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The academics celebrated at an event in Reed Hall.

Experts given £4m to tackle world’s most pressing health problems

Historians, literary scholars, social scientists and medical experts will work together to tackle some of the world’s most pressing public health issues as part of a new £4m research centre at the University of Exeter.

Projects will focus on maintaining health in later life, preventing obesity and mental illness in children, exploring the impact of social isolation on health, understanding and preventing burnout in health professionals, and tackling antimicrobial resistance.

The new Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health will open next year and will lead to the creation of around 20 new academic posts in the city over the next five years.

It is hoped that the results of the research carried out in the Centre will improve health and well-being, and lead to a greater understanding of how health is influenced by the social and cultural environments that we live in. Insights could lead to improvements in health and social care policies, as well as medical practice.

Professor Mark Jackson, who will be the new Centre’s Director, said: “We are facing many urgent health and environmental challenges – including an aging population, the rising burden of mental illness, health inequalities, antimicrobial resistance, and rising levels of obesity-related diseases. Although science and medicine are crucial, they are unable to solve all of these problems. We need to take new approaches to promoting the health of the public and use insights from the humanities and social sciences, alongside the biomedical and clinical sciences. We hope that this research will help people to live healthier lives.”

Academics in the Centre will work with local, national and international partners, such as libraries, schools, heritage and creative industries, and global health organisations to promote public understanding of pressing health issues.

University of Exeter Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor Steve Smith said: “This Centre will establish Exeter as a world-leading institution for research into the cultural and environmental contexts of health and play a part in developing innovative approaches to addressing the complex health challenges facing global populations.”

University of Exeter academics leading research in the centre also include Professors Anne Barlow, Manuela Barreto, Linda Clare, Michael Depledge, Lora Fleming, Steve Hinchliffe, Laura Salisbury and Katrina Wyatt.

Wellcome’s Director Dr Jeremy Farrar said: “Wellcome Centres play a special role in the global research ecosystem. By creating places where researchers can flourish we can catalyse world-leading research and translation, and amplify its influence and impact.

“At Wellcome we believe in long term support for discovery-driven science, and Wellcome Centres are an outstanding environment for researchers to further our understanding of fundamental biology, accelerate translation to clinical practice, and explore the social and cultural context of medicine."

Date: 19 December 2016

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