From physical activity and nutrition to stopping smoking, sleep and socialisation, a new research centre has been set up by the University of East Anglia to investigate how we can live longer, healthier, and more satisfying lives.
The Norwich Institute of Healthy Ageing (NIHA) will see researchers collaborate on reducing the risk of a range of health issues from diabetes and dementia to heart disease and frailty.
They will focus on how behaviour changes – such as eating a better diet, exercising more or stopping smoking – can lead to better physical and mental health.
Institute director Prof Anne-Marie Minihane, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We are living longer than ever before, but we are not necessarily living healthier lives.
“The average person in the UK spends around 15-20 years living with a clinical diagnosis of a disease, such as type II diabetes or heart disease. We need to add life to years along with years to life.
“There are many changes that could improve people’s overall wellbeing, physical and mental health and reduce the risk of disease. We will focus on the benefits of health interventions such as stopping smoking, doing more exercise, or eating a more balanced diet.”
The new initiative will see more than 200 UEA researchers working collaboratively with the community, local government and the Quadram Institute and other Norwich Research Park partners across a range of projects to improve lives in the East of England.
Prof Minihane said: “We want to build on our wealth of world-class research in the fields of nutrition, physical activity, smoking cessation, sleep, social activity and medication adherence and lead the way in helping people make healthier lifestyle choices – to flourish and improve their physical and mental health.
“Importantly, we will prioritise, plan and co-produce the research with local communities and local government, commercial partners and policy makers – to ensure that our research translates into real change for better local and wider public health.”
At UEA, researchers from Norwich Medical School and the School of Health Sciences will work with colleagues from Norwich Business School, the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Computing Sciences – with support from UEA Health and Social Care Partners (UEAHSCP).
They will collaborate with NRP researchers – at the Quadram Institute, the Earlham Institute the John Innes Centre and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital – and work with the wider community, Public Health Norfolk, Norfolk County Council, and the new Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
At the Quadram Institute researchers undertake innovative research to ensure longevity is complemented with good health.
Prof Ian Charles, Director of the Quadram Institute said “As a population, we have seen life expectancy increase, but for many those extra years of life are spent in poor health. Across the NRP we have the strength and range of research to address this. The NIHA will drive this research effort forward into the community and deliver public health benefits for all.”
Prof Dylan Edwards, Dean of the Faculty of Health at UEA, said: “This is a cross-UEA, cross-NRP, community-academic research centre focused on the combined effect of different behaviours on public health and well-being. It will build on UEA’s world-class health research to develop and put into practice new ways for people to make changes to their health, which will be integrated with the wider health system for real change.”