The stress on local health

Maureen O'Connor looks at academia forging links with the NHS on Teesside

The new universities, which have often evolved from local colleges, pride themselves on their links with local industry and commerce. Teesside University, based in Middlesbrough, has taken the unusual step of forging links with the National Health Service in a campaign to improve the poor health of the local community.

Dr Peter Kelly, director of the university's newly launched Centre for Health and Medical Research, says the centre will be particularly concerned with the main problems of a long-established industrial area: high levels of lung cancer, for instance, among women resulting from the very high levels of smoking discovered among the 16-to-45-year-old female population.

"We will be carrying out vital research, firstly to gain an accurate picture of the physical and mental health needs of the various communities on Teesside and then to work with the health professionals in the field of health education and promotion. I want this centre to become the first port of call for anyone carrying out research in this area," Dr Kelly says.

The university has already made a significant commitment to health education, Dr Kelly says, and the new research centre is a logical extension. It builds on undergraduate and postgraduate courses for all the health professions except medicine and will boost the university's teaching strength a well as providing a big asset for the community, Dr Kelly believes.

The centre will focus its work on the key areas identified by the government White Paper, Health of the Nation - coronary heart disease, cancers, sexual health, mental health, accidental injury and primary health care. "But we feel research of this kind needs to be focused where it is actually going to be used. Populations have different needs and nothing would happen in this field in Teesside, with its poor health record, if it wasn't for this centre. A lot of health research is locked up in the medical schools. We want this centre to be the first port of call for anyone carrying out research into health in this community."

The local NHS trust, Tees Health, has committed pounds 560,000 to the centre and is involved in the planning and execution of key projects. The first priority will be to gain an accurate picture of the health needs of the various communities in the area. A survey to measure the perceived quality of health of 15,000 people on Teesside, the largest such survey in the UK, will give the centre and Tees Health an information base from which to work. Another survey will assess the mental health needs of the Tees Health area.

Dr Kelly comes from a background in mathematics and statistics, and has moved to Middlesbrough from the medical faculty at the University of Newcastle. "There is a lot of work to be done in this community," he says. "As well as the serious problems with smoking, we will be looking at stress, unemployment, drug abuse and diet." A project has already been launched to look at the relationship between GP health provision and the needs of specific local communities.

The centre has also obtained funding for four research studentships. One of these will examine young people's perceptions of the risk involved in smoking and sexual activity. It will start from a psychological study of the assumptions adolescents make about the risk involved before they launch themselves into smoking or sexual activity. Only if you understand how young people see the risks involved, the academics think, will it be possible to design appropriate health promotion packages aimed at persuading them either to stop their risky behaviour or not to start in the first place.

Another project will investigate the effect of the shocks generated by walking in normal people and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is suspected that arthritis patients may become less mobile over time because their joints are damaged by the shock waves generated when a heel hits the ground.

"This centre is something which has been welcomed right across the health service and the university," Dr Kelly says. "Since our launch a few weeks ago it has been decided to set up a biomedical research group in co-operation with the engineering department here. But the whole point is that we are doing all this in co-operation with the community."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our exclusive client in St Albans Hertfords...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Primary Teachers

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teachers needed in Hertfordshir...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness