News

Annual Meeting 2016

Programme and Abstracts

 

Guest Presentations

Professor Pat Hoddinott

Professor Theresa Marteau

 

Posters

Posters 1 - 5

  • Anne Devlin
  • Una McMenamin
  • Shannon Montgomery
  • Kristian Mallon
  • Jinnan Zang

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Those living near peace lines more likely to have poor mental health

People living close to peace lines in Northern Ireland have worse mental health than the rest of the population, according to researchers at Queen's University Belfast.


The study conducted by researchers at the Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen's, indicates that living in an area in close proximity to a segregation barrier, or peace line, increases a person’s likelihood of being on antidepressant medication by 19 per cent and on anxiolytic medication, which inhibits anxiety, by 39 percent.


The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. It is the first study of its kind to examine the effect of residential religious segregation on individual mental health across the Northern Ireland population.


The study aimed to determine the risk of poor mental health based on proximity to segregation barriers. Looking at all 18-74 year olds across Northern Ireland, and then at those living in close proximity to any one of 40 peace lines, the research team analysed information from the Enhanced Prescribing Database for Northern Ireland to explore the prescribing of medication for depression or anxiety among the general population, compared with those living in physically segregated areas.


Lead researcher Dr Aideen Maguire from Queen’s Centre for Public Health, said: “Neighbourhood segregation is known to be a fundamental determinant of physical health, but its effects on mental health are less clear. Northern Ireland is unique as it contains physical manifestations of segregation, in the form of dividing walls separating two religious communities.


“Mental health among those living at peace lines is a major concern, with more than one in five individuals living there receiving antidepressant medication compared to one in eight in the rest of the population. After adjustment for other factors likely to affect mental health - including levels of deprivation, population density and crime - those living in peace line areas are 19 per cent more likely to be prescribed antidepressant medication and 39 per cent more likely to be prescribed medication for anxiety, compared to those people living in other similar areas with no segregation barriers.


“There are calls across Northern Ireland for peace lines to be removed. Our research indicates that the links between proximity to these barriers and poor mental health should be taken into consideration in discussions around this issue. If these barriers were to come down, the impact of their removal on mental health should be examined carefully.”


The research focussed on a two-year period from October 2008 to September 2010. For more information on Queen’s Centre of Excellence for Public Health visit www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreofExcellenceforPublicHealthNorthernIreland


End


Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 5310 or comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

Notes to editors:
1. Dr Aideen Maguire is available for interviews.
2. The Enhanced Prescribing Database (EPD) is a centralised collation of all medications dispensed to the Northern Ireland population in community pharmacies.
3. The research paper ‘Residential Segregation, dividing walls and mental health: a population-based record linkage study’ was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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On your Marks... Get Set... to send us your Abstracts

The abstract portal is now open.

Symposia

Submission Deadline:               Friday 8th April 2016
Acceptance / Rejection Notice by:       Friday 15th May 2016

Oral / Poster Presentations

Submission Deadline:               Monday 9th May 2016
Acceptance / Rejection Notice by:      Friday 27th May 2016

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Agent Based Modelling

The UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast is excited to announce a new course on agent-based modelling, specifically targeted to public health researchers. Agent-based modelling is becoming increasingly popular in public health.  Applications include intervention development, understanding complex public health systems and evaluating the public health impact of public health interventions. 

During the 3 day course, participants will build a model of a public health intervention using NetLogo, as well as learn about the theory of computer simulation for complex systems.  Cost is £200 for students (with some bursaries available), £400 for academics and £800 for government or industry. Please contact Georgina Holmes at G.Holmes@qub.ac.uk for more information.   

REGISTRATION FORM  (open as word doc)                  FLYER                      INFORMATION SHEET      


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can access the programme on UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland.

To view the film click here

Ends

Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy (Thur-Fri) at Queen’s University Communications Office. Tel: +(0)4428 9097 5310 Email: comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

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

Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland is one of five Centres of Excellence in Public Health Research funded through the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC.) The UKCRC brings together the NHS, research funders, industry, regulatory bodies, Royal Colleges, patient groups and academia in a UK-wide environment that facilitates and promotes high quality clinical research for the benefit of patients.

