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.
The second Evidence Aid training workshop on systematic reviews for the humanitarian sector was held in the Centre for Public Health on 13-14 November 2014. As usual, Professor Mike Clarke delivered the two days of training. A mixture of small group practical sessions and problem based learning allowed the ten participants to learn about the various steps involved in preparing a systematic review. This drew on topics brought by the participants, who were from Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA, and working with organisations including the Feinstein International Center, Karolinska Instituet, Initiative for Conflict Related Trauma, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the World Health Organisation. More information is available from Evidence Aid.
A Physical Activity Loyalty scheme which rewards users’ “ground miles” with incentives has been launched by researchers at the Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast led by Professor Frank Kee.
The scheme developed by Queen’s University uses wireless sensing technology to monitor and reward physical activity, and has been unveiled by the Health Minister and the Chief Medical Officer in Lisburn today.
Over 1,300 public sector employees who work in the Lisburn area are being given the chance to take part in this study to investigate how financial incentives influence workplace physical activity. According to a government report by Dame Carol Black in 2008, improving the wellbeing of the workforce by getting them more active will benefit not only their own health but is also likely to improve a company’s productivity and the economy as a whole. If the scheme is effective, it can be rolled out on a wider scale across Northern Ireland for both the private and public sector.
Using the latest in micro-chip technology, participants only have to carry a key fob which wirelessly communicates with special sensors placed around their workplaces in Lisburn City Centre.
The system monitors the “ground miles” or minutes of physical activity accumulated by each participant which can then be redeemed for rewards, incentivising behaviour change. Participants will be encouraged to meet the recommended target of 150 minutes of physical activity per week and their activity will be monitored during the study.
The innovative technology underpinning the scheme was developed by researchers at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at Queen’s University Belfast, led by Professor William Scanlon, in collaboration with the study’s Principal Investigator, Professor Frank Kee and his team in the Centre for Public Health.
The trial is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme (NIHR PHR)1,2 and the Public Health Agency, and is being run in collaboration with Lisburn City Council and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust. Academics from Cambridge, Glasgow and Manchester Universities are partnering with Professor Kee's team to conduct a wide ranging and independent evaluation of the scheme's success.
Professor Frank Kee, Director of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI at Queen’s University said: “This is an innovative study and an example of how Queen’s University can partner with the public and business sectors to improve population health, using locally developed technology. We are encouraging as many people as possible to take part in this study which we hope will have important findings for Northern Ireland as a whole.”
Lisburn City Council Mayor, Councillor Andrew Ewing said that he was delighted that Lisburn had been chosen to pilot the new scheme. He said: “There is so much evidence linking our overall health and well-being to physical activity and lifestyle and I hope that this scheme will encourage more people to make changes, however small, in their lifestyles to become more fit and active. Technology is so often blamed for our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and I am delighted that on this occasion new technology should hopefully have the opposite effect and encourage us all to be more physically activate as we go about our daily business.”
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “I hope that participating organisations will look favourably on this innovative and ground-breaking scheme and that further research by the Centre for Public Health at Queen's will continue to develop novel ideas to support us to change our behaviours to improve our health outcomes.”
Congratulations to Dr Charlotte Neville who has been awarded the JD Williamson Prize by the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science's Scholarship’s committee for her paper published in the International Journal of Obesity. The paper was titled 'The relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum weight change—a systematic review and critical evaluation.' The Prize was awarded jointly to Charlotte and Dr Arthur Dongxu Fu (Centre for Experimental Medicine).
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have discovered that music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems.
In the largest ever study of its kind, the researchers in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, found that children who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.
The study, which was funded by the Big Lottery fund, also found that those who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone.
251 children and young people were involved in the study which took place between March 2011 and May 2014. They were divided into two groups – 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems. Early findings suggest that the benefits are sustained in the long term.
Professor Sam Porter of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University, who led the study, said: “This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs.”
Dr Valerie Holmes, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences and co-researcher, added: “This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group, and is further evidence of how Queen’s University is advancing knowledge and changing lives.”
Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, said: “Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomised controlled trial in a clinical setting. The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option. For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects.”
The research team will now look at the data to establish how cost-effective music therapy is in relation to other treatments. The research findings will be presented at a conference in Riddel Hall at Queen’s University Belfast today (Thursday 23 October 2014).
