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New projects to understand how social, economic and environmental factors impact our health


New projects to understand how social, economic and environmental factors impact our health

A new round of funding led by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is investing £25 million into understanding and influencing the social, economic and environmental factors that affect our health.

The funding – the first round under the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) – has been earmarked for eight projects tackling the bigger picture factors behind the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - illnesses that can’t be passed from person to person - such as heart disease, obesity, poor mental health, cancer and diabetes.

NCDs make up the vast majority of illnesses in the UK, accounting for an estimated 89 per cent of all deaths. These projects aim to deliver real changes that reduce the burden of these diseases on our health and social care systems and enable people to live longer, healthier lives.

Many aspects of the world around us influence our health, from the communities in which we live, to the design of our cities and transport systems, the quality of our housing and education. There is strong evidence to show that wider factors such as these, often called ‘upstream determinants’, can have a great influence on how healthy our lives will be.

No single research funder has the resources or expertise to address these complex issues on their own, which is why a partnership of twelve funders including charities, UKRI councils and the UK health and social care departments established the multimillion-pound UKPRP in 2017. UKPRP research grants aim to develop, test and refine new, practical and cost-effective approaches to preventing non-communicable diseases at this bigger picture level, which will in turn help to reduce health inequalities across the UK.

 This first tranche of awards has focused on two types of awards:

  • Consortia awards are big interdisciplinary research programmes funded for five years to tackle a specific challenge to prevent people becoming ill (primary prevention). They aim to generate and implement new ideas that can deliver change at a population-level.
  • Networks which are granted up to four years funding to develop new communities of researchers from diverse disciplines (including experts not previously involved in prevention research), to tackle NCD prevention.

The eight awards (four Consortia and four Networks) will bring together leading researchers, as well as local and national policy makers, charities, non-government organisations (NGOs) and the public.

UKRI’s Medical Research Council (MRC) administers the initiative on behalf of the UKPRP funding partners. The UKPRP partners are:

  • UKRI organisations: MRC, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council and Natural Environment Research Council;
  • Charities: British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, The Health Foundation; and
  • Government: Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, Health and Care Research Wales, National Institute of Health Research, Public Health Agency.

Further information

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