RSPH: The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is an independent health education charity, dedicated to protecting and promoting the public’s health and wellbeing. We are the world’s longest-established public health body with over 6000 members drawn from the public health community both in the UK and internationally. Our operations include an Ofqual recognised awarding organisation, a training and development arm and health and wellbeing accreditation.

We also produce a wide-variety of public health conferences; our publishing division includes the internationally renowned journal Public Health; and we are developing policy and campaigns to promote better health and wellbeing. For more information: www.rsph.org.uk; twitter: @R_S_P_H

ITN Productions: ITN Productions is ITN’s bespoke production hub producing creative and commercially valuable content for the corporate, commercial, broadcast and digital sectors. Industry News forms part of this offering and is a communications tool for leading industry bodies and national associations produced in a broadcast news programme format, including interviews, news-style items and sponsored editorial profiles.

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Forthcoming Seminars


Comparative effectiveness of regimens for diabetes treatment -
what should we do after metamorfin?

Dr Christianne Roumie
Vanderbilt University, USA
Tuesday 27th October 2015
Venue: Canada Room/Council Chambers, QUB

If you would like to meet with Dr Roumie, please contact Professor Liam Murray  -  l.murray@qub.ac.uk

Is Cancer Bad Luck?

Professor George Davey Smith
University of Bristol
Tuesday 10th November 2015
Venue:  The Parlour Bar, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast

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Northern Ireland Environment Link Conference

On Tuesday 24th November 2015, NIEL will be hosting its Annual Conference at Queen’s University Belfast on the topic of “Delivering Health Through The Environment”.

NIEL is collaborating with the Public Health Agency, the Centre for Excellence for Public Health at Queens University Belfast, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Belfast Healthy Cities and the Space & Place programme to deliver this conference.  The event will bring together environment and health representatives from public agencies, local authorities and the third sector from across the United Kingdom to explore the health benefits gained from the environment.  Keynote speakers will include:  Dr William Bird MBE Strategic Health Advisor, Natural England and Founder and Director of Intelligent Health and Professor George Morris, Independent Science Policy Advisor.

Further information:  http://www.nienvironmentlink.org/events/niel-annual-conference-2015-delivering-health-through-the-environment


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Announcing the 12th Annual Meeting and 6th Conference of HEPA Europe

HEPA Europe 2016 is coming
to Belfast

CONFERENCE THEME:
Walking the Walk: what should the public health policy response be to the evidence for physical activity

Plenary sessions will include:

  • National and regional approaches to physical activity promotion and surveillance knowledge translation
  • Knowledge Translation
  • Individual, social and environmental approaches to addressing physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour

Conference Flyer

Further details to follow.....


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LAY SUMMARY

Commentary on Routine weighing of women during pregnancy—is it time to change current practice?


Allen-Walker V, Woodside J, Holmes V, Young I, Cupples ME, Hunter A, McKinley MC.
BJOG 2015
DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.13511

Currently, over half of women begin their pregnancy either overweight or obese, which is linked to serious consequences for themselves and their babies.  Additionally, it has been found that even if women who are of a normal weight have a BMI increase of 1-2 points in between pregnancies, there are increased risks of adverse outcomes in later pregnancies.  Alongside weight status before and after pregnancy, gaining too much weight during pregnancy is also associated with adverse consequences.  Therefore it is important to determine appropriate ranges for weight gain in pregnancy, to improve outcomes for mothers and their babies. However, women in the UK are not weighed throughout their pregnancy anymore, which means there is no data on patterns of, and total pregnancy weight gain in women in the UK.  The Institute of Medicine in America have guidelines on gestational weight gain based on women’s pre-pregnancy BMI, however NICE have not supported use of these guidelines due to a lack of data which suggest they are appropriate for women in the UK.

This commentary reviews evidence on the history of routine weighing in the UK, and weighs up the evidence for re-introducing the practice.  We make the argument that in order to collect the data necessary to inform pregnancy weight gain guidelines, routine weighing needs to be brought back into standard antenatal care.

This commentary would be of interest to health professionals working in maternal care, researchers working in the area of weight management and pregnancy, and those involved in policy making in the area of weight management and pregnancy, in order to stimulate discussion and debate on the subject of routine weighing in antenatal care.

