to tackle heart disease, cancer, diabetes and mental illness
NUI Galway is spearheading Ireland’s involvement in a new network focussed on preventative science. The Science for Prevention Academic Network (SPAN) is a new network to advance scientific expertise and help prevent non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and mental illness.
“Non-communicable diseases are the most significant burden to society, and are often preventable, yet only a small proportion of national health budgets are spent on combating them. There’s a real mis-match here,” explains Dr Michal Molcho from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway who is leading Ireland’s involvement in the network. “In terms of dealing with these non-communicable diseases, most of our health budget is spent treating them yet what they spend on prevention can be as little as three or four per cent.”
SPAN will enable an international group of prevention scientists based across Europe to work together. In total, 32 universities and institutions will be involved in the project led by Oxford Brookes University, and funded initially by £500,000 from the European Commission.
Heart disease and cancer are caused by four main risk behaviours: smoking, excessive drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise. SPAN will help prevent these diseases in people before they manifest serious symptoms as they grow older.
Dr Michal Molcho added: “The future of preventative science, research and education will be given a tremendous boost by the launch of this international network of experts. We will build a strong scientific base in this important field and build collaboration which has not existed across Europe in this area until now. We aim to build science in this area, attract more young scientists to the field and make sure that the latest research is shared across Europe.”
The initial funding will allow the experts conduct an audit of the preventative science sector across the continent, improve education and training, build networks and run workshops with researchers, in particular young researchers.
The Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway is a World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborative Centre for Health Promotion Research, linking directly with WHO world Headquarters in Geneva.