March 2015

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, A flyer is available here.

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