£58.7 million is being invested to boost research to protect the British public from pressing health threats such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), air pollution and infectious diseases.
Since 2014, The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) investment into health protection research has shown how routine NHS data on consumption of antimicrobials can predict the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, and how pragmatic steps by local authorities can reduce the risk of mental health problems in communities affected by flooding.
These findings are used by Public Health England (PHE) to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.
The 14 NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) will fund high quality research that enhances the ability of PHE to use innovative techniques to protect the public’s health and minimise the health impact of emergencies.
The multidisciplinary centres of excellence, which launch in April and run for five years, will be partnerships between top universities and PHE.
The latest round of funding injects an additional £11.2 million into the current HPRUs scheme and includes a new unit specialising in genomics and enabling data.
Other topics that the units will specialise in include environmental change and health, hospital-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance, blood borne and sexually transmitted infections, and chemical and radiation threats and hazards.
All the HPRUs will have an additional focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing, and will play a pivotal role in maintaining and growing PHE’s scientific expertise and future workforce. The new units will also deliver responsive research to tackle emerging or potential public health emergencies.
In addition to the new units, the NIHR has granted a £1 million development award to the University of Leicester in partnership with PHE to investigate the effect of environmental exposures on health. This award sits alongside the HPRU in this area and will build capability and broaden the field.
Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “The latest round of NIHR’s Health Protection Research Units, which have previously played a pivotal role in responding to major events such as the Novichok and Ebola incidents, will continue to protect the health of the public and reduce inequalities – helping us all live healthier lives.”