University of Leicester experts set to launch global health research project in Nepal

A £10 million project led by the Public Health Foundation of India and working in collaboration with experts from the University of Leicester to improve healthcare in the subcontinent has taken a step forward with a launch planned in Nepal next month.

The funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) will allow the University of Leicester and the Public Health Foundation of India, based in Delhi, to collaborate with the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Jodhpur, Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY), Delhi, and Kathmandu Medical College (KMC), Kathmandu, to establish the NIHR Global Health Research Centre for Multiple Long-Term Conditions.

The five-year project to improve the care outcomes of people living with multiple long-term health conditions or multimorbidity was kick-started in India in December 2022.

The launch in Nepal will mark the beginning of the first stage of the research implementation where the researchers will review existing evidence, generate new data as required and talk to people living with these conditions to identify the best care approach for people with multimorbidity. The launch will also kickstart the student recruitment efforts through a week-long research facilitation workshop to identify PhD student candidates.

In addition, using the concepts of ‘co-design and community engagement/involvement’ they will conduct studies to assess what type of integrated, technology-enabled, patient-centred, high impact, equitable health system intervention designs could most benefit individuals with two or more long-term conditions.

In the long-term, the university will work with the UK, Indian and Nepal governments to improve the health outcomes of those with multimorbidity, as well as create a self-sustaining international Centre for improving management of multiple long-term conditions and disseminate outputs globally.

The NIHR’s Global Health Research Centres provide funding to support research-driven partnerships between institutions in ow and middle income countries (LMICs) and those in the UK. The funding is for the direct and primary benefit of people in LMICs but also will have lessons for the UK and other high income countries.

As part of the project, 17 places on master’s degrees, 19 on PhDs and 14 post-doctoral placements will be available in Leicester, Birmingham or Brunel, covering applied health research, medical statistics, quality and safety in healthcare, health data science and diabetes.

In addition, University of Leicester staff supported by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands including members of the Real World Evidence Unit and the Centre for Ethnic Health Research with colleagues from India will deliver short courses to approximately 400 participants. These will be across a range of topics, including epidemiology, biostatistics, behavioural sciences, implementation science, health economics, qualitative methods, health systems research, community and patient engagement, leadership and management as well as other areas depending on identified needs.

Speaking back in the Autumn Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “Making a global impact from world-class research at Leicester is key to our mission. Our cutting-edge work across clinical medicine research, which is ranked second in the UK, is making a real difference in tackling health problems not only locally, but across the world. This funding provides a fantastic opportunity to work alongside colleagues in India and Nepal, provide places for candidates on Master’s, PhD and post-doctoral programmes and deliver short courses in areas that make a real difference to people’s lives and their wellbeing.”

Professor Faith Osier, President of the International Union of Immunological Societies and Chair of the NIHR Global Health Research Centres Funding Committee, said: “These new Centres are truly ground-breaking – it’s the first time we’ve seen anything like this level of investment in non-communicable disease research in low and middle income countries. The potential for this truly equitable partnership working between researchers in LMICs and in the UK is immense and we’re so excited to see the advances that the next five years will bring.”

Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE, Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and the Real World Evidence Unit and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, and Co -Lead of the award said: “It is an honour to be awarded this international funding as it allows us to make a difference globally. Research into this area is crucial as people in India are living longer with long-term conditions so it is vital to provide them with the right care, at the right time. To achieve this, healthcare workers need to be trained to deliver high-quality care which is of good value and based on evidence.”

Professor Prabhakaran Dorairaj, the Lead of the proposed NIHR Centre and Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the Public Health Foundation of India, spoke about the significance of the investment: “We are very excited in winning this centre funding. This collaboration will help us in furthering our decade-old work on task shifting and using frugal digital technologies to redesign health systems for improving the health of Indians. Given the burgeoning chronic disease burden and multimorbidity, the research and capacity building to be undertaken by the proposed centre is timely and will have far reaching implications for India, Nepal and other LMICs facing similar health challenges.”

NIHR ARC East Midlands funds vital work to tackle the region’s health and care priorities by speeding up the adoption of research onto the frontline of health and social care. The organisation puts in place evidence-based innovations which seek to drive up standards of care and save time and money. 

NIHR ARC East Midlands is hosted by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and works in collaboration with the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network. It has bases at the University of Leicester and the University of Nottingham.