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.
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.