In October, the Cancer Epidemiology and Health Services Research group at CPH welcomed three visitors from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, as part of an ongoing International Engagement in Cancer Epidemiology between the two centres. The central focus of the visit was a Joint QUB-Vanderbilt Molecular Cancer Epidemiology Symposium.
The symposium was jointly hosted by Professor Liam Murray and Dr Helen Coleman in CPH, and Professor David Waugh from the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at QUB.
Professor Wei Zheng, Dr Martha Shrubsole and Dr Natasha Deane from Vanderbilt gave insightful presentations into this exciting and growing field of research at the symposium, which was attended by more than 60 delegates. The symposium also benefitted from presentations from several researchers in Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Bristol and Trinity College Dublin.
The successful event was rounded off by a grant-writing workshop the following day, which was hosted by Drs Anne Helme and Lucy Davies from Cancer Research UK, and included a presentation from Professor Zheng on US National Institutes of Health grant funding applications.
This exciting collaboration is kindly funded by Queen’s University Belfast International Engagement Fund.
CPH welcomes its new Masters in Public Health (image right) and Postgraduate Research (image left) students to the Induction day which took place on Monday 29th September.
Any level of activity is better for your health than none, according to health experts at a seminar in Dublin today (Thursday, 25 September 2014).
Keeping active for better ageing, a seminar hosted by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), discussed the benefits for older people and the reasons why older people as a group don’t have higher levels of physical activity.
The keynote speaker was Professor Ken Fox University of Bristol, who argued that older people often see activity in purely practical terms rather than a source of pleasure or leisure. Therefore he stressed the importance of getting older people moving in daily life such as trips to the shops, housework and simply sitting less. For some older people, he said, the guidelines suggesting 30 minutes daily activity may be too high but shorter 10 minute bursts of activity may be beneficial to the least active.
Findings from CARDI-funded research were presented by Dr Frank Doyle, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Dr Elaine Murtagh, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.
Dr Doyle’s study found that exercise reduced depressive symptoms in older people irrespective of them having pain. Dr Murtagh’s research showed the very low levels of activity of older people in Ireland, North and South. It revealed just 22% of older people in Northern Ireland and 37% in the Republic of Ireland meeting the recommended weekly minimum of 150 minutes of activity.
Other speakers included Dr Cate Hartigan, Director of Health Promotion at the Health Service Executive and Dr Mark Tully, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.
Dr Roger O’Sullivan, Director of CARDI said, “We have known for some time about the benefits of physical activity for older people but this seminar shows that taking simple steps to increase physical activity can have enormous benefits for us all as we age. Research shows us that as we age activity decreases and low levels of activity are evident among older people in Ireland, North and South. However, by encouraging older people to incorporate activity into their daily lives they can reap mental and physical rewards.”
For more information about CARDI funded research on physical activity and older people please visit www.cardi.ie.
Every year, Queens University joins with the community and voluntary sectors to give medical students an opportunity to help out with and experience at first hand community based health initiatives designed to improve public health.
Seven third year medical students have just spent three weeks on placement with community groups in east Belfast; meeting locally based health professionals, and practising their skills with early year’s groups, the elderly, men’s health and physical activity. This gave students a great opportunity to experience the range of support groups that work together in the community and voluntary sectors to provide improvements in public health and preventive medicine.
QUB would like to express their sincere thanks to all the participating groups for facilitating this exciting initiative: - East Belfast Community Development Agency, Surestart East, Tullycarnet Neighbourhood Collective, Engage with Age and East Belfast Partnership.
The courses were facilitated by Prof Sheena Lewis and Dr Ruth Hunter (pictured right with some of the course participants), Centre for Public Health, QUB.
The Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland has announced the appointment of five post-doctoral Fellows in a £1million investment to develop future leaders in research on ageing and older people.
The CARDI Fellows, four within the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast and one at Trinity College Dublin, will carry out research over the next three years into ageing issues with the aim of improving the lives of older people across the island of Ireland. The new CARDI Fellows, announced at the inaugural meeting of the CARDI Leadership Programme in Ageing Research in Belfast (Monday 15 Sept 2014) are: Joanne Feeney, Joanna McHugh, Charlotte Neville and Mark O’Doherty, who will be based in Queen’s University Belfast, and Aisling O’Halloran based in Trinity College Dublin.
