Dr Joanna Brooks - University of Huddersfield
The influence of ‘significant others’ on illness perceptions and work participation in patients with persisting low back pain: a pilot study
Low back pain is a leading cause of disability and workplace absenteeism. The influence that ‘significant others’, such as a spouse or parent, have in a patient’s perception of their low back pain, recovery and ability to work in those with low back pain is unexplored. The outcome of this pilot study will be a methodology that can be applied to further studies to determine key obstacles that may impede recovery and work participation in patients with low back pain.
A small group of patients with low back pain will be enrolled into a pain management programme where they will be taught self-management skills to help face the daily challenges of living with the condition. Half of the patients recruited for the study will have ceased employment because of their back pain and half of those will not have had their ability to work impacted. Questionnaires and interviews will be conducted to explore each patient’s perception of their condition and the role their ‘significant other’ plays in that.
Back pain is extremely common - about four in five people are affected at some point in their lifetime. Anyone can get back pain at any age, but it is most common in people between the ages of 35 and 55. A better understanding of the psychosocial mechanisms of the condition, such as the role ‘significant others’ play in recovery, may help to inform future studies on prevention of disability, intervention programmes aimed at returning people to work and treatment plans.
Dr Vanessa Garcia Larsen - Imperial College London
The Chelsea asthma and fresh fruit intake in children (CHAFFINCH) trial: a pilot study
Some evidence suggests that the antioxidants found in fruit may help to reduce the inflammation of the airways that occurs in asthma. But no trials have assessed the effect that increasing the intake of fresh fruits, such as apples and bananas, has on asthma symptoms in children.
This is a pilot study to identify the most effective way to conduct a larger trial where the outcomes of increasing the consumption of fresh fruit will be measured against the severity of symptoms in children with mild to moderate persistent asthma.
Over a period of one month, 40 primary school children will be recruited to the pilot study to explore and identify the best strategies for recruiting the children, ascertaining the types of fruit they currently eat, delivering the fruit for the study and ensuring they eat the fruit. The findings from this pilot study will be used to inform the design of a larger trial.
Asthma is a common condition that causes difficulty with breathing. One in 11 children has asthma and it is the most common long-term medical condition. It is hoped that the results of this study will lead to a better understanding of the link between a healthy diet and asthma. If increasing fruit intake improves asthma symptoms, it could enable asthma medication to be reduced in children with asthma.
Dr Paul Hewson - University of Plymouth
Exploiting inexpensive computer processors to advance mental health epidemiology
‘Mental health’ includes a wide range of conditions and analysing the mental health burden on sub-sections of the population requires sophisticated tools. These smaller areas of the community, such as general practice areas, can vary hugely in terms of key predictors of health risk in, for example, age groups, prevalence of conditions and household make-up. Recent developments in information technology may now help researchers better predict the risk of various mental health conditions in smaller populations and, therefore, better address their needs. This study aims to extend existing computer algorithms to analyse archived mental health data and develop a methodology for future research.
A secondary analysis of the last five years of data generated by the Health Survey for England will be conducted. Algorithms will then be developed to examine a range of classifications of self reported mental health conditions, and the relationship between these conditions and social risk factors determined. The outcomes of this study will include a methodology, to be released as free software, for researchers who study population mental health.
‘Mental health’ is a general term for a group of conditions that affect the mind or brain. These conditions, which include bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and personality disorders, affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts. One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year and, according to some estimates, and for as many as one in 50, it will be serious.
By better understanding the mental health risk factors and the prevalence of specific conditions in sub-sections of the population, this research aims to eventually better serve the specific needs of that community.
Professor Ray Jones - University of Plymouth
Raising awareness of online therapies for depression: a pilot study
Web-based cognitive behavioural therapy (webCBT) is a recommended treatment for depression but its use is varied across Britain. This variation is unlikely to be linked to prevalence rates of depression. Raising awareness of the availability of webCBT could benefit many people with depression but it is not clear whether promoting the service directly to patients is more effective than through GP-centred methods. This study will explore the use of online methods to raise awareness of the therapy in preparation for subsequent studies comparing different approaches.
