst, right) has been recognised as the first recipient of this prestigious award for his outstanding contribution to physician training in Northern Ireland (NI) which has extended beyond his own specialty of nephrology. Since his appointment in 1994 as a consultant nephrologist in Belfast City Hospital and clinical lecturer in Queen’s University Belfast, he has organised the training programme for nephrology trainees. The effectiveness of this programme has been demonstrated by the 100% first time pass rate for NI trainees in the Nephrology SCE exam; this success rate is unequalled by any other UK deanery. The third year undergraduate nephrology teaching is constantly rated as the best course by medical students in Queen’s University. This reflects Professor Maxwell’s pursuit of excellence in the medical school and his on-going commitment to ensure persistent delivery of high quality education. His enthusiasm for this and personal involvement in teaching has created an environment where medical staff and other professionals are keen to teach and learn.
Professor Maxwell demonstrates an outstanding personal commitment to both training and trainees. He is generous with his time, advice and encouragement to all. Many past and current colleagues are grateful to him for his guidance, gentle correction and inspiration.
In a week where we have learned the news that the world leaders will descend on Northern Ireland for the G8 summit next June, Jonny Elliott, pictured here with QUB VC Sir Peter Gregson, is a student of the Public Health MSc class of 2012. He has been selected to represent UK Medical School Charity Medsin at the UNFCCC Climate Change negotiations in Qatar, in late November-early December. Medsin UK is a network of UK students interested in working to tackling local and global health inequalities. Its Activities, such as Healthy Planet, aim to educate students about the causes of - and solutions - to such health inequalities and to help them to act upon this knowledge. Whilst he is there, Jonny will deliver a number of presentations on the impacts of climate change on health and engage in diplomacy and advocacy work with the thousands of diplomats, negotiators and NGOs.
In 2012 he spent the summer interning at the National Cancer Institute in Washington D.C., working in the Centre for Global Health with the Washington Ireland Program. Jonny also volunteers with Tearfund and the International Justice Mission, and co-founded an anti-human trafficking collective. In light of his success, Jonny commented that “I am particularly interested global health, international relations and social justice - so I applied to represent Medsin at COP18 because I see climate change and health as being at the intersection of all three. It’s also a brilliant opportunity to represent Northern Ireland and QUB on the world stage and provides an unparalleled level of exposure to key influencers in society and I’m determined to make the most every second of it.”
Follow Jonny’s progress on the internet via healthyplanetuk.org, Facebook or twitter @HealthyPlanetUK.
That was the pitch dreamt up by Centre for Public Health researcher, Dr Ruth Hunter, who wanted to see if people would walk more if they were able to collect “reward” points along the way.
“People really buy into the concept of air miles, even though they’re expensive to accumulate,” says Ruth “So I thought ground miles, which are free and better for you, would be ideal.”
And so did more than 400 civil servants from the city’s Stormont Estate (home to the Northern Ireland Assembly), who last summer volunteered to test her theory of pounding the pavements for points that could be exchanged for shop vouchers. Each was given a “loyalty card”, fitted with a radiofrequency tag, and maps of suggested walks near their offices. Dotted around the routes were posts equipped with sensors, which workers swiped with their cards.
The scheme, funded by a group of research councils and charities called the National Prevention Research Initiative, was so popular that by the end of the three-month trial, participants – two-thirds of them women, with an average age of 43 – asked for more sensors and longer routes.
New research from Queen’s University Belfast has uncovered the cause of infertility for 80 per cent of couples previously diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’. At present some 50,000 couples require fertility treatment across the UK each year, with the figure reaching one million worldwide. Up to one third of these couples are diagnosed with unexplained or idiopathic infertility. This means that, using current tests, neither partner has been diagnosed with any detectable problem.
Published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, and carried out by Professor Sheena Lewis from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, the new research reveals 80 per cent of couples with unexplained or idiopathic infertility in the large study of 239 couples have a detectable cause known as high sperm DNA damage. The new study is the first of its kind and will lead to better treatment for these couples, saving them time, money and heartache. Further details on this research can be found here.
Congratulations to Pauline Nolan who marked her 25 year service at Queen's by attending a celebratory lunch hosted by the Vice Chancellor, Sir Peter Gregson, on 16th October 2012. Pauline joined QUB in 1973 as a secretary in the Department of Education, then moved to History in 1974 and Oncology in 1978. Pauline took a career break from QUB in 1980 and returned in 1987 to join the Belfast MONICA Project as a clerical officer and has continued her unbroken and valued service for the past 25 years in the School of Medicine.
