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Health and Wellbeing Theme

Palliative Care 535x535
Theme Lead: Professor Kevin Brazil

Our work within this theme spans the whole life course from parenting programmes to public health interventions in communities and schools through to end-of-life care. Within this, some of our key areas of work include early childhood, mental health and chronic illness and palliative care.


This research theme within CESI aims to improve mental and physical health across the human life span and brings together scholars from across Schools in Queen’s University Belfast, including: School of Nursing and Midwifery; the Centre for Public Health; School of Psychology; and School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work. We are dedicated to promoting research and scholarship that is interdisciplinary, holistic, and employs the full spectrum of research methods and activities that range from discovery to application and transfer to impact positively on society and in applying this understanding to improve a wide range of aspects including the individual, the organization and delivery of care, and the community.

The research within this theme is centred in three primary areas; children and young people, mental health and wellbeing and aging and life limiting conditions. Cross cutting interests shared across these areas include: 

  • Enhancing research capacity through strategic partnerships and collaborations with other relevant national and international groups;
  • Conducting and supporting ‘linkage and exchange’ approach to enhance the utility of research evidence in the processes of policy formulation and practice;
  • Refining evidence-generation strategies to enhance existing knowledge.   

Signature projects that highlight activities in these three research areas are below.

Current Research

If I Were Jack

The JACK Trial

A Phase III effectiveness multi-centre cluster randomised controlled trial of a relationship and sexuality education intervention targeted especially to young males to reduce unintended teenage pregnancy and promote positive sexual health. This study led by Professor Maria Lohan draws on a team of investigators drawn from across QUB, University of Glasgow, University College London, Cardiff University and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  

Their work aims to test the effectiveness in reducing unprotected heterosexual teenage sex of an interactive film-based RSE intervention offered to males and females aged 14 years in schools which draws explicit attention to the role of males in preventing an unintended pregnancy.

For further details, please visit the project website here.




Mental Health of children and young people

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Researchers from CESI are also involved in the first population wide survey of the mental health of children and young people in NI. The study has involved collecting data on the mental health of a representative sample of just over 3000 children and young people aged 2-19. The research is being conducted by Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and the Mental Health Foundation, with Dr Lisa Bunting from Queen's as the Principal Investigator. Other researchers involved from CESI are Drs Claire McCartan, Anne Grant, Ciaran Mulholland, Dirk Schubotz and Professor Gavin Davidson. The findings will directly inform the development of policy, services and practice for supporting the mental health of children and young people. 









Aging and Life Limiting Conditions

Aging and Life Limiting Conditions

This international study, led by Professor Kevin Brazil, partners researchers from several countries: United Kingdom (QUB, Lancaster University, DeMontfort University); Republic of Ireland (University College Cork); Netherlands (Leids Universtair Medisch Centrum); Canada (McMaster University, McGill University); Czech Republic (Center for Palliative Care) and Italy (Turin University). 

This study aims to adapt, implement and evaluate the Family Carer Decision Support intervention (FCDS) transnationally. The FCDS intervention has been designed to inform family carers about end of life care options available to a person living with advanced dementia. Expected project outcomes will include the development of guidelines and resources to facilitate transnational use of the FCDS within care homes. 








Variation and Determinants of Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) Use
Novel Psychoactive Substances

Variation and Determinants of Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) Use

The harms associated with New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) present a major public health challenge. This project investigated usage of NPS to provide evidence on risks and potential protective factors. A mixed-methods design was used incorporating latent class analysis of the Belfast Youth Development Study (BYDS) and qualitative narrative interviews with people with experience of NPS use. Suggested interventions and treatments were made based on empirical findings which will have high relevance among those working to prevent harms of NPS use.

Project Team

Professor Kathryn Higgins - Project lead (Director of CESI), with a team including co-investigators and contributors including: CESI members Dr Nina O’Neill, Dr Leeanne O’Hara, Dr Tony O’Neill and Dr Anne Campbell; Dr Julie-Ann Jordan (School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, QUB); Dr Mark McCann (University of Glasgow); Dr Tara O’Neill (School of Psychology, QUB) and Professor Mike Clarke (Centre for Public Health, QUB).

Report available from NIHR Journals Library: 

'Variation and Determinants of Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) Use: Potential Implications for Policy and Practice'




A Dedicated Resource for those who Care for Patients with Cancer
Cancer Caring Coping

A Dedicated Resource for those who Care for Patients with Cancer

‘Cancer Caring Coping’ ( is a new online resource created by cancer caregivers for cancer caregivers. It is based on research by Dr Olinda Santin from Queen’s University Belfast, who found that cancer caregivers have poorer health compared to caregivers of other chronic conditions.

The project, led by Queen’s University, is a partnership between Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and The Northern Health and Social Care Trust, as well as involvement from the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland and Charis Cancer Care.

Dr Santin, who is a Senior Lecturer in Supportive Cancer Care at Queen’s and Associate Fellow of CESI, said: “Cancer caregivers require specific support and information to prepare them to cope with their role.  The aim of this new Cancer Caring Coping website is to give carers their own voice.  The strongest stories of all use carers’ words and carers’ experiences, and that is what this website represents.

“Queen’s University recognises the unique role cancer caregivers provide and is dedicated to supporting cancer caregivers through evidence based approaches, making it truly effective in improving the lives of carers and those that they care for.”

Early evaluation of the website has identified that caregivers felt that the resource provided useful and relevant information, and reduced isolation and uncertainty in their caregiving role.




"Think Families"

"Think Families” Approach to Parental Mental Health


Dr Anne Grant and team establish the baseline of a “Think Families” Approach to Parental Mental Health.

The aim of the Think Family NI initiative is to enhance greater partnership working between statutory agencies and organisations working with children and young people, and those working with adults to improve outcomes for family members with mental health issues, their parents and carers by establishing a ‘Think Child, Think Parent, Think Family’ approach to planning and delivery of services.


CESI Fellow Dr Anne Grant, Lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University explained: “The knowledge generated from the research will contribute to the development of an integrated policy, practice and research strategy, including performance indicators to move systems change forward in Northern Ireland and internationally”.