AN IRISH SCIENTIST is to lead a major research project which explores how people can be encouraged to change risky or unhealthy personal behaviours.
The impact of such interventions could be widespread and life-saving, according to researchers.
The group, led by Dr Molly Byrne, a health psychologist and lecturer at NUI Galway, will first focus on designing ways to encourage change in lifestyle which are related to diabetes and heart disease.
Speaking today, Dr Byrne said that it is clear that an increasing number of health problems in Ireland and internationally are linked to unhealthy behaviours.
There is powerful evidence that changing people’s health-related behaviour for example, smoking, poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, failure to screen for illness and risky sexual practice, can impact positively on leading causes of mortality and morbidity, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
The project will be a multi-agency one, using resources and research from experts in the National Clinical Care Programme in Diabetes, the HSE Health and Social Care Professions Education and Development Unit and University College London’s Centre for Behaviour Change.
Funding for the project was announced today by the Health Research Board as part of a €9 million investment into health research leadership in this country. Five other projects “which address strategic gaps and leadership capacity in population health and health services research” also benefit and 22 new research jobs will be created.
All the projects are intended to give medics and health service providers new approaches and evidence to deliver better care to Irish patients.
The other five issues being tackled by those who received funding awards include:
- Prevention and treatment strategies for people living with chronic conditions such as diabetes (Prof Patricia Kearney, research professor at UCC)
- Pyschological approaches to treating people living with multiple issues (including chronic pain), such as arthritis, depression and more, making use of online, mobile phone technology and social media to deliver help (Dr Brian McGuire, clinical psychology senior lecturer, NUI Galway)
- Analysis of the national infrastructure to accurately compare cost effectiveness of non-acute health services (Prof Ciaran O’Neill, professor of health economics at NUI Galway)
- Creation of a National Centre for Health Decision Science in Ireland to determine best healthcare solutions (Prof Cathal Walsh, professor in statistics at TCD)
- Examination of personalised healthcare interventions to better tailor therapies to an individual patient (Prof John Forbes, health economics at UL)