 If you would like further information on this research – please contact:  vallenwalker01@qub.ac.uk


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Working long hours linked to higher risk of stroke

Working 55 hours or more per week is linked to a 33% greater risk of stroke and a more modest (13%) increased risk of developing coronary heart disease compared with working a standard 35 to 40 hour week, according to the largest study in this field so far involving over 600000 individuals, published in The Lancet.

Mika Kivimäki, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, UK, and colleagues did a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished individual-level data examining the effects of longer working hours on cardiovascular disease up to August 20, 2014.

Analysis of data from 25 studies involving 603838 men and women from Europe, the USA, and Australia who were followed for an average of 8.5 years, found a 13% increased risk of incident coronary heart disease (a new diagnosis, hospitalisation, or death) in people working 55 hours or more per week compared with those putting in a normal 35 to 40 hour week, even after taking into account risk factors including age, sex, and socioeconomic status.

Analysis of data from 17 studies involving 528908 men and women who were followed up for an average of 7.2 years, found a 1.3 times higher risk of stroke in individuals working 55 hours or more a week compared with those working standard hours. This association remained even after taking into account health behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity, and standard cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Importantly, the researchers found that the longer people worked, the higher their chances of a stroke. For example, compared with people who worked standard hours, those working between 41 and 48 hours had a 10% higher risk of stroke, and those working 49 to 54 hours had a 27% increased risk of stroke (figure 4).

Although the causal mechanisms of these relationships need to be better understood, the authors suggest that increasing health-risk behaviors, such as physical inactivity and high alcohol consumption, as well as repetitive triggering of the stress response, might increase the risk of stroke.

According to Professor Kivimäki, “The pooling of all available studies on this topic allowed us to investigate the association between working hours and cardiovascular disease risk with greater precision than has previously been possible. Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease.” [1]

Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Urban Janlert from Umeå University in Sweden points out, “Long working hours is not a negligible phenomenon. Among OECD countries Turkey has the highest proportion of those working more than 50 hours per week (43%) and the Netherlands the lowest (0·6%). A mean for all OECD-countries shows that 12% of the employed men and 5% of the employed women work more than 50 hours per week. Although legislation exists in some countries on working hours, for example the EU Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) that already gives people the right to limit their average working time to 48 hours per week, it is not always implemented.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

This study was funded by Medical Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, European Union New and Emerging Risks in Occupational Safety and Health research programme, Finnish Work Environment Fund, Swedish Research Council for Working Life and Social Research, German Social Accident Insurance, Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Academy of Finland, Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Netherlands), US National Institutes of Health, British Heart Foundation.

[1] Quote direct from author and cannot be found in text of Article.

For interviews with Article author Professor Mika Kivimäki, University College London, London, UK, please email the author directly at m.kivimaki@ucl.ac.uk OR contact Harry Dayantis, Communications Office, University College London T)+ 44 (0) 20 3108 3844 E) h.dayantis@ucl.ac.uk

For interviews with Comment author Dr Urban Janlert, Division of Epidemiology and Global Health, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden please contact him directly on T) +46 70 30 666 48 E) urban.janlert@umu.se

Link to Article:  http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60295-1/abstract


(Dr Dermot O'Reilly - contributing author from the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland - d.oreilly@qub.ac.uk)


 

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Prolonged sitting may be just as dangerous to the health of our nation as smoking, according to researchers at Queen’s.

It is now believed that sitting for long periods of time is linked to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even early death, and could be just as big a threat to public health, if not more so, than smoking.

The Queen’s researchers are part of a European consortium which has received a €4.5 million European Commission grant to help develop innovative ways to tackle sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity in older people.

Working with researchers in Spain, Denmark, Germany, France and Scotland, the four-year study will see the Queen’s team develop new ways of helping adults over 65 years of age to sit less and become more active, before testing them on 1,300 people in four European countries.

Dr Mark Tully, from the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen’s University, is leading the project in Northern Ireland.

“Levels of sedentary behaviour increase as we age, which poses a significant threat to the health of our population, especially as Northern Ireland is set to face the largest increase in the number of older adults, than other UK countries.

“One of the biggest threats to health is the amount of time spent sitting. On average people spend over nine hours, or up to 80 per cent of their waking day, sitting down.

“Public health scientists have recognised the need to develop effective interventions to address the high levels of inactivity across ages, with sitting regarded as ‘the new smoking’,” he said.

