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HRB invests €1.9 million in UCC research to address emerging health challenges

3 Oct 2023
Photo: School of Public Health researchers, located at UCC's Western Gateway Building, awarded €1.9 million research funding in Health Research Board Postdoctoral Fellowship schemes. Photo: Tomás Tyner.

Five post-doctoral researchers at UCC’s School of Public Health, National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) and the Irish Centre for Maternal & Child Health Research (INFANT) have received a total of €1.9 million in funding to investigate and find solutions for public health challenges.

High blood pressure during pregnancy, strategies for preventing drug overdose and the factors associated with suicide risk in older adults are among the health and social care research projects to receive funding from the Health Research Board’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme.

Dr Peter Barrett, based in INFANT in Cork University Maternity Hospital and the School of Public Health in UCC, has received €830,000 in research funding for his project investigating the long-term impact of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy on maternal health, and exploration of optimal models of follow-up care for affected women in Ireland.

“This project will focus on high blood pressure during pregnancy, and how we use obstetric information to predict the risk of chronic diseases in later life. We know that risk factors during pregnancy can offer insights into long-term maternal health outcomes. There are huge opportunities to harness this information for the prevention of age-related diseases in later life. I am excited to work on this project with the teams in INFANT, the School of Public Health, and with both academic and health service partners from Ireland and overseas. It is important that we apply the research findings here to affected groups in the community, and to the Irish health service,” said Dr Barrett.

The five funded post-doctoral researchers are:

  • Dr Susan CalnanImproving public health through better implementation of alcohol policy: A multimethod study examining and addressing the factors influencing successful implementation. This research will provide evidence to help policymakers and stakeholders to better understand factors that influence the successful implementation of public health alcohol policy and look at ways to improve these factors so that alcohol policies are effectively implemented to help reduce harms from alcohol. Funding amount: €255,013.
  • Dr Caroline DalyRESTRICT – REducing intentional overdose: a mixed methods STudy of means RestrICTion interventions. Submitted under the National Suicide Research Foundation – UCC Memorandum of Collaboration, this research aims to prevent intentional overdose by studying the impact of measures to restrict access to drugs. Delivered by a team of individuals from different disciplines including mental health professionals, policy makers, researchers and people with experiences of self-harm, findings from this research will provide a comprehensive understanding of intentional overdose in Ireland and inform future measures to restrict access to drugs and to prevent self-harm and suicide. Funding amount: €284,976.
  • Dr Fiona RiordanIdentifying social determinants and mapping organisational and personal networks to enhance community support for people living with multimorbidity. With people from disadvantaged communities developing chronic health conditions earlier in life, this project aims to find ways to better support people living with multiple conditions within disadvantaged areas in Ireland, and discuss the findings with a range of stakeholders, including policymakers, healthcare managers and representatives from non-clinical community services. Funding amount: €268,243.
  • Dr Isabela TroyaRevisiting suicide prevention in later life: human-centred approaches in an ageing Ireland. Annually in Ireland, over 400 people die by suicide and a further 12,000 are hospitalised following self-harm, of which 15% are older adults. The aim of this study is to improve the understanding of factors associated with self-harm and suicide risk in older adults aged >60 and thus co-produce clinical and policy guidance to reduce suicidal behaviour in older adults. Submitted under the National Suicide Research Foundation – UCC Memorandum of Collaboration, this research should help strengthen and inform national suicide prevention strategies. Funding amount: €266,416.
  • Dr Peter BarrettAn investigation of the long-term impact of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy on maternal health, and exploration of optimal models of follow-up care for affected women in Ireland. This research will answer some of the uncertainties regarding long-term risks following high blood pressure during pregnancy, using existing large-scale datasets of over 2 million mothers in Sweden and follow their progress post pregnancy for up to 48 years. Funding amount: €830,000.

Dr Mairéad O'Driscoll, HRB Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to announce the latest round of funding in these HRB Postdoctoral Fellowship schemes. They are a key pillar in the HRB’s Research Career Framework. This framework provides a coordinated, coherent approach to building the capacity and capability of academic researchers and health and social care practitioners to respond to current and emerging health research needs.”

Congratulating the five award recipients from University College Cork on their awards, Professor John F. Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research and Innovation said: “Congratulations to these early-career researchers in receiving Health Research Board awards, in key areas which will address critical health and social care challenges. These awards will provide the researchers with an opportunity to enhance their career development and deliver on excellent societal research outcomes.”

Prof Ella Arnesman, Head of the School of Public Health, congratulated the researchers: 

“I would like to congratulate all five successful candidates sincerely for preparing these high-quality research proposals and making it through the very competitive rounds. I am also very pleased to see the increasing interdisciplinary collaborations between the School of Public Health, the National Suicide Research Foundation and the Irish Centre for Maternal & Child Health Research (INFANT).

I would like to thank Dr Brendan Palmer and Dr Darren Dahly from the CRF UCC for their valuable input into the data management aspects related to all proposals. Sincere thanks to the mentors involved with the successful projects, and to Prof John Browne for organising the supportive research workshops and mock interviews for the HRB ARPP candidates with input from Dr Elaine Mc Mahon, Dr Karen Matvienko-Sikar and Dr Linda O’Keeffe.

I also would like to acknowledge the valuable input and technical support provided by the team in the UCC Office of the Vice-President for Research and Innovation.

Sincere congratulations to all candidates again, and you make all of us proud on a day like this!“


School of Public Health

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