Universities team up to get you and your friends involved in health research

31 May 2017

Public input into health research will become the norm. Image: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

A new initiative that will see Irish universities partner to help foster public and patient involvement in health research has been revealed.

Public and Patient Involvement (PPI). That’s the goal of a new €1.75m project to help researchers involve the public from the very start of the health research process.

NUI Galway (NUIG), University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University will each receive €350,000 in funding for the initiative.

Future Human

Health research

Money matters

The money will be used to “actively develop capacity” for PPI in research, in a bid to move research proposals out of stuffy labs and institutions, and into the view of the general public.

“No one has more to gain from health research than patients who are already using health services, or the public who are all potential users,” said Dr Máiread O Driscoll, interim chief executive at the Health Research Board (HRB), which awarded the funding.

“It makes sense to involve the public and patients at the outset to ensure that their life experience informs the approach taken when designing a research proposal.”

O’Driscoll said a complementary project recently saw members of the public review research proposals.

“We now need to marry these two initiatives to ensure researchers are equipped to adopt the public feedback into their proposals, and help them understand the ways they could engage the public before they put pen to paper to write a proposal.”

Much to do

The five universities are now tasked with supporting researchers to get the word out, through forums, online support and drop-in centres. They will also collaborate with researchers to show how PPI can benefit a study and how appropriate PPI contributors can be found.

Engaging with patient representative groups (such as charities) will be encouraged, to develop approaches that would be aligned to patients and the research community.

At NUIG, the initiative will be led by Sean Dinneen, professor of diabetic medicine at the university’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

Dinneen claims his newly created team will “provide support and training to members of the public and researchers, to enable them to embrace PPI methods in their work and thereby improve the quality and impact of the health research undertaken” at NUIG.

Peter Brown, interim director of the Irish Research Council, added: “The Irish Research Council strongly promotes engagement as part of the research process, and we are delighted to join with the HRB and co-fund this innovative initiative.”

“Involving patients and the public in the research process will boost health research and its capacity to generate new solutions, processes and services to address the grand challenge that is health and wellbeing. Engaged research, such as reflected in PPI Ignite, truly is a win-win for all stakeholders.”

Public input into health research will become the norm. Image: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic