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Charities join forces to fund research into cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimers

Author: Mary Ellen Breen
11 November 2015

Four Irish health charities have joined forces in a unique call for research proposals to identify ways to reduce the risk of cancer, dementia, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Collectively cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia affect as many as 500,000 people in Ireland every year. 
 
Now, for the first time ever, the Irish Cancer Society, Diabetes Ireland, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the Irish Heart Foundation, have come together to support a research initiative aimed at identifying real measures to reduce the risk of these diseases.
 
The leading health charities, all members of the Medical Research Charities Group (MRCG), are seeking to meaningfully reduce the risk of these chronic conditions in Ireland by funding a research initiative focusing specifically on risk factors common to all four disease groups. 
 
The charity partners are in search of proposals that will focus on known common risk factors, such as tobacco use, poor diet, and physical inactivity, and which will look at how these risk factors could be tackled though behavioural and lifestyle changes. 
 
The collaboration reflects the shared commitment of all four charities to address the issue of risk reduction for chronic conditions at a national level. 
 
Commenting on this innovative call, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, Dr Robert O’Connor said, “We have known for some time that the major lifestyle factors that increase our risk of cancer are also those that increase our chances of getting these other chronic diseases. In coming together in this call, we recognise that we need to work together to try to have the greatest possible positive effect on the long term health of our communities.”
 
The Irish Heart Foundation’s Policy and Research Manager, Cliona Loughnane said: “Our charities are looking for a research project which will directly target health inequalities because we know that chronic conditions disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities in Ireland. In the Irish Heart Foundation, we are acutely aware that coronary heart disease is almost 2.5 times more prevalent and stroke 2.2 times more prevalent in the most deprived areas of the country compared to the least deprived. Our charities want to work together to eliminate health inequalities between different groups so that all members of our society can live longer and healthier lives.”
 
Dr Anna Clarke, Health Promotion and Research Manager with Diabetes Ireland, said “the synergy generated by these four charities working together captures the urgent need to address the common risk factors for chronic conditions. We look forward to funding a research project that will improve the health of all our communities”. 
 
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland CEO, Colette Kelleher, said, "This is a fantastic collaboration which we are proud to be involved in. Any research that has the potential to reduce the impact of dementia by lowering the numbers who develop it or slowing its onset is hugely welcome. We are learning more and more about the modifiable risks for dementia, such as, smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, and a sedentary lifestyle, but what we urgently need to now look at now is how we can target these risk factors to reduce numbers, giving people not only longer lives but healthier ones too. The potential of research combined with focused policy action and public health interventions to address dementia could be remarkable.”
 
The charity partners are joining forces under a funding initiative funded by the Medical Research Charities Group (MRCG) and Health Research Board (HRB). Under this call funding of up to €285,000 will be provided for a period of up to three years.
 
Both the HRB and MRCG commended the health charities for coming together to fund a research initiative in the field of risk reduction. 
Chief Executive of the Health Research Board, Graham Love, commented, “This combined approach, focused on prevention, could yield significant dividends for a range of national health policies and practices. I would like to commend the four charities for their foresight and I’ll be very interested to see the results.”
 
Chairperson of the MRCG, Philip Watt, said, “The MRCG is delighted to see four of its members collaborating on this joint funding scheme call. This is the first time that four charities have partnered on the joint funding scheme and we believe it is a positive step forward which can only be of benefit to health research in Ireland. By partnering on this prevention call, the charities and researchers can combine their knowledge and expertise which will provide new learnings for all involved.”

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