Thursday 9 May 2019

In its first ever funding round, the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) is investing £25 million into understanding and influencing the social, economic and environmental factors that affect our health.

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. 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, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) councils and the UK health and social care departments established the multimillion-pound UK Prevention Research Partnership (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 and Networks.

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.

The research awards cover a wide variety of issues, including; investigating the commercial determinants of health (i.e. the approaches used by commercial producers of tobacco, alcohol and food to promote products, influence policy and 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; embedding health considerations in urban planning and decision-making processes; and developing new economic methods for judging the effectiveness and costs and benefits in policy areas such as economic growth and housing. Further details on the awards are available here.

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 policy makers 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.

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

UKRI Research Councils:  Medical Research Council (MRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

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

Government: Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, Health and Care Research Wales, National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), Public Health Agency (NI)