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.
Working 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!
As 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.
Dr 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.
CPH 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.
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: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/29511-knowyourskinni
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.
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.
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.
The 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 www.cardi.ie.
Congratulations to this year's winner of the Second Year Student Symposium, Désirée Schliemann.
Désirée’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.
This 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The 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!
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.
Our 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.
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. 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.
Gerry 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr 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.
Irish 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).
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.’
Jennifer 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.
An 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.
Dr 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.