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UCC to Lead Major Study to Improve Support for Breastfeeding

A major University College Cork (UCC) study to improve support for breastfeeding as a public health issue has been awarded €2.5 million funding from the Health Research Board (HRB). The first-of-its-kind study will investigate and influence a cultural shift towards valuing breastfeeding as one of the most effective ways to ensure child and maternal health.

The study aims to elevate the importance of breastfeeding a public health issue and influence sustainable changes to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Led by Professor Patricia Leahy-Warren, Head of School of Nursing & Midwifery UCC, it will investigate the barriers – practical, societal and cultural – that prevent women from breastfeeding.

The study is one of three UCC projects awarded a combined €7.5 million funding under the Applied Programme Awards from the Health Research Board.

Dr Pauline Frizelle, Senior Lecturer, School of Clinical Therapies UCC, has received funding to investigate problems children experience with language and communication and Professor Deirdre Bennett, Professor in Medical Education and Head, Medical Education Unit UCC, has received funding for research exploring the skills healthcare professionals need to develop in relation to climate change and sustainability.

The Applied Programme Awards are designed to support high-quality, team-based applied research which will lead to a step change in practice and policy to deliver outcomes for the health system, population health, or for service users and carers.

Prof. Patricia Leahy-Warren, Head of School of Nursing & Midwifery, UCC, has received €2,445,580 for her project entitled ‘Maximise support for breastfeeding for sustainable population health and wellbeing: Integrated knowledge translation approach, MaxSBF’.

This interdisciplinary programme of research is the first of its kind in Ireland to prioritise breastfeeding as an important societal health need. Despite well-established evidence on the value of breastfeeding in enhancing the health and wellbeing of current and future generations, breastfeeding rates in Ireland are the lowest of OECD countries.

Professor Leahy-Warren said, “breastfeeding is not the sole responsibility of women, but society’s collective responsibility. We are delighted that the Health Research Board acknowledges the value of our research. It will enable our team to adopt a 3600 approach to shift the focus away from pressure on individual women and towards addressing government policy, legal protections, health systems, communities, and workplaces. It will also explore the social and cultural attitudes, familial support, health professional education and skilled breastfeeding support needed for women.”

The project aims to elevate the importance of breastfeeding as a key public health issue and influence sustainable population-level change to benefit the health and wellbeing of the nation. It has the potential to have wide-reaching impact not just across the island of Ireland but beyond, through sharing and translating knowledge on how to tackle a public health issue of global importance.

Dr Pauline Frizelle, Senior Lecturer, School of Clinical Therapies, UCC has received €2,493,765 for her project entitled ‘Maximising the benefits of intervention research to support language and communication in children’.

This programme of research aims to ensure that interventions to support children’s language and communication deliver maximum benefit. Ten percent of children have persisting problems with language and communication which significantly affect their education, relationships and wellbeing and this number rises to 40% in children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

While research shows that lots of treatments are effective, there are significant barriers preventing practitioners from using them in a way which brings the most benefit. Through a series of connected studies, this programme of research has taken an international approach in developing priorities and agreement to address these key barriers across seven countries.

Professor Deirdre Bennett, Professor in Medical Education and Head, Medical Education Unit, UCC, has received €2,475,908 for her project entitled ‘Educating Healthcare Professionals for Climate Change Resilient and Sustainable Healthcare Systems’.

Healthcare systems must respond urgently to the challenges of climate change and move towards more sustainable ways of delivering care. The researchers’ vision is that climate awareness and sustainability become integral in the everyday work of healthcare professionals, informing clinical decision-making, conversations with patients, and continual improvement of practice.

UCC researchers will identify exactly what skills healthcare professionals need to develop in relation to climate change and sustainability, examine the best methods for integrating these topics into professional development, and explore the unique impact of the Irish healthcare system as a context for learning. Their strategy involves developing, implementing, and evaluating educational programmes for healthcare students and professionals, fostering collaborative learning across different professions.

Congratulating the researchers, Professor Helen Whelton, Head of College of Medicine and Health, said, “these programmes exemplify the vast potential of the academic-service partnership fostered by an Academic Health Sciences System. Supported by the HRB Applied Programme Awards, they aim to benefit the health and welfare of patients and the public by applying new scientific knowledge, enhancing services and improving patient outcomes in the targeted communities.”

Professor John F. Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research and Innovation, said, “congratulations to our three researchers in the College of Medicine and Health that have received these significant HRB Applied Programme awards. These projects align to the UCC Futures thematic areas of Sustainability, Future Medicines and Children, and will address and enhance critical health care challenges in Ireland. I look forward to seeing these projects rapidly implemented into policy and practice in the Irish healthcare system.”

Source: University College Cork

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