Major grants from UK's National Institute for Health Research to improve health worldwide

Researchers from The George Institute for Global Health have been awarded funds from UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to address the health challenge of stroke care in India and tackle salt consumption in China.

AU$11 million has been secured for a new Action on Salt China (ASC) unit that will develop and implement a national salt reduction program in China. Salt is a major contributor to high blood pressure, which affects around 226 million Chinese people.

Professor Puhong Zhang, Associate Director of The George Institute, China, and the co-PI of ASC unit said: “We are delighted with the award which has the potential to develop a comprehensive salt reduction strategy, deliver a shared research agenda with the existing salt reduction stakeholders in China, and together lead to truly significant impact, prevent hundreds of thousands of stroke and heart disease per year in China. 

“We also hope that ASC Unit is successful and will establish a model of salt reduction for other countries."

The aim is to reduce salt intake by 15 per cent by 2021 and by 30 per cent by 2025 by developing strategies to reduce the amount of salt used in both processed foods and in home cooking.

The ASC program is a collaboration between Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and The George Institute, China, and will expand work with health authorities including Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), Chinese Centre for Health Education (CCHE) and China National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA). The revelant divisions/institutes of China CDC has been involved as the key members of the Unit, including Division of Health and NCD Control and Community Health (NCD Division), National Centre for Chronic and Noncommunicable Disease Control and Prevention (NCD Cenre) and National Institute for Nutrition and Health (NINH).

The funds will enable The George Institute, China, to expand its salt reduction work including its evidence-based app, KnowSalt, which is helping families to estimate their salt intake. Another app - FoodSwitch China - is enabling consumers to select healthier food. An education program, in collaboration with CASH UK, called School-EduSalt is working with schools, their pupils and their families and is also showing promising results.

A further $3.2 million has been assigned to a multi-professional research team to improve stroke care including The George Institute’s Professor Maree Hackett, Dr Pallab Maulik, TGI India, and Professor Richard Lindley, also of the Sydney Medical School. Led by the University of Central Lancashire the NIHR Global Research Group is tasked with building on existing stroke unit care, implementing and evaluating best practice stroke treatment.  The project will run for three years.

Professor Hackett, who holds roles at both The George Institute and The University of Central Lancashire, welcomed the funds. “This research is vitally important given the rising number of people with stroke in India. There are only 50 dedicated stroke units across the whole country. A country the size of India should have around 3,500 dedicated stroke units. Funding for stroke treatment is extremely limited in India and it’s essential we try and find cost effective was of providing high quality care to patients.

“This is research that will not only help developing countries, but will inform the implementation of best practice globally.”

“This study should help capacity development in management of stroke in India with specific focus on strategies that impact better health outcomes for people suffering from stroke. A key component would be to increase the skills of Indians frontline workers in stroke care,” added Dr Maulik, of The George Institute, India.

As part of this project, researchers will work with existing stroke units at CMC, Ludhiana; AIIMS, New Delhi and SCTIMST Trivandrum. They will look to determine the most effective processes for stroke assessment, care, monitoring and therapy.

The George Institute is also involved in the NIHR Global Research Group on Nepal Injury Research which was awarded $3.3 million. Professor Rebecca Ivers is Chair of the International Advisory Committee in the development and implementation of the project. Researchers will work with the community, health organisations and the Government to reduce Nepal’s high rates of unintentional injury by generating evidence to inform policies and change practice. Priority areas include road injuries, home injuries and the first response to trauma.

The funds were awarded after an open research competition led by the NIHR at The Department of Health. In all 33 research units and groups received more than $200 million.

Following the success of the competition a second round of applications has been launched funded by $67 million from the Department of Health Official Developmental Assistance budget. The aim of the research is to improve the health of patients and public in low and middle-income countries.

UK Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “The UK will continue to be at the forefront of health knowledge, and it is only right that we support other nations as they improve care for patients and public.”