In October 2012, Professor Mike Clarke (pictured front right, with some of the students), travelled to the north of Norway to help with a new course on randomised trials. Mike is Director of the All Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research based at the Centre for Public Health in Queen’s University Belfast. The course was organised by the Clinical Research Department at the University of Tromsø, providing an opportunity to explore the importance of reliable and robust randomised trials for resolving uncertainties. Mike lectured on a variety of key areas for trials, including the formulation of a clear and answerable question, designs beyond the standard 2-group parallel randomised trial, and the potential dangers of multiplicity and subgroup analyses. Several of the participants are working on trials of mobile phone applications, and the All Ireland Hub looks forward to working with the Clinical Research Department in Tromsø, forming a network of researchers to support for the sharing of experiences about the design and conduct of such trials.
As part of Biology Week 2012, staff and students from the Centre for Public Health shared the Centre’s physical activity research with 100 secondary school students. The event was run in association with the Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI), W5 and STEMNET.
Following a lecture by Dr Mark Tully, students undertook a practical session where they measured their walking cadence and heart rate, to explore the relationship between walking speed and cardiorespiratory fitness. This was facilitated by Jane Ann Daniels, Estelle Lowry, Claire McEvoy, Jennifer McPeake and Chris Patterson, STEM ambassadors associated with the Centre for Public Health.
Thanks to the hard work of the Centre for Public Health STEM ambassadors, the event was a huge success. Students and teachers eagerly participated in the practical session and commented on the inspiring benefits of engaging with researchers from a range of scientific backgrounds.
Queen’s academics from the Centre for Public Health are among a team of international researchers to have discovered two genes that increase the risk of developing diabetes-associated kidney disease.
Kidney disease is a common and serious complication of diabetes and it is associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Globally, diabetic kidney disease is now the leading cause of kidney failure requiring dialysis or kidney transplant, but up to now scientists and clinicians were aware that some patients developed kidney disease but not why this happened.
In the largest study of its kind, the investigators recruited 4,750 patients with diabetic kidney disease and almost 7,000 patients with long-standing diabetes but without kidney disease.
Professor Peter Maxwell of Queen’s University, one of the principal investigators on the study, commented: “Currently available drugs cannot cure the kidney failure but may slow its progression. Knowing which patients are most at risk of kidney complications will be helpful in managing their diabetes.”
Researchers analysed over two million DNA markers per person and found that changes associated with two genes (AFF3 and ERBB4) increased the risk of kidney disease. Findings were published in the journal PLoS Genetics.
This ‘GENIE consortium’, led by researchers from Queen’s; University College Dublin; Harvard University and the University of Helsinki, is supported by the US-Ireland R&D Partnership with funding from the Health and Social Care R&D Division of the Public Health Agency, Science Foundation Ireland and the US National Institutes of Health.
Professor Bernie Hannigan, Director of HSC R&D congratulated the researchers on their success, saying: “This research consortium is tremendously productive. Their dedicated work will immediately benefit patient management and in the longer term can lead to new treatments with both health and economic impacts. Such international research collaboration can result in gains for all partners involved.”
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster gathered together at Riddel Hall in Belfast on 6 June 2012, shortly after the establishment of the MRC Hub for Trials Methodology Research. This was an opportunity to find out more about the Hub, to share ideas on past and ongoing methodology research in Northern Ireland and to plan for the future.
Staff, students and members of the public had the opportunity to hear about the impact Queen’s research has on our everyday lives at a Showcase event in the Whitla Hall. Organised by Research and Enterprise, the Local Talent, Global Impact event allowed leading researchers from across the University to share their work with the audience.
At the event Director of Enterprise and Research Scott Rutherford introduced a number of researchers who each gave five-minute presentations on the impact their work is having in areas such as education, eye disease and fertility testing (Professor Sheena Lewis, CPH).
Attendees had the opportunity to then meet and talk to almost 40 researchers at stands set up to profile their work. This gave people an opportunity to find out more about their work and try out some of the interactive activities.
To find out more about some of the researchers who were present at the event and to view photographs, click on the Image Gallery.
Professor Mike Clarke, Director of the All Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research in the Centre for Public Health, gave the keynote opening lecture at the Annual Conference of the Taiwan Evidence Based Medicine Association (TEBMA) in Taichung on 25 August 2012. TEBMA brings together a wide range of disciplines across health care and Mike’s lecture showed the importance of randomised trials and systematic reviews to policy and practice. He also gave a lecture on Evidence Aid, stressing the relevance of evidence in disaster risk reduction, planning, response and recovery; and led a training workshop on systematic reviews in Taipei on 26 August. His visit included a series of discussions about a national provision of The Cochrane Library for Taiwan, drawing on his experience of negotiating the first of these, covering Northern Ireland and Ireland, which has now been in place for a decade.