The appointment of the Fellows marks a substantial investment in the area of ageing research in Ireland, North and South. The direct investment aims to support the development of a strong community of researchers in ageing focussed on policy-relevant research which can support effective policy-making for the ageing populations. The appointment of the Fellows marks a substantial investment in the area of ageing research in Ireland, North and South. The direct investment aims to support the development of a strong community of researchers in ageing focussed on policy-relevant research which can support effective policy-making for the ageing populations.
"We are delighted to announce a substantial injection of funding which will see the appointment of five research Fellows under CARDI’s Leadership Programme. It provides vital support to encourage and develop a new generation of researchers into ageing in Ireland, North and South, who can work to improve the health and well-being of our populations as they age," said CARDI Co-Chair, Professor Bob Stout.
The CARDI Leadership Programme in Ageing Research is funded by the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division, Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland and The Atlantic Philanthropies.
For more information go to www.cardi.ie
Pictured CARDI Fellows Joanne Feeney, Charlotte Neville, Mark O'Doherty, Joanna McHugh, Aisling O'Halloran with Mentors L-R Professor Ian Young; Professor Jayne Woodside – Professor of Human Nutrition, QUB; Professor Rose-Anne Kenny; Professor Frank Kee – Director, UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI), QUB.
Pictures by Jim Corr Photography
Congratulations to Adam Douglas, an intercalated medical student who undertook his MRes research project with Professor Peter Maxwell and Dr Amy-Jayne McKnight after a CPH summer studentship last year. Adam already has one paper submitted for publication from the first part of his research.
Adam was presenting the second part of his research at the Irish Society of Human Genetics 2014 conference at the Trinity College Campus at St. James Hospital, Dublin and won the best postgraduate poster award. His study has used next generation sequencing technology to identify potential genetic variants within the mitochondrial genome associated with end stage renal disease.
Queen’s University scientists are helping to spearhead a new £6 million initiative to find better ways to prevent cancer.
The new initiative, led by Cancer Research UK with matching investment from the BUPA Foundation, aims to support cutting-edge research to find better ways to prevent cancer.
It is estimated that more than four in ten cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes, such as not smoking, keeping a healthy body weight, cutting back on alcohol, eating a healthy diet, keeping active and staying safe in the sun.
Professor Frank Kee, who directs the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Research in Northern Ireland at Queen’s University, has been invited to join the International Advisory Board (IAB) of the new Cancer Prevention Science Initiative. Professor Kee, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s, said: “Advancing knowledge and changing lives is at the core of what we do at Queen’s University. I am honoured to be part of this initiative which aims to do just that. It is a tribute to the CRUK and BUPA that a bold new initiative like this has been developed. It shows how major research funders want to support prevention science and the value they place in the sort of collaborations across disciplines that are required to fight cancer. Building capacity in this area is vital if new discoveries are ever to be translated into better outcomes for patients and the population.”
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Professor Linda Bauld, the new Cancer Research UK Prevention Champion and with the IAB, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of this initiative in years to come.”
Professor Kee also spoke on Creativity in Science at last week’s inaugural ‘Sandpit’ event for of the new Cancer Prevention Science Initiative in Oxford. The sandpit provided an opportunity for early career researchers across the country from a wide variety of backgrounds to work with research users and stakeholders to generate novel ideas that could lead to new interventions for cancer prevention.
Dr Helen Coleman, Cancer Research UK Fellow and Lecturer in the UKCRC Centre of Excellence at Queen’s joined the ‘Sandpit’ as one of the mentors and facilitators for the participating early career researchers and was able to share her experience of working at the boundaries of different disciplines to drive new forward insights in prevention science.
Cancer Research UK research strategies are placing an increasing focus on prevention science in the battle against cancer and the new initiative will build upon their commitment to the UKCRC Centres of Excellence for Public Health Research.
Further information on the initiative visit Cancer Research UK.
