Our Research

Health Research Board (HRB) Applied Partnership Award “Enhancing the reach and sustainability of an integrated falls prevention pathway”

Falls are one of the most serious and common threats to older people. It is possible to reduce the risk of falls by assessing individuals’ risk factors and providing appropriate treatment if necessary. Within the Irish health system, such a service is provided by the Integrated Falls Prevention Pathway in Cork. This initiative is one example of an integrated care pathway in the National Integrated Care Programme for Older People. The Integrated Falls Prevention Pathway provides access to falls risk assessment for older people in Cork city and county in purposefully established Falls Risk Assessment Clinics.

Health services researchers, Dr Sheena McHugh, Project Lead, Dr Caragh Flannery and Dr Susan Calnan, together with key stakeholders in the Health Service Executive (HSE) Services for Older People, local hospitals, and community services in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, are investigating the sustainability of the Integrated Falls Prevention Pathway. The research aims to establish an agreeable way to increase the service’s capacity to prevent falls and identify any gaps or delays in the provision of treatment to older people at risk of falls. Findings from this study will have a direct impact on decision-making regarding the provision of services to older people.

The project is funded by a Health Research Board Applied Partnership Award designed to bring knowledge users and academic researchers together to address a specific need within the Irish health or social care system. The Project Management Group includes researchers, and clinical and managerial representatives from the Integrated Falls Prevention Pathway.

  • Dr Sheena McHugh, Health Services Researcher, School of Public Health, University College Cork
  • Dr Caragh Flannery, Health Services Researcher, School of Public Health, University College Cork
  • Dr Susan Calnan, Health Services Researcher, School of Public Health, University College Cork
  • Ms Eileen Moriarty, General Manager, Health service Executive Services for Older Persons, Strategy and Planning
  • Dr Patrick Barry, Consultant Physician in Acute Medicine and Geriatric Medicine
  • Dr Kieran O’ Connor, Clinical Director, Mercy University Hospital
  • Mr Spencer Turvey, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, Health Service Executive
  • Ms Finola Cronin, Pathway Coordinator, Corks Falls Prevention Service
  • Professor John Brown, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Public Health
  • Dr Sarah-Jo Sinnott, Assistant Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Collaborators on the project include: 

  • Dr Aisling Jennings, Department of General Practice, University College Cork
  • Dr Éilis O’ Reilly, Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University College Cork
  • Ms Nicola Brett, North Lee Public Health Nursing
  • Ms Liz O’ Sullivan, Physiotherapy Manager, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare
  • Ms Aileen Hurley, Cork Age Friendly Coordinator, Policy Planning Unit, Cork County Council
  • Professor Byron Powell, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill

For further information on this project please contact Dr Caragh Flannery, School of Public Health, University College Cork at cflannery@ucc.ie or on 021-4205514.

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Definitive Interventions and Feasibility Awards (DIFA)

Feasibility of an Intervention to Improve Attendance for Diabetic Retinopathy Screening

Retinopathy is a serious and common condition affecting the sight of people with diabetes and it can cause blindness. It is preventable through screening and can be treated if found in time. However, the success of screening is dependent on people attending when they are invited. Although screening is shown to work demonstrating its effectiveness, attendance at diabetic retinopathy screening internationally and in Ireland is variable. {ref RetinaScreen}. Research shows that a number of people with diabetes do not attend regular screening and experience barriers to accessing and using this service.


We want to investigate the feasibility of an intervention in general practice to increase retinopathy screening registration, consent and attendance.  To achieve this we will carry out a few different pieces of work over the two years of the project.

  • Develop an intervention which makes sense to deliver in everyday general practice.
  • Examine whether the intervention we decide on is feasible to deliver in everyday practice.
  • Find out if the intervention is acceptable by interviewing general practice staff and patients to see what they think about the way the intervention is delivered, the type of information we are collecting and the way it is being collected.
  • Determine how much delivering the intervention in general practice will cost.


Dr Sheena McHugh is the Principal Investigator (PI) on this project. Dr Fiona Riordan is post-doctoral researcher on the study. Ms Emmy Racine is working on a Study Within A Trial (SWAT) funded by the Trials Methodology Research Network (TMRN). Dr McHugh is working with four co-applicants: Prof. Patricia Kearney and Prof. John Browne from the School of Public Health (UCC) Dr Aileen Murphy, from the Department of Economics (UCC) and Prof. Susan Smith (Royal College of Surgeons).

The team have partnered with different collaborators and international institutions including: Diabetes Ireland; National Clinical Programme for Diabetes; HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland; Diabetes in General Practice (DIGP) Initiative; Department of General Practice in UCC; HRB Clinical Research Facility Cork; Dr Mark James, Ophthalmologist at Cork University Hospital & Mallow Primary Healthcare Centre, and; Prof. John Lawrenson from the Division of Optometry and Visual Science at City University London.


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CARDI Project

Preventing falls in older people with diabetes: development and feasibility of a multifactorial intervention in primary care

In 2015, Dr Sheena McHugh, Research Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, was awarded a fellowship from the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI).

In total, four fellowships were awarded across the country (North and South of Ireland) and this is the first fellowship that has been awarded to a researcher in UCC.

The CARDI leadership programme is aimed at supporting and building capacity in ageing research across the island of Ireland and promoting the development of future leaders. Dr Mc Hugh’s programme of research focuses on the development of a falls prevention intervention for older people with diabetes.  Her mentors are Professor Patricia Kearney (Epidemiology & Public Health) and Dr Suzanne Timmons (Centre for Gerontology and Rehabilitation, UCC). Sheena will also be working with a number of national and international collaborators including the Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (TILDA).

HRB Research Leader Award

Improving care for people with Diabetes: a population approach to prevention and control

The HRB Research Leader Award is part of a significant investment to ensure that the health research community in Ireland are in a position to provide strong research and evidence in relation to current, emerging and often complex challenges in healthcare that are of concern to decision makers, practitioners and policy makers. In 2013, Professor Patricia Kearney was one of six researchers to secure the award.

The focus of the NCPD is on the reorganization of services and it does not have the capacity to undertake research. The rationale of the partnership between the NCPD and UCC, led by Professor Patricia Kearney, is based on a shared vision to improve care for people with diabetes in Ireland and to reduce the preventable economic and societal burden of diabetes.

Data from existing studies will be used to determine the prevalence of diabetes and to provide a dynamic evidence base of trends in the incidence of diabetes and diabetes-related complications and associated healthcare utilization costs. A process evaluation of the implementation of the NCPD will be undertaken with the use of interviews and documentary analysis to determine barriers and facilitators to change in the Irish health system. A feasible lifestyle intervention will be developed to prevent diabetes.

The specific objectives of the 5 year programme of research are as follows:

  • To measure the public health burden of diabetes
  • To evaluate the implementation of the National Clinical Programme in Diabetes
  • To model current and future diabetes care costs
  • To develop, implement and assess a lifestyle intervention in women at risk of gestational diabetes

This partnership between the highest levels of academia and service provision in Public Health in Ireland is ideally positioned to ensure the research is undertaken with academic rigor and will translate directly into policy and service delivery. Ultimately the impact of the programme will be to reduce the clinical, financial and societal burden of diabetes.

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ESPRIT Research Group

UCC School of Public Health, Western Gateway Building, Western Road, Cork,