GW4 universities and partners receive £6.6 million for major UK non-communicable disease prevention project

May 10, 2019

The University of Bristol, in partnership with fellow GW4 universities Bath and Cardiff and the universities of West of England, Manchester, Reading, plus Bristol City Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, has been awarded £6.6 million by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) to tackle unhealthy urban planning and development linked to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, obesity, poor mental health, cancer and diabetes.

The funding is part of a £25 million UKPRP investment awarded to eight projects that aim to address the bigger picture factors behind the prevention of NCDs which make up the vast majority of illnesses in the UK and account for an estimated 89 per cent of all deaths.

The 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.

The projects 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.

The University of Bristol’s five-year consortia project will tackle the root causes of unhealthy urban development by conducting research into 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 early in the decision process.

Professor Matthew Hickman, Professor in Public Health and Epidemiology in Bristol Medical School, and lead of the TRU3D (Tackling Root Causes Upstream of Unhealthy Urban Development consortium), added: “We have been given an amazing opportunity to co-develop and test an intervention approach that integrates health at the root of critical decision-making when considering changes to our shared urban environments. If successful, this could provide a transformational change in the prevention of NCD.”

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.” 

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