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University to host regional health body

Posted on 8 September 2003

The University of York has won a major bid to provide one of the Government's nine regional health centres - known as Public Health Observatories - which are designed to help improve the health of the population, particularly those who are worst off.

The Yorkshire region has some of the most difficult health challenges to tackle in the UK, and the successful bid comes as the University, together with the University of Hull, launches the Hull York Medical School (HYMS). HYMS will serve 1.4 million people, the largest population in England not currently covered by an undergraduate medical school.

The Observatories are being established in each of the NHS regions to provide a clearer picture of health and health inequalitites. Many health agencies need facts and figures on health and disease in the population, but these are not always available, or may be unreliable.

The University of York, together with the Strategic Health Authority for North and East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, will play host to the Yorkshire and Humber Public Health Observatory (YHPHO). The Observatory will be housed in the new Alcuin Research Centre at the University, next to the new Hull York Medical School. Its main tasks will be to

  • Monitor health and disease trends and highlighting areas for action
  • Identify gaps in health information
  • Advise on methods for health and health inequality impact assessments
  • Draw together information from different sources on new ways to improve health
  • Carry out projects to highlight particular health issues
  • Evaluate progress by local agencies in improving health and cutting inequality
  • Look ahead to give early warning of future public health problems

Professor Trevor Sheldon, Head of the University's Department of Health Sciences, and Ian Watt, Professor of Primary and Community Care, led York's bid to establish the Observatory at the University.

Professor Sheldon said: "We had a strong case for the Observatory because of York's large concentration of applied health and social researchers, strong environmental research, and the public health orientation of the new Hull York Medical School.

"We also had the full support of the local NHS, and good infrastructure resources. York is keen to strengthen a positive and collaborative approach with other Yorkshire universities, the NHS and other sectors with an interest in the wider public health.

"The news is particularly encouraging in the light of our new Masters programme in Population Health which is aimed at people in health care bodies, local authorities, and voluntary organisations, whose work has the potential to influence the health of local populations."

Professor Bill Gillespie, Dean of the newly-established Hull York Medical School (HYMS), added: "We anticipate a great deal of benefit in being able to work alongside each other. HYMS and the Observatory together signal great strength of health-related research in the region."

Paul Johnstone, Regional Director for Public Health in Yorkshire and the Humber said: "This is an important resource for the region, which has some of the greatest public health challenges in the country. The emphasis of the new observatory will be to support local action in partnership locally and with regional organisations and universities. I am really pleased that efforts behind the scenes by Government Office and with public health colleagues across the region, are paying off with this important announcement."

Notes to editors:

  • York competed against Leeds and Sheffield Universities in the bid to host the Observatory.
  • The Department of Health Sciences is a large multi-disciplinary department, offering a broad range of taught and research programmes in the health care field, including nursing. It aims to develop the role of scientific evidence in health and health care through high-quality research, teaching and other forms of dissemination. Teaching focuses on skills in a range of the broad 'health sciences' as well as in more specific clinical knowledge and skills relevant to nursing and other professionals working in health-related sectors.
  • The Department's York Trials Unit works with GPs and hospitals in randomised trials. The Centre for Evidence Based Nursing is also housed in the Department, one of an international network of centres for evidence based clinical practice.
  • The medical school curriculum provides an unusual variety of study, with rural and urban contrasts, a strong emphasis on community-based medicine, a focus on evidence-based treatments, and the teaching of communications and management skills.
  • HYMS aims to improve healthcare services in an area with significant health deprivation and is expected to boost the regional economy through developments in biomedical and health services research. It is also hoped that it will help recruit and retain high-quality clinical staff and create new jobs.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153