£1.9 million funding supports research on drivers of health disparities and infection risk across England

Dr Rosalind Eggo, an Associate Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), has been awarded over £1.9 million funding to lead research into drivers of health disparities and associated infectious disease burden across England.

The funding will be received through the award of a UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship (FLF).  

Health disparities are preventable differences in health outcomes that may be based on factors such as income, ethnicity, education, age, gender, or disability.

The research will boost understanding of how infections and chronic diseases are distributed across different groups in England and will investigate which factors may be associated with an increased infection risk and development into chronic disease, such as low access to healthcare or health differences seen across ethnic groups.

The project will analyse electronic health records data recorded for over 20 million people across England using the OpenSAFELY research platform. Patient advisors will be recruited alongside the researchers to share their experiences and participate in the study.

Transmission models will also be developed as part of the research, to evaluate which interventions may reduce the health disparities identified, such as changes to vaccination programmes or improved access to treatment.

Dr Eggo, who is also the co-Director of the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID) at LSHTM, said:

“COVID-19 really showed how unequal infectious diseases are in the UK, and that we need to better understand why these differences occur, not just for Covid-19 but for lots of infections.

"There are many reasons why some groups are more likely to catch infections compared to others, for example, because they may have more social contacts because of their job or behavior.

“What’s concerning, and which forms the basis of my research, are the differences seen geographically in infections across different groups and how this can affect their health in the long-term.

“We need to determine why differences in health outcomes exist, the role that transmission of infectious diseases play in creating and sustaining them, and how difficult they are to solve.  

“Through identifying health disparities across England and addressing any contributing factors, we can develop real-world interventions that improve health for all.

Dr Eggo is one of 75 Future Leaders Fellows included in the UKRI’s December 2023 announcement, which awarded funds to projects tackling major global issues.

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, who announced the awards last week, said:  

UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with long-term support and training, giving them the freedom to explore adventurous new ideas, and to build dynamic careers that break down the boundaries between sectors and disciplines.  

“The fellows announced today illustrate how this scheme empowers talented researchers and innovators to build the diverse and connected research and innovation system we need to shorten the distance between discovery and prosperity across the UK.”  

Researchers will be able to apply for two additional upcoming rounds of fellowships, with deadlines expected in summer 2024 and 2025. A pre-call announcement for round 9 will be published by UKRI in the coming weeks.

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