University of Leicester researchers will be investigating why some people in the county live longer than others thanks to a multimillion-pound project.
A total of £5.25m of Health Determinants Research Collaboration (HDRC) funding has been awarded to the Public Health team at Leicestershire County Council by the National Institute for Health and Care and Research (NIHR), as part of a wide-ranging five-year programme to find out more about the health differences in the county.
The University is among a number of other High Education institutes, along with Leicestershire Academic Health Partners, bringing their expertise and experience to the project, to undertake research within local communities and put the evidence gathered into practice.
With the average living age in Leicestershire up to six years lower in some areas compared to others, and other health factors influenced by education, employment, housing and air quality, the funding aims to take a comprehensive look at how these inequalities can be reduced in the future.
Dr Bharathy Kumaravel is an Associate Professor in Public Health for the University and holds a joint post with Leicestershire County Council as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine.
Dr Kumaravel said: “This award will accelerate local and national public health collaborations to the benefit of our local communities. We’ll provide considerable support to ensure its long-term success with relevant academic staff providing their expertise, guidance and supervision. We’ll be undertaking relevant new research in our communities and helping to find ways to put the findings into practice in local settings.”
Professor Tom Robinson, Pro Vice Chancellor at the University and Head of the College of Life Sciences and Dean of Medicine, added: “We are fully committed to supporting this exciting proposal in the strong belief that it will have a transformational impact building research capacity and partnership across the region to support data driven decision making and reduce health inequalities.”
Professor Anna Hansell, Director of the Centre for Environmental Health and Sustainability at the University of Leicester said: “We are delighted to collaborate on this proposal, which will include consideration of environmental factors that can harm health, such as air pollution and poor housing. Our research inputs will help inform the council’s work to address these.”
Research priorities will be identified by Leicestershire communities through the collaboration to ensure it is relevant and meaningful to local areas and the inequalities they face.
Councillor Louise Richardson, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “This is a welcome initiative which is also being undertaken across other areas of the country and we’re so pleased to have the opportunity to carry out this research here in Leicestershire.
“We know that we have high levels of conditions such as asthma, cancer, obesity and diseases of the heart, and the work we put into this research will hopefully see a reduction in these conditions and the causes of inequality as we tackle the problems at source, rather than just relying on the NHS.
“This will be a collaborative effort with experts in universities and the NHS to make sure we do this right and maximise the health benefits that this research can bring to Leicestershire residents.”
A dedicated web page laying out the plans will be available on the county council’s website to keep the public updated on the research and how they can get involved.
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