Queen’s has launched Northern Ireland’s largest ever public health research project. NICOLA – the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing – is hoping to provide the basis for future Government policy by following the lives of 8,500 over 50s as they grow older.
Officially announced by Junior Ministers Jonathan Bell and Jennifer McCann, participants in the Queen’s University-led project, supported by groups such as the Public Health Agency and the Commissioner for Older People of Northern Ireland, will be randomly selected from across Northern Ireland over the next 18-months. The findings will leave a lasting legacy for society by enabling policy makers to base Government strategy upon research.
Professor Ian Young, Principal Investigator of the NICOLA Project and Director of the Centre for Public Health, said: “Northern Ireland is undergoing an ageing revolution. Today there are more people aged under 16 than over 65. By 2037 that will have completely reversed with predictions that there will be 122,000 more over 65s than under 16s. That is an unprecedented change in our society and we need to start planning for it.
“For the first time, through the NICOLA study, Queen’s will give policy makers in Northern Ireland the same level of information as their counterparts in Great Britain and Ireland, and it will help shape at least ten major Government policies. ‘NICOLA’ will help us change the way we live for the better and those participating in the study will leave a tangible legacy for future generations.”
NICOLA consists of three stages, an interview conducted in the home, a questionnaire and a health assessment which will take place at the new Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility at Belfast City Hospital. The assessments, completed by registered nurses, will include blood pressure readings, brain function (thinking) tests, blood sample collection and a detailed eye examination using equipment not available elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Follow-up interviews will be conducted every two years.
Further details on the NICOLA story can be found here.
For more information please email NICOLA@qub.ac.uk or contact 028 9063 3078.
Glen Titmarsch, CPH PhD student braved Movember to raise money for a great charity close to his heart. MPD Voice is a specialised charity helping support people with myeloproliferative disorders. These are very rare blood conditions with varying genetic profiles that result in an overproduction of blood cells in the myeloid lineage. There is very little known about these diseases. His PhD project is funded by MPD Voice and aims to run a pilot case-control study to assess the best methods for conducting a large UK-wide study investigating the aetiology of MPDs. Further details can be found here.
Glen said "I decided to take part in Movember to raise some money for this fantastic charity and raised £400, my goal this year is to run the Belfast half marathon and will again look to raise more money for this worthy cause."
Well done Glen (who is pictured here - trust me, there is facial hair present in the after shot) from all your friends and colleagues in CPH.
A Queen’s University Professor has been named on a global list of the most ‘Highly Influential Biomedical Researchers’.
Professor Mike Clarke, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, is among 400 scientists named on the worldwide list compiled by US researchers. The list, published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, was based on journal articles and citations from 1996 to 2011.
During the period analysed, Professor Clarke, who is the Director of the All Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research based within the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, published more than 300 papers, receiving almost 30,000 citations.
Professor Clarke has 25 years’ experience of the conduct and oversight of randomised trials, systematic reviews and other types of prospective research. He has been involved in many rigorous evaluations of health care, including some of the largest ever trials in breast cancer, maternity care and stroke. He has also conducted numerous systematic reviews of research studies, the largest of which is the Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group overview of the treatment of women with breast cancer.
Professor Mike Clarke said: "It's an honour to be part of this list and I am delighted that the research I'm involved in is drawing such wide attention in the scientific literature. Even more satisfying is the impact that our large-scale systematic reviews and randomised trials have had. They provide a key part of the evidence base for people making decisions and have helped improve health care and health for people around the world." For further information on the list of most Highly Influential Biomedical Researchers click here:
For more information on Professor Clarke’s work click here.
Our community engagement with local cyclists was awarded 'best cycle campaign of the year' by a local cycling initiative called the Fred Awards. These are voted on by local cyclists.
Our campaign was to highlight the number of blocked cycle lanes in Belfast, with survey data collected by local commuters. Here is a YouTube video our partner created.
In addition Queens University won best employer award.
Northern Ireland has the highest breast cancer survival rates in the UK and Ireland, research has shown.
Researchers fromthe Centre for Public Health at Queen's University, Belfast, also indicated that Northern Ireland was among the highest for melanoma survival in Europe. They found that survival rates for breast cancer in NI were 81.9%. That compared to 79% in the Republic of Ireland, 79.3% in England, 78.2% in Wales and 78.5% in Scotland. The overall survival rate for breast cancer across Europe is 82.4%.
“While this study shows that cancer survival has improved in Northern Ireland and across Europe there is still a lot of work to be done. ” said Dr Anna Gavin, of Queen's Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.
Further details on this story can be foiund on the BBC website.
Congratulations to Sheena Lewis who was the recipient of the Gold Inventor/Innovator Award at the 4th Bi-Annual International European Women Inventors & Innovators Network (EUWIIN) Exhibition, Conference and Awards Ceremony which took place in Stockholm Sweden on Thursday 28th November. This prestigious award acknowledged Sheena’s research on the causes of, and treatments for, male infertility.