One Canadian study has revealed that adults who spent most of their time sitting were 50 per cent more likely to die during the follow-up than those that sit the least.

And Queen’s researchers have already shown that mothers who sit more during pregnancy are likely to have heavier babies, while men who spend more time sitting at work have poorer kidney function.

Dr Tully continued: “During this study we hope to be able to identify effective methods to help our ageing society make positive lifestyle changes in order to improve their health and wellbeing. This programme will then be available for delivery through the health system in each of the member countries,” he added.

Some suggestions that could be used to help people be more active at work are treadmill and height adjustable desks, which allow users to alternate between standing and sitting. Indeed, Dr Mark Tully himself regularly uses his treadmill desk during his working day.

For further information please contact Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University Belfast on c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk or 028 9097 5391.

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The Care in the Sun research team at CoENI, together with Cancer Focus NI and the Public Health Agency are running a feasibility study funded by the MRC (Medical Research Council) on whether Twitter is effective for disseminating public health messages (to paraphrase).  In this case we are disseminating the “Care in the Sun” core messages.

As part of this, throughout August and September we are running a #KnowYourSkinNI campaign:


Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/KnowYourSkin_NI

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KnowYourSkinNI


If you have a Twitter / Facebook account - please follow us and support as much as possible via Retweets/Shares/Likes etc.

On September 1st we are holding a “Thunderclap” (essentially a social media flash mob) to promote the campaign.  We would be extremely grateful if you would pledge your support for the campaign via this link: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/29511-knowyourskinni

You can support with Facebook &/ Twitter.  Through doing so, our message can be posted on your behalf with the aim of creating a trending topic on Social Media.

Many thanks in advance. 


If you have any questions about the campaign or thunderclap, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:  a.gough@qub.ac.uk

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Paul Beeson Career Development Award in Ageing Research for the Island of Ireland

Congratulations to Dr Claire McEvoy who has recently been awarded a Beeson sponsored Fellowship from the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI).  As a Beeson-sponsored CARDI fellow, Claire will investigate the role of the Mediterranean diet in cognitive decline and dementia risk in both UK and USA cohorts and will test the effect of dietary change toward a Mediterranean diet on cognitive decline in patients with mild cognitive impairment. Claire’s research will increase our knowledge on how diet may contribute to cognitive health and aims to inform future strategies to prevent and treat cognitive disorders in older adults.  Learn More >>

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Public Engagement Champions 

Eight students from CoE and CPH have completed the first year of a pilot public engagement project delivered by CoE/CPH in partnership with QUB Research and Enterprise Directorate.  The project aims to provide an introduction to public engagement and encourage researchers to involve members of the public at all stages of the research cycle from co-design through to dissemination. To date students have completed sessions on stakeholder mapping, public and personal involvement and participated in public engagement training in W5.  The new public engagement champions have demonstrated real commitment and enthusiasm for the project and highlights of their work have included volunteering for the inaugural NI Science Festival and introduced their research projects to members of the public and other non-academic stakeholders who kindly gave up their time to attend at a special event which took place on the 20th of May.  During the event the students presented their work and discussed with individuals with experience in the area of cancer, nutrition, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, community based physical activity and urban renewal. The students are Kayleigh Griffiths, Emma Lawlor, Christina Erwin, Gretta Mohan, Jennifer Murray, Suping Ling, Jeanette Aldworth and Aniela Kriezel.  


 

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A glorious failure: recruiting pregnant women for physical activity research in primary care

Canadian Medical Association Journal: April 13, 2015

Editor’s note: This post is based on a presentation to the Association of University Departments of General Practice in Ireland, at Queen’s University, Belfast.

As a GP research registrar embarking on developing my first research project, I didn’t think I was going to change the world, but I hoped that I could, perhaps, influence a few. Obesity is a major global problem and maternal obesity is rising in addition to that of the general population. My aim was to change the health behaviour of the expectant mother.....  read more

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PhD Opportunity - Increasing physical activity in teenagers: a social network-enabled intervention

Background

The physical inactivity ‘pandemic’ is believed to be responsible for up to 10% of all deaths from non-communicable diseases1,2 and is associated with significant economic costs3. Research has also shown a strong association between physical inactivity and the significantly rising rates of obesity. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ recent report on physical activity4 has again highlighted the considerable expected benefits to public health if we meet the physical activity guidelines. A recent study reported that only 24% of children in the UK aged 5-15 years met these recommendations, which is significantly lower in girls (19%) than boys (29%).5 Further, physical activity in adolescence declines by 7% per year,6 suggesting an overall decline of 60-70% during the 10-19 years old period.7 Physical activity habits formed at this crucial time can often be lifelong and could have potentially long term benefits.

