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National Institute for Health and Care Research Health Protection Research Units: Where research meets real life

National Institute for Health and Care Research Health Protection Research Units: Where research meets real life

Image of a female scientist using a piece of equipment

All through British Science Week we are checking out this year’s theme of ‘connections’ by showcasing some of the critical partnerships that underpin UKHSA’s work. In this blog site we glance at our partnerships with academia via the Nationwide Institute for Well being and Treatment Investigate (NIHR) Health Protection Exploration Units (HPRUs).

NIHR HPRUs are partnerships between UKHSA and Universities, funded to aid UKHSA in offering its health and fitness protection capabilities. The HPRUs build environments for environment-course wellbeing security exploration, in important places of precedence to UKHSA, with multi-disciplinary specialist teams.   

There are presently 15 HPRUs covering 13 topic areas, across 9 main universities and other collaborators, and their collective mission is to undertake analysis and develop the evidence base to address some of the most urgent general public wellbeing priorities.

These partnerships are integral to UKHSA’s goal of defending the nation’s overall health by way of science that has genuine-globe impact.

The knowledge and abilities of these scientific collaborations present critical evidence and information that can assistance tell general public health and fitness plan and practice, from comprehending health and fitness impacts of local weather improve to bettering how we prevent infections and take care of outbreaks. They also have a focus to prepare foreseeable future scientists, include clients and the general public in their work and mobilise knowledge for impression.

Information into practice

Every HPRU is concentrated on a individual community overall health problem that has been identified as a priority for general public well being and specified with enterprise exploration to advise general public health selections, coverage and follow.

An case in point of this do the job is the groundbreaking exploration into air air pollution being carried out at the Environmental Exposures and Wellness developmental HPRU, led by Leicester University’s Centre for Environmental Wellbeing and Sustainability operating in partnership with UKHSA and the Well being and Protection Govt.

This HPRU, funded by the NIHR in 2020 next a competitive process, is performing to understand how the earth all-around us can influence our wellbeing and how we can use these insights to develop much healthier areas for dwelling and doing the job.

Under the management of Centre Director Prof. Anna Hansell and UKHSA’s co-Director Dr. Karen Exley, the Leicester HPRU has determined 5 critical investigate areas as section of its program to tackle harmful consequences of environmental exposures. These are:

  • Indoor air: wanting at exposure to substances these types of as unstable natural compounds, moulds and gases, e.g., carbon monoxide in configurations these kinds of as residences and hospitals.
  • Bioaerosols, which are little particles that float in the air and can be breathed in, such as viruses, germs, moulds and pollen.
  • Metals in dusts and soils, some of which can be destructive to our health.
  • Ingesting drinking water, and how it can be held clean and safe.
  • Sound pollution, which can be much more than just an annoyance and can in some scenarios have an affect on actual physical overall health. Noise from active roads and air visitors have previously been linked to bad wellness.

In the online video under: Dr. Pippa Douglas, Co-direct in Public and Neighborhood Involvement, Engagement and Participation clarifies how the teams conduct exploration into all of these spots.


The HPRU team frequently attends a cross-govt programme board and stories its conclusions back again to UKHSA, NIHR and the Department of Well being and Social Treatment, wherever it is made use of to aid shape community overall health apply and plan.

For case in point, their study into air air pollution has contributed to the fourth edition of the Health Effects of Local weather Improve report, which is due for publication in Summer season 2023. Final posted in 2012, the HECC report offers a in depth analysis of threats to our well being connected to impacts of climate alter. They have on top of that fed into a important report on sounds and the load of disorder, which is coming before long.

The team is also carrying out essential do the job with people today with critical asthma and on the lookout at their exposures to chemicals in the home.

1 PhD pupil inside the HPRU is hunting particularly at amounts of fungi in the exterior air and how they affect on visits to the GP or to unexpected emergency departments for bronchial asthma. Another researcher is hunting at the rise in use of home 3D printers and their impact on indoor air, with a watch to acquiring tips for risk-free use of these products.

A two-way system

Even though the crew has a wealth of qualified involvement to draw upon, its function is in the long run committed to serving the public and as this sort of, it consistently will involve the community and consults other scientific professionals via a forum known as PIPET (Community Involvement Panel in Surroundings and Technological innovation).

The HPRU also will work intently with local colleges on lesson plans and offers its work at science fairs to give sensible guidance and share results with a non-pro viewers. As very well as informing the public on their results, this variety of engagement makes it possible for the workforce to get useful responses on the usefulness of what they are executing and what challenges the community would like to see tackled.

To obtain out much more about our HPRUs and the ground-breaking work they are endeavor, pay a visit to https://www.nihr.ac.uk/investigate-nihr/assist/research-units.htm#two