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Changing Policy and Practice: our newly awarded projects

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We’re delighted to announce our latest Changing Policy and Practice awardees, who will use our funding to maximise the real-world impact of their research.

Twice a year, we award funding of up to £30,000 to Medical Research Council (MRC) or Medical Research Foundation-funded researchers to help them extend their research findings to make a difference to policy and practice in healthcare, patient experience, or public behaviour and opinion.

We’re thrilled to announce our latest cohort of awardees, including Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi from University College London, Dr Manisha Nair from University of Oxford, Dr Moritz Herle from King's College London, and Professor Benedict Michael from University of Liverpool.

Read about their projects below:

Understanding how babies feel pain

Many babies born prematurely or unwell will spend their first weeks of life in neonatal care, where they are exposed to frequent clinical procedures. These procedures can impact their development both physically and psychologically long-term.

The way we monitor the amount of pain young babies are in is not consistent, so we don’t always know how babies really experience these painful procedures.

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Dr Fabrizi Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi, University College London

To influence the way pain from clinical procedures is monitored and managed for babies in neonatal intensive care, Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi will use this funding to disseminate a procedural pain severity scale.

His team will distribute posters and videos of the scale to 15 neonatal operational delivery networks and parental advisory groups across the UK.

This scale has the potential to change the way pain from clinical procedures is monitored and managed for vulnerable babies.

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Tools to diagnose neurological problems in COVID-19 patients

Up to a third of individuals infected with COVID-19 develop neurological problems. These include symptoms like headaches or loss of smell, but also potentially more serious complications, such as damage or inflammation in the brain.

COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital are particularly prone to encephalopathy - a process in which normal brain functioning is disturbed, causing confusion and fluctuating alertness.

Professor Benedict Michael, Dr Arina Tamborska, Victoria Grimbly, Dr Greta Wood (Clockwise from top-left) Professor Benedict Michael, Dr Arina Tamborska, Victoria Grimbly, Dr Greta Wood, University of Liverpool

A quick diagnosis of encephalopathy is important to help clinicians address any underlying causes and initiate treatment for patients. But it is often difficult to diagnose.

A team of researchers from the University of Liverpool (Professor Benedict Michael, Dr Arina Tamborska, Victoria Grimbly, Dr Greta Wood) are using this funding to help clinicians diagnose encephalopathy earlier in COVID-19 patients.

Together with a group of experts, they have developed a set of guidance and tools which they will disseminate to clinicians who look after patients with COVID-19.

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Screening pregnant women for cardiac problems in low-resource settings

Heart problems are a significant cause of maternal death worldwide. In India, it's estimated that 2 in 1,000 pregnant and postpartum women experience heart failure. And of these cases, 40 per cent are fatal.

Professor Manisha Nair Dr Manisha Nair, University of Oxford

Dr Manisha Nair and her team have developed a heart imaging method for obstetricians in Asia and Africa, called 'MaatHRI FoCUS'. It is a low-cost, portable, bedside imaging method which they found successfully helped to detect heart problems in pregnant women.

Using this funding, the team are developing an interactive training resource in collaboration with clinicians from Asia and Africa. The resource will enable obstetricians and cardiologists to use this imaging method.

They will also create an action plan for reaching out to doctors and hospitals in low-resource settings, where MaatHRI FoCUS would facilitate screening and referral by obstetricians. This could save lives by reducing the need for on-site presence of costly equipment and cardiologists.

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Childhood obesity: the power of parental feeding

Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges in the UK. According to the latest Health Survey for England (2021), 23 per cent of children aged 10-11 are obese.

Previous research has shown that some children are more likely to develop obesity than others because of their genes.

Dr Mortiz Herle Dr Moritz Herle, King's College London

Although genes have a part to play in childhood obesity, Dr Moritz Herle’s team found that interventions to improve the way parents feed their children can buffer some of this genetic risk.

Parents and health professionals are often unaware that changes to feeding practices can bring benefits to children’s healthy development.

The Child Feeding Guide is a popular and interactive website which offers support for parents around parental feeding. Dr Herle and his team plan to update this website with new content that will provide users with education on genetic liability, and how parental feeding practices remain a powerful tool to support their children’s healthy growth regardless of familial risk.

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Apply for a Changing Policy and Practice Award

Our current round of Changing Policy and Practice Awards are open for applications. Apply by 1 June.

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