While previous research has shed light on the social correlates of physical activity behaviour,8 particularly in children and adolescents,9-11 we know little about the potential for interventions to “exploit” social networks (i.e. interventions that purposefully utilise social networks to influence behaviour change).12 Given the purported influence of social networks and support on a number of health behaviours, including physical activity, more research is warranted.

Outline Plan of Investigation

The PhD student will work within a multidisciplinary team of researchers to design, implement and evaluate a social network-enabled intervention to increase physical activity in adolescents.

Further information and application


 

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New Lay Summary Available: 'Hidden' Social Networks in Behaviour Change Interventions

Ruth F. Hunter, Helen McAneney, Michael Davis, Mark A. Tully, Thomas W. Valente, and Frank Kee
American Journal of Public Health: March 2015, Vol. 105, No. 3, pp. 513-516
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302399


Why do we need to better understand social networks in behaviour change research.

For a long time epidemiologists have understood that the way we interact with others can have important effects on our health. Until now, these observations have not been much used by those designing behaviour change interventions, but our social interactions may indeed affect the impact of such interventions.

Research Aim

To understand how much other people’s behavior change affected individuals participating in an intervention to incentivize physical activity.

What did we do?

We collected objective social network and physical activity data concurrently over a 12-week period from a quasi-experimental trial of a financial incentive intervention in a worksite based in Belfast. This was done through the use of a “smart card” that participants swiped on sensors distributed along walking trails as they exercised. If two or more participants were walking together then this data was remotely captured by the smart cards.

What did we find?

Of the 406 participants, 225 engaged in physical activity involving social interactions with at least 1 other participant (as opposed to those doing physical activity alone or not at all). We inferred 5578 social interactions over the 12-week intervention, with 282 distinct pairings of participants, demonstrating clear evidence of hidden social networks within the intervention Results suggested that those engaged in physical activity with others maintained higher activity levels (i.e., 150 min/wk) throughout the intervention period.

Why is this important ?

Further, analyses of interventions that take explicit account of previously unobserved hidden social networks might better uncover mediators and pathways of initiation and maintenance of behavior change.

Read the original paper: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302399

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

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

Read the CARDI brief here

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Lecturer in Physical Activity and Public Health Appointed

Dr Ruth Hunter, Project Manager for the MRC PARC Study, has been appointed to the CoENI Lectureship in Physical Activity and Public Health, based at the Centre for Public Health, QUB.  This follows Ruth’s recent success of being awarded a prestigious NIHR Career Development Fellowship to undertake appropriate development work prior to large scale trials (£420K).  This Fellowship aims to undertake pilot testing necessary to adequately design and evaluate novel social network enabled interventions, including: reviewing previous research; analysing social networks for workplace physical activity; simulation of network parameters to design an optimal intervention; and pilot testing the intervention. This Fellowship will address important knowledge gaps and build skills, capacity and evidence for social network enabled interventions for physical activity behaviour, which has significant potential for improved public health.

 

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New Director for the Northern Ireland Public Health Research Network

Dr Mark Tully has been appointed new Director of NIPHRN.  Mark, a Lecturer in Physical Activity at the Centre for Public Health at Queen's is thrilled to the taking on the new role.  Professor Frank Kee, Director of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland will now concentrate on his new role as Chair of the NIHR Public Health Research Programme.


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Irish Ambassador receives prestigious healthcare award at Queen’s

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).

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Do you want to know more about Dementia?
Queen’s will host a free public meeting about dementia on Thursday 26 March 2015, 6.00pm – 8.00pm, at Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey. Organised by researchers in the Alzheimer’s Research UK Northern Ireland Research Network, the meeting will be an opportunity to hear from experts about progress being made to improve the detection of the diseases that cause dementia, recent research developments and what to expect in the future. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions.
 
Alzheimer’s Research UK funds world-class research with the mission to defeat dementia, and has supported over £640,000 worth of research projects in Northern Ireland.
 