Olympic Bells ring out at the Centre for Public Health
At 08.12hrs on Friday 27 July 2012, ten brave and enthusiastic souls from CPH bared the strange looks of passers-by on their way to work, whilst ringing a range of multi-coloured 'tinker' bells to celebrate the start of the London 2012 Olympics.
Our own Golden Girl
We are delighted and very proud that our colleague Ruth (Dr Ruth Hunter), Project Manager for the MRC funded PARC Study at Queen's, Centre of Excellence for Public Health, has been selected as part of the army of physiotherapists who will be working at the London 2012 Olympic Games. She was successful in getting through a selection process that attracted more than 250,000 applicants. Ruth’s role will see her swap her day job for a role as a physiotherapist in the Polyclinic at the Athlete’s Village where over 17,000 athlete’s will be based. “I am delighted to have been selected to work at London 2012 and excited about contributing to what I am sure will be a hugely successful Olympics.”
Dr Jayne Woodside wins prestigious honour
At the 2012 British Nutrition Society annual conference Dr Jayne Woodside was awarded the prestigious Nutrition Society Silver Medal which has been awarded annually since 1991 for scientific excellence in the field of Nutritional Biosciences. Dr Woodside is currently Reader in Nutrition in the Centre for Public Health. She was awarded the Medal in recognition of her international reputation in the field of diet and health and in particular for her leadership of innovative research and extensive academic publication record.
Jenny Bristow at the Nutiriton Society Meeting
The 2012 Nutrition Society Summer Meeting on ‘Translational Nutrition’ was hosted by Queen’s University Belfast. Alongside the scientific meeting, the Centre for Public Health and Centre of Excellence for Public Health Research at Queen’s teamed up with the Nutrition Society and the award winning W5 interactive discovery Centre to run a ‘Summer Food Master Class’ for families.
Families joined well known good food ambassador, celebrated chef and author Jenny Bristow as she guided them through the fun of preparing and cooking easy, versatile and healthy meals. This was no ordinary cookery demonstration as Jenny had planned a thoroughly modern masterclass where visitors were inspired to get into the kitchen and get cooking together using local ingredients and seasonal produce. Further details of sample dishes provided can be found here.
The event was co-sponsored by the Centre of Excellence for Public Health Research NI and the Centre for Public Health, QUB.
Electric Fans May Do More Harm Than Good In A Heat Wave
It may seem counterintuitive if you’ve ever cooled yourself down by the stiff breeze of an electric fan, but a new review published in the Cochrane Library suggests there’s no strong evidence that fans help during a heat wave.
Co-author, Mike Clarke, from the All-Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research in Queen's University Belfast, said "robust evidence is lacking on the benefits and harms of electric fans. We need a large randomized trial to resolve this long-standing and on-going uncertainty and to help people make well-informed choices about their use. Increased sweating can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. If these fluids and electrolytes are not replaced quickly enough, there is a possibility that fans may do more harm than good.”
Consider heat wave associated deaths with 30,000 reported in Europe in 2003 and this year, at least 46 deaths in the U.S. in late June and early July. These health issues are particularly worrisome for high risk individuals, such as older people and babies, who are more vulnerable to temperature extremes, in part because they are less likely to recognise symptoms of excessive heat exposure.
Further details are available here.
CPH visit south-east Asia
Internationalisation is essential to the sustainability of the School and recently members of the School's Internationalisation Group have been working with colleagues in the University's International Office to consolidate our international presence and global reach in terms of student recruitment. In addition CPH staff members Professor Liam Murray and Dr Marie Cantwell (pictured) continue to foster their international research/education collaborations in Malaysia and Singapore.
Pictured L-R: Professor Graham McGeown, Professor Liam Murray, Professor Hany Ariffin, Dr Karen McCloskey and Dr Marie Cantwell at the University of Malaya Medical Centre
SMDB 2012 Annual Celebration of Excellence
Over 160 staff, students and invited guests attended the School’s third Annual Celebration of Excellence on Wednesday 28 March 2012. The celebrations commenced with the presentation of the Distinguished Graduate Award to Professor Dame Ingrid Allen in recognition of her outstanding contribution to academic medicine, her leadership in research, her national and international profile and as a role model for the profession. Dame Ingrid also presented the awards in 10 categories celebrating the excellence and achievements of our best undergraduate and postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers, academic and academic support staff.
Further details are available here.
Lighting a flame for science!
