£25 million funding for leading disease prevention projects

9 May 2019

NERC is one of 12 funders investing a total of £25 million into understanding and influencing the social, economic and environmental factors that affect our health. The investment marks the first funding round of the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP).

Concrete building

The funding 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.

These projects aim to create practical 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, and the quality of 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, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) research councils and the UK health and social care departments, established the multimillion-pound UK UKPRP in 2017. UKPRP research grants aim to develop, test and refine new, practical and cost-effective approaches to preventing NCDs at this bigger picture level, which will in turn help to reduce health inequalities across the UK.

This first round 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 the onset of NCDs (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 policymakers, charities, non-government organisations and the public.

The research awards cover a wide variety of issues, including: embedding health considerations in urban planning and decision-making processes; investigating the commercial determinants of health (such as the approaches used by commercial producers of tobacco, alcohol and food to promote products and influence people's choices, which in turn impacts on our health as a population); school food systems and their effects on the quality of children's diets; improving the life chances of children in deprived areas in the UK; and developing new economic methods for judging the effectiveness and costs and benefits of policies such as housing and mental health.

Professor Dame Sally Macintyre, Chair of the UKPRP Scientific Advisory Board and Expert Review Group Panel, said:

These newly funded, well designed projects will help to lift the lid on the social, economic and environmental factors affecting our health. By investing in these interdisciplinary teams and drawing on a wide range of knowledge and expertise, UKPRP is supporting work that will have real life benefits for both policymakers and the wider public alike. Non-communicable diseases place a huge burden on us all and we hope that this investment will help to provide practical and tangible solutions that will positively impact people's lives and health.

A second UKPRP funding call for proposals for consortia and networks will be launched in autumn 2019.

UKPRP consortia awards

  • Professor John Wright (Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Found Trust)

    ActEarly: A city collaboratory approach to early promotion of good health and wellbeing - £6·6 million over five years

    Research into improving the life chances of children in two predominantly deprived areas in the UK, Bradford and Tower Hamlets (London), focusing on three programmatic areas of healthy places, healthy learning and healthy livelihoods.

  • Professor Matthew Hickman (University of Bristol)

    Tackling the root causes of unhealthy planning, economics and decision-making: An urban systems approach (TRUED: Urban Systems) - £6·6 million over five years

    Research on urban planning and development systems with a view to embedding the prevention of risk factors associated with NCDs and health inequalities in decision-making on planning.

  • Professor Linda Bauld (University of Edinburgh)

    SPECTRUM: Shaping public health policies to reduce inequalities and harm - £5·9 million over five years

    Investigating the commercial determinants of health and health inequalities, such as the approaches used by commercial producers of tobacco, alcohol and food to promote products and influence people's choices, which in turn impacts on our health as a population). This programme builds on the work of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies by focusing on tobacco and alcohol, but extending work to unhealthy food (high in fat, salt and sugar.

  • Professor Petra Meier (University of Sheffield)

    Systems-science informed public health economic research for non-communicable disease prevention (the SIPHER Consortium) - £4·9 million over five years

    Research on systems-based economic evaluation methods to provide a common basis on which to appraise the effectiveness and costs and benefits of policy measures on housing; the promotion of mental wellbeing; inclusive economic growth; and adverse childhood experiences.

UKPRP network awards

  • Ms Ruth Dundas (University of Glasgow)

    Harnessing cross-country administrative data to evaluate national policy impacts on maternal, infant and child health and health inequalities. £408,000 over four years.

    This network aims to lay the groundwork to develop research programmes to exploit linked, population-level administrative data to evaluate the impact of policies and determinants of maternal and child health across the four UK nations.

  • Professor Paul Kingston (University of Chester)

    PETRA: Prevention of diseases using trade agreements - £306,000 over three years

    This network aims to explore the relationships between trade and investment agreements and NCDs by focusing mainly on tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed foods to determine how trade could improve health.

  • Professor Laurence Moore (University of Glasgow)

    The population health agent-based simulation network - £402,000 over four years

    This network will focus on the application and use of agent-based models among researchers and decision makers in order develop insights on the interdependent and interacting processes that result in NCDs and health inequalities.

  • Professor Jane Woodside (Queen's University Belfast)

    Opportunities for intervention and innovation in the UK School Food System: The GENIUS (Generating Excellent Nutrition In UK Schools) network - £254,000 over three years

    Building a UK school food network that considers the food system across preschool, primary and secondary school settings, and school food provisions to influence the quality of children's diets and reduce inequalities in dietary intake.

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

UKRI research councils: NERC, MRC, Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic & Social Research Council

Charities: British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, The Health Foundation

Government: Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, Health & Care Research Wales, National Institute of Health Research, Public Health Agency

UKPRP partner logos

Further information

Josie Rylands
Press & Communications Officer
NERC
01793 411787

Grace Money
Senior Strategic Communications Manager
MRC
020 7395 2278