Booking is not required and refreshments will be provided. For further information, contact Michael Hills, 028 9097 6514, m.hills@qub.ac.uk. A flyer is available here.

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Designing RCTs and Observational Studies to Account for Missing Data not Missing at Random

Mark McGovern is a Lecturer in Economics at Queen’s Management School, Queen’s University Belfast, and the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (Northern Ireland).  Prior to joining Queen’s in September 2015, he was a Program on the Global Demography of Aging Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University.  He received his PhD in economics from University College Dublin in 2013.  His main research interests are in health and development, including a variety of topics in ageing, HIV, and maternal/child health.  His work has involved the application of causal inference methods for observational data to research questions in these areas, such as evaluating the impact of early life conditions on child and adult outcomes.  His work has been featured in journals such as Economics and Human Biology, Journal of Population Economics, Journal of Health Economics, Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Journal of the International AIDS Society, Epidemiology, and American Journal of Epidemiology.  Most recently, he has been working on developing methods for dealing with non-ignorable missing data.

Missing data is a common feature of both survey data and RCTs, which has the potential to greatly impact on the policy recommendations we derive from empirical studies. Non-response can lead to biased estimates if the characteristics of respondents systematically differ from those who decline to participate. In practice, if any adjustments for missing data are made, they tend to be based on either multiple imputation or inverse probability weighting. Conventional methods such as these all rely on a key assumption: missing data must be missing at random, or missing at random conditional on observed covariates. This is a strong and generally untestable assumption which is unrealistic in many settings, especially where some respondents have an incentive not to participate. In this presentation, I show how an alternative approach, Heckman-type selection models, can be used for dealing with missing data. This method can provide unbiased estimates even when the assumption of missing at random does not hold, and respondents systematically opt out of survey participation on the basis of unobserved confounders. Using examples from research on HIV, I illustrate the consequences of imposing an unrealistic missing at random assumption on survey data. I conclude by discussing how to design RCTs and observational studies to facilitate the implementation of this selection model approach.


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Understanding rates of work disability in Northern Ireland

Co-supervisors:  Dr Declan French, QMS and Prof Duncan McVicar, QMS with third supervisor Dr Dermot O’Reilly, Centre for Public Health

Project Description:
In Northern Ireland (NI), we have the highest disability claimant rate in the UK and the reasons for this are poorly understood, although it has been variously attributed in policy circles to worse health, worse unemployment hidden as work disablement, the physical and mental health consequences of the recent 30-year civil war known locally as ‘the Troubles’, or to a claimant culture with greater understanding of how to navigate the benefit system from knowledge of entitlement, application, interview, inspection through to eventual successful receipt. Credible empirical evidence that can help us quantify the role of these and other factors, however, is currently lacking. Providing such evidence is the aim of this study.

This 3 year PhD studentship commences in 1 October 2016.

This exciting initiative straddles both economics and health and the successful PhD student will also be able to draw on the medical and epidemiological expertise of the Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Public Health at QUB as well as expertise in data linkage. It is envisaged that the student will participate fully in CoE activities alongside QUMS activities, including those involving other UK Centres of Excellence.

Academic Requirements:

This MRC-funded studentship will be awarded on a competitive basis to outstanding applicants who have:
• An excellent undergraduate degree (graded 2.1 or 1st) in a relevant subject;
• Completed, or are due to complete by September 2016, a Master’s degree in a relevant subject to an excellent standard (graded Merit or Distinction);
Candidates with a background in experience in labour economics, health economics or health policy will be preferred.

Contact details:
Interested candidates are encouraged to contact co-supervisors Dr Declan French, QMS () and Prof Duncan McVicar, QUMS () or third supervisor Dr Dermot O’Reilly, Centre for Public Health ( ) to discuss the project in more detail.

To Apply
The closing date for applications is March 11th 2016. To apply for this studentship (which covers student fees and a maintenance allowance) please go to the online postgraduate application portal below registering your application against Queen’s Management School and the supervisors above

https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php

Contact Dr Declan French () if you have any difficulties.

Funding Notes

This studentship covers student fees and a maintenance allowance of £13,863 (2014-15 figures). The studentship may cover maintenance and fees for a maximum of three years. UK residents: fees plus maintenance. Other EU residents: fees only.


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