Dr Mark Tully, Centre for Public Health STEM Ambassador, recently participated in a Teacher/STEM Ambassador Networking Event at Our Lady of Mercy School, North Belfast. This event format provided an excellent forum for STEM Ambassadors and local teachers to meet and discuss how they can work together on future STEM activities in schools to maximise this unique and innovative programme. Feedback from teachers has been very positive and it is hoped that the event will facilitate greater use of local STEM expertise in the classroom.
For further information visit the STEM Ambassadors Programme. Picture courtesy of the Irish News
New study reveals improved cancer survival in Northern Ireland
The figures have been revealed today as part of an event at Queen’s University Belfast organised by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and attended by Dr Michael McBride, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Dr Anna Gavin and Edwin Poots, MLA, Minister for Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety.
The audit results follow last week’s recognition for Queen’s at Buckingham Palace, when the University was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its leadership of the Northern Ireland Comprehensive Cancer Services programme. The programme has led to improved cancer survival rates in Northern Ireland and is a collaboration led by Queen’s in partnership with the Department of Health and the five Northern Ireland Health Trusts with support from the medical research industry.
Speaking at the conference, Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, said: “Examination of data for pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed in 2010 shows a doubling of survival, a real breakthrough for this disease. If such a survival improvement was seen from a new drug, it would hit the headlines internationally.
Mr Poots said that his Department was proud of the achievements of the University and their health service partner and he was confident that leadership in research is informing improvements in treatment, and to leading clinicians and other health professionals choosing to work in Northern Ireland. Further information on this report is available here.
CPH STEM Ambassadors enthuse local students
Centre for Public Health STEM Ambassadors, Jennifer McPeake, Gemma Mullan & Aideen Maguire recently participated in the West Belfast Area Learning Community, in association with W5 under the STEM Ambassador’s Programme. This full day STEM careers event was designed to inspire students on the career options and the opportunities studying STEM subjects offers. The event aimed to encourage students to consider pursuing careers in sectors where STEM based knowledge and skills are required and to demonstrate how these skills can be transferred into the world of work.
CPH Research on Oesophageal Cancer
Smoking doubles the risk of developing oesophageal cancer in people with Barrett’s Oesophagus according to scientists from the Centre for Public Health. Affecting one in every 100 people in the UK, Barrett’s Oesophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the oesophagus is damaged by stomach acid and is changed to a lining similar to that of the stomach.
The research, published in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, was carried out over 13 years and involved over 3000 Barrett’s patients. Dr Helen Coleman from the Centre for Public Health said: “We found that tobacco smoking emerged as the strongest lifestyle risk factor for cancer progression for patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus. The risk of developing this cancer doubled for those who were smoking tobacco. One of the most interesting observations was that someone who smoked less than one pack a day was still as likely to develop cancer as those who smoked many more.”
CPH at the New York Academy of Science
Lesley Hamill, Nida Nadeem, Sharon Fulton and Claire McEvoy were recently chosen to present their work at a Career day hosted by the New York Academy of Science and PepsiCo in New York City. Globally, there were 110 applicants for this event but only the top 50 abstracts were chosen in a blinded review process. Quite an achievement, therefore, for our Centre to have 4 representatives invited to present their work. The Career day was held in the New York Academy of Science (NYAS) on the 40th Floor of the World Trade Center, NYC on Dec 10th 2011. The group picture is taken with the Charles Darwin sculpture situated in the NYAS headquarters and also includes Adam Harvey (CVVS) and Jennifer Stott (CII). For further detail see: CPH at the NY Academy of Science
Northern Ireland’s Comprehensive Cancer Services programme
This major partnership between Queen’s University and Health and Social Care services Northern Ireland has led to improved survival rates for patients and has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen.
For further detail please see:
25 years in CPH
Jill Kilner recently received her 25 year service award from the Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson. Jill joined the medical genetics team with Professor Norman Nevin OBE in 1986 and has stayed working in the same labs ever since. For the past 12 years she has been working with the renal research group and most recently became floor manager in Belfast City Hospital.
Breakthrough in Keratoconus
Keratoconus is a bilateral, progressive corneal thinning disorder that is the leading indication for corneal transplantation in the developed world. Centre for Public Health researchers have identified a mutation within a microRNA gene called miR-184 as the cause of an inherited form of keratoconus combined with cataract in a large Northern Irish family using the latest genetic sequencing techniques. MicroRNAs are small genes which control other genes in networks and pathways and are very important in the cornea and lens. This finding will allow the identification of gene pathways responsible for keratoconus providing insights into the biological changes in the disease process and potential therapeutic targets for treatment. The results from this study led by Professor Anne Hughes with cross-centre collaboration with the Centre for Vision and Vascular Sciences are published in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, where the paper is highlighted as the featured article of the month.