A collaboration to transform public health has been forged between the University of Cambridge and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health. The collaboration builds on the two universities’ complementary strengths in areas such as biostatistics, epidemiology, obesity, non-communicable diseases, ageing, health behaviour and global health. Four pilot projects are ongoing since 2012, funded by contributions from both University partners, together with a recent donation from Dennis and Mireille Gillings.
Reducing dementia risk factors in later life (Professor Carol Brayne of the University of Cambridge and Professor Peggye Dilworth-Anderson of the University of North Carolina)
Building on the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), evidence reviews and large datasets, this project has two general aims:
- To further our understanding of the complex relationship between cognitive health and culturally sensitive risk and protective factors, such as ethnicity, urban versus rural settings, quality and intensity of social networks, participation.
- To develop a framework for developing interventions to maintain and improve cognitive health, tailored to diverse cultural groups.
The team are now completing a wide scoping literature review, exploring available datasets and planning to roll out the CBPR approach in Fenland to establish community perceptions of need and identify effective health and well-being strategies that are meaningful to older people.
Mobile data collection on marketing and regulatory compliance of tobacco, alcohol and food retailers (Professor Theresa Marteau of the University of Cambridge and Professor Kurt Ribisl of the University of North Carolina)
This project aims to evaluate how consumers respond to alternative point of sale (POS) information (e.g., price and alcohol content). POS marketing for tobacco and alcohol products was very high in Wake County. By contrast, in London, POS marketing for tobacco was very low while alcohol marketing was more common.
The team discovered these marked differences reflect dramatic differences in tobacco regulations between the two countries. Similarly, the relatively high rates of POS marketing for alcohol in both countries again reflect the absence of such regulation in both countries.
The prevalence of POS marketing of tobacco and alcohol reflect the regulations governing them suggesting that regulation might be an effective way of reducing POS marketing and in turn, youth drinking and smoking.
“We are very excited by our findings: although our study is modest, it is, to our knowledge, the first direct comparison of USA and UK on point of sale marketing of tobacco and alcohol products, revealing some stark contrasts. This is not a project that would have happened without our UNC/ Cambridge initiative,”
– Professor Theresa Marteau, Behaviour and Health Research Unit.
Information to inform obesity policy (Professor John Danesh of the University of Cambridge and Professor June Stevens of the University of North Carolina)
This project aims to inform US and UK obesity policies by investigating clinical and public health guidelines that address obesity. The work involves a new method of breaking behavioural intervention down into a taxonomy of “Behaviour Change Therapies”. This allows comparisons of different interventions by breaking interventions down into commonly named component parts, allowing the investigators to study a multi-component intervention.
This field has the potential to change intervention development from “theory-driven” to “BCT-driven” and to produce
more effective obesity prevention and treatment interventions.
Advancing longitudinal and missing data methodology for “big data” research in health (Professor Michael Kosorok of the University of North Carolina and Professor Vern Farewell of the University of Cambridge)
This project will aim to offer clear guidance on the choice of models for zero-inflated count data arising in health research by comparing published methods by UNC and Cambridge researchers for the meta-analysis of individual patient data to provide advice on the analyses of such data.
The hope is that this will have an impact on methodology for Big Data for Health Research internationally, and therefore improve population-based research internationally and enable more meaningful harvesting of information from the many existing and emerging large health data sets.