25 years work on the genetics of schizophrenia at Queens University by a group led by Dr Tony O'Neill of the Centre for Public Health has resulted in a multicountry study examining the genetics of schizophrenia which found 108 genetic clusters associated with the disease, offering the best evidence to date about which genes play a significant role in schizophrenia. The study was recently published in the journal Nature. This has the potential to provide new insights and treatments for an illness that can affect up to 1% of the population.
The group have also started work on a project funded by the Medical Research Council looking at how these genes may influence outcome and treatment. Further discussion on the significance of these findings are discussed.
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are calling for volunteers to take part in a new study to find out how best to support people in adopting a Mediterranean-style diet and change their eating habits.
Scientists at Queen’s Centre for Public Health are looking for 75 people to take part in the one-year study. Participants must be aged 40 or over and be overweight, but generally in good health with no history of diabetes or heart disease.
The TEAM-MED (Trial to Encourage Adoption and Maintenance of a Mediterranean Diet) study aims to determine whether different ways of giving dietary advice and support have an impact on people’s ability to change their eating habits.
Professor Jayne Woodside from Queen’s Centre for Public Health said: “As we all know, changing our diet is easier said than done. Despite all our good intentions, we often slip back into old habits. The question is, how can we best support people in making a real and lasting change to their eating behaviour?"
Further details for anyone who wishes to take part in the study should can be obtained from Dr Claire McEvoy (pictured) at the Centre for Public Health, Tel: 028 9063 2764, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Queen’s University Belfast is working to make a difference to our society and to ensure that what we do impacts positively locally, nationally and internationally. The University is emerging as a global leader in a number of areas, including cancer research, where synergistic links between scientists, clinicians and industry are driving discovery and innovation, leading to new therapies and diagnostic approaches.
An exhibition with short presentations highlighting the impact of exciting research and development taking place within the Queen’s Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences to advance cancer patient care, was held at Riddel Hall on June 11th. Pictured (from left to right) are Professor David Waugh, Dr Anna Gavin, Professor Joe O'Sullivan, Professor Tracy Robson and Professor Richard Kennedy.
Also pictured are CPH post doctoral staff members Drs Michael O'Rorke and Una McMenamin at this busy and well attended event disussing the latest outputs from the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry. As part of the 20 year anniversary of the Cancer Registry, members presented a short video explaining the work of the Cancer Registry as part of ‘Cancer Research Advancing Patient Care’ impact event in Riddel Hall, Wednesday 11 June 2014. The video is available to view at http://go.qub.ac.uk/WPbbc.
Alan McMichael (1st year) and Blanaid Hicks and Christopher O’Neill (second years) who came first or joint first in their cohort for their presentations.
The opening of this bridge signifies a very important milestone for the £35 million Connswater Community Greenway (CCG). The Sam Thompson Bridge will not only connect Victoria Park to Airport Road, the Harbour Estate and Titanic Quarter but it will also open up access to the 9km Connswater Community Greenway currently under construction.
The landmark footbridge was named Sam Thompson Bridge after a local east Belfast shipyard worker and playwright. His plays including ‘Over the Bridge’, cover themes such as school days, neighbourhood friendships, life in the shipyard and the trade union movement.
CPH staff pictured from left to right; Clare Jess, Pauline Nolan, Julie McConnell, Roisin Corr and Ruth Hunter.
- See more at: http://www.communitygreenway.co.uk/GetOverIt
Professor Mike Clarke, Director of the All-Ireland Hub for Trials Methodology Research and the observer for Queen’s University Belfast for the Board of Molecular Medicine Ireland (MMI) gave an impromptu presentation at the start of the MMI Annual Scientific Meeting 2014 in Dublin on 12 March 2014. He asked the more than 100 participants to draw a smiley face, for inclusion in an ongoing descriptive study of this simple task. The picture shows some of the participants doing their drawings, with Mike (top left) and one of the outputs (bottom right).
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 Stuart Elborn with special guest, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston on Friday 21st March 2014.
Pictured from left to right are SMDB Dean, Professor Stuart Elborn, Mr Giulio Napolitano, Excellence in Innovation; Mrs Niamh McElherron, Excellence in Leadership; Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston and Dr Declan Bradley, the Centre’s best research student who graduated in 2013. Professor Mike Clarke was also a recipient for the best programme in partnership with the HSC for his work on Evidence Aid but could not attend.
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.