£1.85 million for children’s health and maternity research

The aim of the funding is to improve health in childhood and maternal health across the country

A national research collaboration has been awarded £1.85 million to investigate children’s health and maternal wellbeing.

Researchers from PenARC (NIHR ARC South West Peninsula) based at the University of Exeter Medical School have collaborated with colleagues from ARC Yorkshire and Humber to develop the national research programme.

PenARC is one of the leading Applied Research Centres (ARCs) funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), conducting research to improve the health and needs of patients in the NHS. The new £1.85 million collaboration is funded by NIHR.

The aim of the funding is to use evidence to improve health outcomes in childhood and maternal health across the country, working with service users, charities and professional groups to identify key areas where evidence can help to improve public health and services in health and social care.

PenARC Director Professor Stuart Logan said: “I’m delighted to be part of this successful collaboration, which will be tackling some of the most important health and care questions facing society. Not only is the health of pregnant women a key area for improving outcomes but pregnancy and the early years of life have a profound impact on the health and development of children, with consequences that last a lifetime. We’re doing society as a whole a disservice if we do not tackle inequalities in health, starting from before a child is born. This additional funding offers us a great opportunity to bring together a stellar team to address the huge challenges that face us.

“We are fortunate within the PenARC network to be able to draw upon world-leading expertise in this field and I can’t wait to get started on this programme, which I hope will deliver real change for the people who need it most.”

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the nation’s largest funder of health and care research, invited proposals from the 15 newly formed Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) to bring together Universities, NHS and Social Care organisations, and Local Authorities to help solve the most pressing issues facing health and social care to lead research into nine designated national priority areas.

The collaboration will build on world-leading expertise in children’s and maternal health, and our existing local and national networks, to best understand how research can contribute to meaningful change.

Professor John Wright, ARC Yorkshire and Humber Director said: “Pregnancy and early life are such a critical window for establishing lifelong health and well-being. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that begin in early life. We have some of the best maternal and child health researchers in the world in the UK but there is a clear gap in turning the evidence that they produce into practice and policy. This prestigious award will ensure that we can speed up the translation of health research to protect the physical and mental health of future generations of children and young people.”

The research will engage with a wide range of voices from communities, children and young people and their families, and women using maternity services, reflecting the needs and priorities of the public, professionals and healthcare organisations.

This research programme will be developed in collaboration with ARCs West and North East and North Cumbria and supported by ARCs West Midlands, North Thames, North West London, South London and North West Coast.

PenARC are also part of a consortium, led by ARC Wessex, which has been awarded funding in the priority area of Ageing, Dementia and Frailty. Rehabilitation expert, and PenARC Training Lead, Professor Vicki Goodwin MBE, Dementia Theme Lead Professor Linda Clare and University of Exeter Mireille Gillings Scholar Professor Sallie Lamb will be bringing their extensive experience and knowledge to the collaboration. The PenARC Patient and Public Involvement Team will also be supporting the collaboration.

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