Further details can be found on the EUWIIN Website.
I am sure you will be delighted to know that Dr Ruth Hunter was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Impact Prize Early Career Researcher Award at the Chief Executive’s Club at Queen’s Annual Gala last Friday (15th November 2013). Congratulations Ruth from all your friends and colleagues in CPH.
Professor Mike Clarke, Director of the All Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research in the Centre for Public Health, features in the latest video in The Cochrane Collaboration’s celebratory series for its 20th Anniversary. Mike is the last of eight people to be profiled in the series, and was asked to talk about his views on the future of the Collaboration and systematic reviews. Clicke here to watch the video.
Over the next three years, Queen’s PhD student Desiree Schliemann from the Centre for Public Health (CPH), will undertake a systematic review of the scientific literature examining the effect of workplace interventions to increase fruit and vegetable intakes.
Qualitative research will explore the views of workers on their diets during working hours and the possibility of introducing strategies to increase fruit and vegetable intake through free fruit provision, changes to menu planning, food choices and food presentation within cafeterias.
Despite the knowledge that fruit and vegetable-rich diets are good for health, intake is still below recommended levels in Northern Ireland. Diets rich in fruit and veg can reduce the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer, and help with obesity prevention and weight maintenance.
CPH Director, Professor Ian Young, said: “The support offered by the John Wilson Memorial Trust in the form of this PhD studentship set up by Ulster Carpets, is central to the work of the Centre for Public Health, which seeks to improve public health by encouraging lifestyle change. Desiree Schliemann will focus her PhD research on interventions to promote a healthier diet in the workplace.”
The challenge facing public health specialists is to encourage more people to eat their 5-a-day and to sustain this behaviour in the long-term. The information collected as part of the PhD has the potential to impact directly on the health of people in Northern Ireland.
Following online surveys that involved hundreds of people working in disaster risk reduction, planning, response and recovery, a workshop took place in June 2013 to prioritise a series of questions that should be answered by systematic reviews of the existing research. The workshop brought together 30 people from different NGOs and agencies in the disaster sector and their recommendations have now been published by the Evidence Aid Priority Setting Group, led by Professor Mike Clarke from the Centre for Public Health in Queen's University Belfast.
People making decisions about interventions, actions and strategies for natural disasters, humanitarian crises and other major healthcare emergencies need access to reliable evidence to help ensure that the choices they make are likely to do more good than harm. However, there are many gaps in this evidence base in a wide range of areas. This priority setting exercise has identified thirty priorities for up-to-date systematic reviews of the effects of interventions, actions and strategies on health outcomes. The prioritisation drew on a couple of hundred research questions suggested by people from the disaster sector, which were grouped under 43 themes. An online survey identified the top ten themes and the questions attached to them were then discussed at the workshop. This led to the list of the 30 top priority questions, which has now been published. Work has already started on systematic reviews to answer some of these questions and Evidence Aid is seeking volunteers and support to facilitate the whole set (www.EvidenceAid.org).
Further information can be found here.
A team* of researchers led by Dr Valerie Holmes from the Centre for Public Health, has been awarded a prestigious UK Quality in Care Diabetes Award for best improvement programme for pregnancy and maternity. The team, involving Queen's researchers from the Centre for Public Health and the School of Nursing and Midwifery and healthcare professionals from the Belfast and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts received the award in recognition of an innovative pre-conception counselling resource for women with diabetes which has been embedded into routine care within Northern Ireland.
A Quality in Care Diabetes Award recognises, rewards and shares good practice in diabetes management, education and patient care throughout the UK.
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.
Dr Valerie Holmes from the Centre for Public Health commented: “It is important that women with diabetes are aware of the risks involved and of the importance of planning their pregnancy. Almost all women with diabetes can have healthy babies if good pre-pregnancy blood glucose control is achieved.”
Professor Fiona Alderdice, Director of Research in the School of Nursing and Midwifery noted the benefits to care ‘There are many health professionals involved in the care of women with diabetes in the perinatal period so there is much to communicate. It is great that women have a comprehensive resource that they can digest in their own time and that also facilitates an informed dialogue with their health care team.’
*Women with Diabetes Research Team:
Dr Valerie Holmes, Centre for Public Health; Prof Fiona Alderdice, School of Nursing & Midwifery; Prof David McCance, BHSCT; Prof Roy Harper, SEHSCT; Dr Michelle Spence, School of Biological Sciences.
A new £7 million research centre opening in Belfast is to use the vast amount of electronic data generated every day in Northern Ireland to lead to a better understanding of the economic and social issues affecting people's lives here.
