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Public Health Research (PHR)

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The Public Health Research program focuses on two main themes. On the one hand, this concerns (work) participation in case of health problems, both regarding preventing people from dropping out and stimulating work reintegration. On the other hand, an important theme is prevention, in particular in relation to behavior of and developments in adolescents.

Programme Leaders   Mission and Description of the Programme  

Mission
The mission of the Public Health Research (PHR) program is to contribute to healthy ageing in the life course. It does this by research on the prediction and (early) detection of adverse health and disease, and on social participation in case of health problems. These research themes are part of the broader areas of prevention and societal participation, that is, of core domains of public health. They are also pivotal parts of the mission of the Research Institute SHARE and of the entire University Medical Center Groningen.

Mission
The mission of the Public Health Research (PHR) programme is to contribute to healthy aging over the life course. Research focuses on the prediction and (early) detection of deteriorating health and disease, and on social participation in case of health problems. The ultimate goal of the program is to contribute to healthy ageing by excellent research. Societal relevance and scientific excellence are core elements of the PHR program. The program performs research in close collaboration with practitioners. It does so to maximize the potential societal impact of its research, with as much scientific rigor as feasible and excellent researcher training.

Description of the programme
The PHR program conducts excellent research on the prediction and early detection of deteriorating health and disease, and on social participation in case of health problems. These research themes encompass prevention and societal participation, two core domains of public health. Research topics include community-based early identification of psychosocial problems in children; factors that influence work participation in the young disabled; and improvement of societal functioning and participation following knee replacement. The PHR team has a multidisciplinary composition, in which public health physicians, social scientists and health scientists cooperate with clinical groups, such as Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Oncology, Neurology and Rehabilitation, and with allied health professionals such as physical therapists. All program members maintain very close links with public and occupational health organizations, and other practice-based organizations that can implement the evidence obtained by the program. Examples concern organizations in the settings of work and health, such as occupational health services, and community health services such as municipal health services, well-child clinics, and health and social care for community-living elderly. PHR conducts research jointly with several international partners, in particular in Denmark, Central and Southern Europe, the USA, Australia and Canada.


Briefly, PHR is at the core of the UMCG’s mission of Healthy Aging. In fact, PHR contributes to the start of healthy aging, that is, to the prevention of disease, and to maintaining healthy aging by social participation if health deteriorates and health problems occur. Examples include the early detection and subsequent treatment of behavioral problems in children born preterm, and – in adults – the return to the work setting after a major depressive episode or cancer. In both cases, research outcomes can be easily translated to practice and policy. For example, research findings on the growth and development of children born preterm have been implemented in the national guidelines regarding preterm children in pediatrics and public health. Also, findings on social participation after breast cancer have been implemented in clinical and occupational guidelines.

In the future, PHR’s core themes will continue to be highly relevant globally, and will probably become even more important. There is increasing evidence regarding the impact of early life experiences on later life health outcomes, opening new routes for prevention. Moreover, the prevalence of chronic disease increases in the aging population, as the increase in life expectancy is faster than that of healthy life expectancy. This leads to a need for new approaches to increase social and work participation in case of health problems.

Relevance to Healthy Ageing  


Briefly, PHR is at the core of the UMCG’s mission of Healthy Aging. In fact, PHR contributes to the start of healthy aging, that is, to the prevention of disease, and to maintaining healthy aging by social participation if health deteriorates and health problems occur. Examples include the early detection and subsequent treatment of behavioral problems in children born preterm, and – in adults – the return to the work setting after a major depressive episode or cancer. In both cases, research outcomes can be easily translated to practice and policy. For example, research findings on the growth and development of children born preterm have been implemented in the national guidelines regarding preterm children in pediatrics and public health. Also, findings on social participation after breast cancer have been implemented in clinical and occupational guidelines.

In the future, PHR’s core themes will continue to be highly relevant globally, and will probably become even more important. There is increasing evidence regarding the impact of early life experiences on later life health outcomes, opening new routes for prevention. Moreover, the prevalence of chronic disease increases in the aging population, as the increase in life expectancy is faster than that of healthy life expectancy. This leads to a need for new approaches to increase social and work participation in case of health problems.

Two examples of PHR’s research projects   

The effectiveness of a family centred approach in Preventive Child Healthcare
Researcher: Margriet Hielkema

It is very important to identify psychosocial problems in early childhood to intervene in time and to improve the child's prognosis. This is done in the Dutch Preventive Child Healthcare (PCH), which uses a family centred approach to identify problems in early childhood. This approach is focussed on considering the development of the child and empowering parents, so they can enhance their child’s development. 
In a quasi-experimental study, we assess the effectiveness of the family centred approach, by comparing regions where this method is implemented to regions where this is not the case. We monitor the development of over 5500 infants from birth until 18 months. PCH-professionals assess the child’s development and parents fill in questionnaires. 


Functioning at work after cancer diagnosis
Researcher: Heleen Dorland-Pel

Thanks to improved diagnostic techniques and treatment, the number of cancer survivors is increasing, as a result of which more and more people go back to work after having been diagnosed with cancer. Several studies have researched to what extent employees return in the labour process and on what this depends. Little is known on how employees actually function at work after cancer.
The goal of this research is to gain more insight into people’s functioning at work after their cancer diagnosis. This is necessary to be able to provide good support, so that employees can function best at work, thus improving the quality of (work) life.
Employees who have returned to work after cancer diagnosis are followed for eighteen months, during which time they fill out a questionnaire every three months. An assessment is made of the factors that can contribute to a good functioning, the factors that may cause problems and the extent to which people can remain in a lasting work situation.

Principal Investigators / nr of PhD students