World-leading population health scientist awarded SFI funding to tackle chronic diseases

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Ed Gregg

Population health scientist, Professor Edward Gregg, Head of the School of Population Health, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, has been awarded €4.3 million in funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through its prestigious SFI Research Professorship Programme.

The award, which comes as a joint appointment with Imperial College London, will fund a new research centre at RCSI, Converge: Centre for Chronic Disease and Population Health Research. The Centre will transform the way that population-level data and research platforms are deployed in Ireland to make key decisions for the prevention and reduction of the burden of chronic diseases.

The research programme will target diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases, and links to HSE and Sláintecare action plans. The three key streams to the programme are: 

  1. Developing a novel data ecosystem and undertaking studies to prioritise the current, emerging and future health priorities in chronic disease and morbidity in Ireland and globally.
  2. Developing and using new population registries and integrated data sources to quantify the impact of care and disease prevention in the real world, taking both an Irish and global perspective.
  3. Developing models to prioritise intervention and risk assessment options for prevention of diabetes, chronic diseases, and multi-morbidity.

Paving the way

This research programme will unite diverse scientific disciplines to drive decisions about the most effective prevention, treatment and risk assessment approaches. 

Professor Gregg said: “This research programme will bring together new data and develop novel ways to measure health impact and determine what approaches work best to reduce the risk of diabetes and other chronic conditions. The global type 2 diabetes pandemic is having devastating effects on individuals, families, health systems and national economies. One-tenth of the world’s adults have diabetes. In Ireland, the number of people living with type 2 diabetes has almost doubled in the past 15 years, accounting for more than €550m per year in direct healthcare costs.

“We will establish new, smarter disease registries to determine what works best in the real world. This will help public health leaders to prioritise approaches that will change the future risk and damage caused by diabetes and other chronic conditions,” he added.

Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Philip Nolan, welcomed the announcement, saying: “The SFI Research Professorship Programme attracts world-leading researchers to Ireland, building our critical expertise and international reputation for excellence. I am delighted to congratulate and welcome Professor Gregg whose funding will support an additional 13 research positions. His group aims to develop the science and collaborations that will pave the way for innovative population registries for chronic diseases. Such work has valuable potential to improve health outcomes for patients and better inform policy.”

Professor Cathal Kelly, Vice-Chancellor, RCSI, said: “I am delighted to congratulate Professor Gregg for his success in being awarded this prestigious SFI funding. At RCSI, we are deeply committed to advancing population health research and education. As a university that is solely focussed on health sciences, we have a particular responsibility to play a role in addressing the complex health challenges facing the world and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of good health and well-being for all. I look forward to seeing the new Centre making an impact for patients in Ireland and globally.”

Cutting-edge research

The new centre will recruit a team of cutting-edge researchers, as well as doctoral scholars at the RCSI School of Population Health. Researchers at the centre will collaborate closely with other world-class institutions and researchers, including the World Health Organisation, Imperial College London, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Maynooth University, the University of Galway and the HSE.

Professor Gregg previously served as a professor and Chair in Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London and led a multi-disciplinary public health research unit for chronic diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has led and served in numerous health policy development roles for diabetes and chronic diseases for the World Health Organisation, Lancet Commission, US CDC and American Diabetes Association.

He has published more than 380 peer-reviewed articles and chapters and was awarded the ADA 2016 Kelly West Award for Excellence in Diabetes Epidemiology and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) 2015 Award for Epidemiology.

Multi-disciplinary initiatives

The RCSI School of Population Health integrates multiple scientific disciplines, including public health and epidemiology, data science, health psychology, healthcare outcomes and global surgery.

It drives multi-disciplinary initiatives in research, is developing educational programmes, and works with a diverse range of national and global partners to positively impact population health.