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Influencing policy and practice in palliative care, pregnancy, and more

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We’re delighted to announce our latest Changing Policy and Practice awardees, who are aiming to help more people benefit from palliative care in the UK; reduce school dropouts among pregnant and parenting adolescents in South Africa; and better support community health workers in South Africa.

We run our Changing Policy and Practice competition twice a year, aimed at supporting the dissemination of medical research beyond the scientific peer-reviewed press, in order to influence healthcare and behaviour.

These awards, of up to £30,000, provide extra support to Foundation and Medical Research Council-funded (MRC) researchers to maximise the real-world impact of their research.

Professor Irene Higginson (1) Professor Irene Higginson

Helping more people to benefit from palliative care

Palliative care supports people affected by serious or advanced illnesses to control symptoms, improve quality of life and help people live well despite their illness.

It is needed by over 600,000 people in the UK each year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, with funding from the MRC, Professor Irene Higginson and her King's College London team studied how palliative care services supported people during the COVID pandemic. In their 'CovPall' study, they found that palliative care developed 'frugal innovations' to care for more people. Services controlled symptoms such as breathlessness, pain and agitation, reducing distress, trained other doctors and nurses, but were often overlooked by policy makers and were poorly understood.

Funding from the Foundation will allow Professor Higginson and her colleagues to transform the understanding and integration of palliative care evidence, taking insights from the COVID-19 pandemic, so more people can benefit in a long-lasting way. They will develop and evaluate user-friendly resources targeted at both patients and members of the public, and senior leads in health and social care.

Untitled design 22 Chelsea Coakley, Professor Elona Toska, Dr Jane Kelly, Professor Lucie Cluver and Dr Janina Jochim

Reducing school dropouts in pregnant and parenting adolescents

Adolescent pregnancy and parenthood interfere with schooling and health for individuals across the world, but it can be particularly challenging for mothers in sub-Saharan Africa.

A research team from the University of Cape Town and University of Oxford (Professor Lucie Cluver, Chelsea Coakley, Dr Janina Jochim, Dr Jane Kelly and Professor Elona Toska), studied over 1,000 adolescent mothers living in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and identified educational, socioeconomic, and service markers of school dropout.

They found that adolescent mothers were more likely to drop out of school early if they performed poorly in school prior to pregnancy, left school during pregnancy, lacked access to childcare support, had poor relationships with their caregiver, or were affected by food insecurity or long distance to school.

Using this funding, the team will share recommendations and a training toolkit with South Africa’s Department of Basic Education, and they will improve school healthcare and support services for pregnant and new mothers.

Professor Jane Goudge (1) Professor Jane Goudge

Better supervision for community health workers

In the South African healthcare system, community health workers provide healthcare-related activities in communities but often have limited training and insufficient skills to perform their tasks.

Professor Goudge from the University of the Witwatersrand and her team investigated the influence of a nurse mentor (an experienced professional nurse) within South Africa's national community health worker programme. They found that, as a result of the nurse mentor, the teams increased the number of households they were able to care for, and the range of services they provided.

Using their Changing Policy and Practice Award, the team will host collaborative workshops for community health workers and nurse mentors to share learnings from the study and design dissemination materials. They plan to use animated videos to illustrate key learning points, in addition to creating policy briefs and a website.

Find out more about our biannual Changing Policy and Practice Awards