Dr Dermot O'Reilly, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's is the Director of the new Northern Ireland Centre. He said: "We now live in a Big Data era. This is a very exciting opportunity to unlock the full research potential of the vast amounts of valuable and existing anonymised administrative data that is routinely collected everyday. By joining different administrative datasets we will be able to provide a better understanding of the social, environmental and health issues that affect people’s lives and to contribute more robust evidence to inform policy development and evaluation. For example, from linked education, training and employment data we hope to be able to inform policymaking decisions in relation to the factors influencing social mobility."
Disasters affect millions of people and cost billions of dollars, but people affected and those trying to help them don’t always have good access to the best information on what they might do. Evidence Aid will change this. It has just been awarded the 2013 Unorthodox Prize, for an extraordinary and innovative approach to improving the lives of the world’s most disadvantaged people.
Evidence Aid was established by members of one of the world’s largest organisations in evidence based health care, The Cochrane Collaboration, and seed funded by the Collaboration and the scientific publisher Wiley. It now works with many humanitarian agencies across the world.
Evidence Aid makes it easier for people in the disaster and humanitarian sector to find reliable, independent information on interventions and strategies that might help, as well as identifying those that are ineffective or might even be harmful. Professor Mike Clarke, one of the founders of Evidence Aid who is based at the Centre for Public Health in Queen’s University Belfast said, “People affected by disasters deserve the best care and those making decisions need the best evidence on what works, doesn’t work and is unproven. Evidence Aid will meet that need.”
Evidence Aid helps planners, policy makers, doctors, nurses, charity workers and others before, during and after natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. The Unorthodox Prize of $10,000 and potential for follow-on funding will support this work and help Evidence Aid reach its full potential. Evidence Aid was selected from more than 250 entries from around the world.
Valerie is running her first ever half marathon on Sunday when she takes part in the 2013 Great North Run! At the same time she is raising some money for Diabetes UK.
Diabetes UK have funded her research and as such she wants to give something back. The research she has carried out with Diabetes UK has focused on increasing awareness among women with diabetes about the importance of planning for pregnancy. Visit the preconception counselling resource website for more information: http://go.qub.ac.uk/womenwithdiabetes
Good luck Valerie from all your colleagues in CPH!
Research into public health including ageing, mental wellbeing and children’s health in Northern Ireland has been given a £9 million boost
The funding has been awarded to the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland (CoE NI) at Queen’s University Belfast, which was one of the UK’s first Centres of Excellence for public health research.
The Centre was formed to help create significant improvements in the wellbeing and health of the UK population. Researchers at the Centre have already made an impact by actively involving the policy makers, practitioners and the public in all stages of their research, in projects like the evaluation of the Connswater Community Greenway, in schools-based trials and in the way they disseminate their results in easily understood language.
The new funding will enable the UKCRC team to undertake further research on what shapes the health and wellbeing of adolescents in schools, on developing better interventions to improve public health and on the broader social and economic forces that help us all "age" well.
The Centre was launched in 2008 as part of a £20 million investment across the UK to strengthen research into complex public health issues such as obesity and health inequalities. The latest round of funding has been received from the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC), with supporting funding from HSC Research and Development Office, the University of Ulster, Queen’s University, and the Atlantic Philanthropies.
This second phase of funding from August 2013 – July 2018, brings on board new partnerships with the University of Ulster, the School of Education at Queen’s and the All-Ireland Methodology Hub, co-hosted by the University of Ulster and Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland.
The UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland was officially re-launched at an event at Riddel Hall on Tuesday 18th June.
Health Minister Edwin Poots who officially re-launched the Centre of Excellence said: “It is a testament to the quality of public health research here that the Centre is to receive further investment for the next five years. I congratulate all involved.
“Going forward, the aim is to build additional strength in tackling the public health issues affecting both the young and the older population.”
The Director of the Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI, Professor Frank Kee, said: “Issues such as obesity and an increasingly ageing population are just some of the factors that are set to impact hugely on society in years to come. Thanks to the funding from all of our sponsors, The UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland can continue to build capacity in research that will help counter these problems and extend the evidence base that will inform policy and practice in public health.”
Queen's University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson, added: “At Queen’s we are committed to undertaking research which benefits the community. This funding is recognition of the vital work of the Centre over the last five years. It will ensure Queen’s can continue to work with its partners on an integrated approach to health and social services, help to tackle the inequalities in health in the community and to study the economic, social and biological factors which cause chronic diseases.”
Congratulations to CPH member Beth Swan, who was the proud recipient of the Best Scientific Oral Presentation Award at The European Diabetic Nephropathy Study Group which celebrated their 26th annual meeting in Castelldefels, Barcelona, Spain. Her presentation entitled 'Methylation patterns in genes that affect telomere function are associated with diabetic nephropathy' was well received by the group, which is made up of Nephrologists and Diabetologists with an interest in diabetic kidney disease ranging from the structural and functional to the clinical. The annual meeting took place over two days and comprised presentations from researchers with plenty of time for both formal and informal discussions. Beth is supervised by CPH members Dr AJ McKnight (pictured) and Professor Peter Maxwell.
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.