International projects in preventative and mental health funded by NIHR

9 July 2018
Smokeless tobacco

One of the new reseach groups, ASTRA, aims to reduce the harm caused by smokeless tobacco.

Grants totalling almost £4m have been awarded to two international research projects in South Asia led by academics at Hull York Medical School and the University of York. The two research projects, ASTRA and IMPACT, are to receive around £2m each from the National Institute for Health Research.

ASTRA is a new, international research programme aimed at reducing the harm caused by smokeless tobacco (ST) use in South Asia. It will be led by Kamran Siddiqi, Professor in Public Health who holds a joint appointment with Hull York Medical School and the University of York.


Smokeless tobacco products - such as chewing tobacco - are particularly popular in South Asia and many assume that they are less harmful than cigarettes. In fact, ST is highly addictive and causes cancers of the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus, as well as cardiovascular disease and serious problems if used during pregnancy.

Professor Siddiqi said: "We aim to gather evidence about how the policies recommended by the World Health Organisation-Framework Convention Tobacco Control are being developed and implemented for smokeless tobacco in South Asia. This part of the programme will focus on young people, because 90 per cent of ST users start their habit during adolescence."

He added that the group will also develop and evaluate interventions, such as behavioural support or medicines, to help adult ST users to quit and take part in training research teams in South Asia.

"We also aim to build capacity, by training research teams at our partner institutions to conduct high quality applied health research in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India,” he said. “We will use this capacity to support wider tobacco control efforts in the South Asia region."


The second programme, IMPACT (Improving Outcomes in Mental and Physical Comorbidity and Developing Research Capacity in South Asia), will be led by Professor Simon Gilbody, who holds a joint appointment with Hull York Medical School and the University of York, where he is also Director of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Group.

Dr Najma Siddiqi IMPACT Group co-director and Clinical Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry at Hull York Medical School and the University of York explained: "Our group will focus on people in South Asia with mental illness and target a growing cause of global disease burden - mental and physical multimorbidity - which affects some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in LMICs," she said.

"Our aim is to improve the physical health of people with severe mental illness and the mental health of people with chronic physical conditions."


Professor Una Macleod, Dean of Hull York Medical School, said: "These grants reflect the high quality work being undertaken by researchers at the Medical School and University of York but more than that they will enable us to continue to undertake research, and develop interventions which will make a difference to the lives of patients around the world."

The news comes as analysis of projects funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund showed research funding totalling more than £16m from these organisations to the University of York since 2014 (source: UKRI data, Research Professional analysis). This figure makes the University the 11th highest UK beneficiary for this type of funding between 2014 and 2018.

Professor Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of York said: "The development of new and existing global multidisciplinary research partnerships that can benefit from GCRF and Newton funding has been a major strategic drive at York and we are delighted to see this success, expanding our international networks with key partners around the world."