This study will assess the feasibility, cost and likely impact of three online approaches to encourage use of webCBT by those with depression. Twenty areas (covering approximately seven million people) have been purposely selected from 121 postcodes in Britain and randomly allocated to a combination of geographically restricted Google advertisements and advertisements on a local website. The number of people with depression logging on to the project website will be monitored. Recommendations will be made for a subsequent trial comparing online with other methods.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a short-term psychological treatment. It helps to challenge negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours. CBT is most commonly used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Depression is associated with suffering, suicide, workplace absenteeism, and impairment of social and family relationships. Only one in four of those with depression are getting treatment. Raising awareness of webCBT could help to reach those that are currently not accessing treatment.
Dr Stephen Preece - University of Salford
Can the Alexander Technique improve pain processing and reduce joint loading in patients with knee osteoarthritis?
Patients with knee osteoarthritis suffer from inflammation and pain in the knee. Previous studies have shown there is no link between perceived pain and the degree of joint wear, measured by X-ray. It is thought some people’s brains amplify the pain signals coming from their knee so they feel more pain, resulting in muscle tension and increased stress on the joint. This study will investigate the use of the Alexander Technique, which incorporates mindfulness training and improvements in muscle coordination, in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.
Fifteen people with knee osteoarthritis will receive 20 lessons in the Alexander Technique delivered over a 12 week period by qualified practitioners. Participants will be monitored for their response to pain and an analysis done on their joint loading and muscle coordination. Positive findings from this study may lead to two larger scale trials – one in using the Alexander Technique for people with back pain and another in determining exactly how the Alexander Technique changes pain processing.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting 8.5 million people in the UK. It develops gradually over time, causing joints to become stiff and painful. It can affect any joint but commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, feet and spine. A total of 62,150 primary knee replacements were performed in England and Wales in 2006/7. Ninety-seven percent were due to osteoarthritis and 57 percent were performed on women. Outcomes from this research could improve pain and function in people with knee osteoarthritis and reduce the number of knee replacements that result from the condition. The research may also lead to the Alexander Technique being used in the treatment of low back pain.
Dr Aman Sood - University of Bristol
Is there a risk of bladder cancer after metal on metal joint replacement surgery?
Previous designs of metal on metal implants used in hip replacements release metal, including cobalt and chromium, into the patient’s blood and urine. These implants are associated with an increase in bladder and kidney cancer 10 years or more after surgery. New implant designs release even more metal into the patient’s blood and urine. This study will investigate changes to the DNA in the bladder cells of patients with the implant through urine analysis.
A cohort of 72 patients with osteoarthritis who have had a resurfacing hip replacement and 20 patients with osteoarthritis but who have not received hip resurfacing implants will have urine and blood samples collected. These samples will be analysed for chromosomal changes in cells associated with bladder cancer. Cell samples will be collected from the patient’s cheek for use as a comparison.
Bladder cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells that line the bladder wall. In the UK, more than 10,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. The results of this study will be used to identify risk factors for, and may contribute to the early detection of, bladder cancer in patients with metal on metal resurfacing hip replacements. Bladder cancer is largely treatable if detected early.
Dr Nara Tagiyeva - University of Aberdeen
The ‘take home’ burden of workplace asthmagenic sensitisers: alpha-amylase exposure in bakers’ families
Previous research has shown that a parent’s job may increase their child’s risk of developing asthma symptoms through exposure to allergens brought home from the workplace. Flour dust and flour improvers used by bakers are allergens known to cause an occupational form of asthma in the UK. This study will establish whether skin or clothing contamination with flour from the workplace leads to contamination in the baker’s home.
A total of 30 bakers from 10 bakeries will be recruited to assess whether their post-shift skin and shoe contamination contains alpha-amylase, a type of protein found in baker’s flour. Their cars and homes will also be examined for traces of this protein. The findings of this study will inform a larger trial to assess whether the children of bakers are more likely to be exposed to the allergens found in flour in the home.
Asthma is a common condition that causes difficulty with breathing. One in 11 children has asthma and it is the most common long-term medical condition. Flour is the most common cause of occupational asthma in the UK. The outcomes of this study will lead to a better understanding of the transportation of allergens from the workplace into the home and may ultimately lead to the modification of workplace practices to reduce the incidence of asthma in children.