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Maximising the impact of medical research

Last updated

08/06/21

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It can take an average of 17 years for scientific discoveries to translate into changes in policy and practice that directly benefit patients.

Our Changing Policy and Practice Awards are designed to help close this gap by maximising the broader impact of Medical Research Council (MRC) and Medical Research Foundation-funded research.

The awards provide researchers with up to £30,000 funding to ensure that research findings can go beyond the scientific press - taking the results directly to patients, practitioners and policy makers.

We’re delighted to announce new awards for three projects in South Asia and Africa, which are tackling health issues such as high blood pressure, asthma care, and access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Improving blood pressure control in rural South Asia

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High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (including heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure), which are the leading cause of death globally, with 18 million people losing their lives every year, disproportionality affecting those living in low- and middle- income countries.

Professor Tazeen Jafar from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore carried out a study testing the delivery of blood pressure interventions by community health workers in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They found that the intervention was more effective than routine care in rural communities, and it only cost $2 (US dollars) per person annually.

The Changing Policy and Practice Award will help Professor Jafar and her team to disseminate these findings to the general public, health professionals, policymakers, donor agencies, and health ministries. They will advocate for the inclusion of these new strategies to fight the rising rates of poorly controlled blood pressure in South Asia and other countries.

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Enhancing asthma care for children in Malawi

Asthma is an increasing problem in low- and middle-income countries, especially in rapidly growing urban areas. While health systems can deliver care for curable infectious diseases, such as malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhoea, they often lack the resources to effectively diagnose and treat long-term health problems.

Professor Kevin Mortimer from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and his team conducted a trial to evaluate an enhanced asthma care package for children in Malawi. Children receiving the enhanced care package had improved asthma outcomes after three months, including fewer symptoms and asthma attacks, reducing emergency healthcare attendance and school absence by 70 per cent.

Using the Changing Policy and Practice Award, Professor Mortimer and his team will share the trial results with local community leaders, healthcare staff and policy makers to help address these issues. They plan to increase understanding of asthma and inhaler treatment, through sessions delivered by Malawian facilitators. It is hoped these interventions will result in real improvements in care for asthmatic patients and their families in Malawi.

Enhancing access to contraceptive and abortion services in Ethiopia

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Access to contraceptive and abortion services can vary from country-to-country depending on laws, local knowledge, and service provision. Professor Ernestina Coast from the London School of Economics and Political Science has investigated how adolescent access to contraception and abortion-related care is perceived and experienced by adolescents in urban Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia.

They found that while abortion services are freely available for adolescents in Ethiopia, many experience delays at facilities. In Malawi, highly restrictive abortion laws combined with very limited service availability results in most adolescent abortions being unsafe. And in Zambia, despite longstanding legal grounds for abortion, there is little understanding of the law and limited availability of services.

With the award, Professor Coast will be able to launch a multi-country social media campaign using specially designed animations for adolescents, providing tailored information on abortion-related care. The researchers will also design a virtual short course that targets healthcare workers and students, engaging NGO and Ministry of Health officials in its rollout.

We're currently inviting new applications for our Changing Policy and Practice Award. Find out more on our website.

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