UCL Populations & Lifelong Health Domain Symposium
By news editor, on 22 May 2018
By Alice Welch, Fahreen Walji
The importance of a transdisciplinary approach to population health research has never been more important, stressed UCL’s Provost Professor Michael Arthur, as he welcomed attendees at the UCL Populations & Lifelong Health Domain Symposium.
Opening the session were two distinct accounts illustrating the vulnerabilities of migrant populations. Professor Sammonds described the natural and anthropogenic hazards facing migrants within two contexts and emphasised the need for “political will to solve the crisis”. He was followed by Professor Abubakar, who challenged the pervasive myths that exist about migrants and the societal implications of this. We then heard from Rachel Burns, an early career researcher, who highlighted the significant mortality advantage in migrants compared to the host population. Presentations from two other early career researchers followed; Dr Jeannie Collins presented her research on the increased risk of AIDS/death in migrant children on antiretroviral therapy, and Jean Stafford highlighted the substantial burden of psychosis in old age, particularly among females and migrant groups.
Professor Miranda Wolpert engaged the audience with the finding that only 17% of people between ages 5 and 38 have had no mental health problems, and suggested we need to “rethink” our approach to mental health care. Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore went on to discuss the significance of social influence on risk perception in adolescence, after informing the room that adolescent mice drink more alcohol when with other mice. This was followed by talks from early career researchers; Dawid Gondek presented his research on the levels of psychological distress across the life course, Aradhna Kaushal explored longitudinal associations between religious attendance and mental health, and Dr Lydia Poole showed that depressive symptoms are associated with a greater incidence of chronic illness burden.
In this session we heard from representatives from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the National Institute for Health Research, each of whom first provided an informative overview of their organisation, covering topics from funding schemes to research boards. A subsequent question and answer session saw attendees ask pertinent questions including the role of peer reviewers and panel members in decisions about cross-disciplinary funding, and the process of grant applications.
Professor Nick Tyler discussed the need for transdisciplinary input to create cities that fit around its inhabitants, with particular reference to individuals with dementia. Next saw Professor Arne Akbar speak on the exciting development of a drug that can block excessive inflammation and enhance immunity in older people, and the potential implications for population health. Next, Emmanouil Bagkeris opened a series of presentations from early career researchers with a description of his research into HIV and fracture risk. Dr Sarah-Naomi James discussed the role of childhood disadvantage in the association between mid-life diabetes and older age cognition, and Dr Camille Lassale presented her work on inflammation as a risk factor for age-related hearing impairment.
Vivienne Parry OBE: In Conversation
This part of the day provided an opportunity to hear Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, Professor Dame Hazel Genn and Professor Dame Anne Johnson discuss issues critical to the future health of the public, including the sustainability of the NHS, whole system prevention, and the role of legislation in prevention. The session ended with the speakers providing their “big hope” for population health –Professor Dame Johnson’s wish for health and wellbeing to be placed more at the heart of research, Professor Dame Genn’s desire for more transdisciplinary research and Professor Sir Grant’s hope for greater integration across the NHS provide much food for thought.
Next came prizes recognising the work of talented UCL researchers, presented by Professor David Price.
Second prize in the UCL Excellence in Health Research Prize went to Dr Sara Ahmadi-Abhari for her Trends in Incidence and Prevalence of Dementia paper. Dr Briony Hudson won first prize for her Challenges to discussing palliative care with people experiencing homelessness: a qualitative study paper, which focused on the importance of having a dialogue with people who are homeless and finding person-centered ways to provide support.
The award of the Early Career Researcher Prize began with recognising the impressive array of contributions to the poster exhibition that had been held throughout the day. Poster exhibitors Wentian Lu and Dr Andrea Smith received commendations for their research. The poster prize went to Dr Gemma Lewis for her work on paternal and adolescent depression, and Dr Camille Lassalle won the oral presentation prize for her talk earlier in the day.
The Early Careers Network (ECN)
We then heard from Dr Daniel Kelberman, co-chair of the UCL Populations & Lifelong Health Domain ECN. Dr Kelberman provided a brief overview of the ECN and the range of information available on its website, and encouraged researchers to sign up to the mailing list.
This Domain Symposium helped all of us to better understand the value of multiple disciplines working together to tackle the current and future health challenges. The drinks reception allowed researchers to continue discussing the challenges that lie ahead long into the evening.