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Professor Paul Kingston, Dr Andi Mabhala and Professor Paul Manning.

This is the first grant that the University has received from the UKPRP. The institution will work with a group of multidisciplinary leading academics in public health, law, economics, business, and environment from universities around the world including Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Exeter, University of Sussex, University of Sydney, Newcastle University and the University of Liverpool.

Led by Principal Investigator Professor Paul Kingston and Co-Investigators Dr Andi Mabhala and Professor Paul Manning, PETRA (Prevention of non-communicable disease using trade agreements) brings together the systems of public health and public policy to establish a new model of trade research. This network aims to explore the relationships between trade and investment agreements and NCDs by focussing mainly on tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed foods, to determine how trade could improve health.

The PETRA network will be particularly key during Brexit. When new trade and investment agreements are established: the team will play a role in advising on the implications of any changes on the health of the public, such as food stuffs and medicines, which were previously negotiated for the UK on behalf of the European Union.

The grant is part of the United Kingdom Prevention Research Programme (UKPRP), with funding for a number of research programmes across the country.

In its first ever funding round, the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) is investing £25 million into understanding and influencing the social economic and environmental factors that affect our health.

The funding has been earmarked for eight projects tackling the bigger picture factors behind the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - illnesses that can’t be passed from person to person - such as heart disease, obesity, poor mental health, cancer and diabetes. These projects aim to create practical changes that reduce the burden of these diseases on our health and social care systems and enable people to live longer, healthier lives.

Many aspects of the world around us influence health, from the communities in which we live, to the design of our cities and transport systems, the quality of our housing, education and employment. There is strong evidence to show that wider factors such as these, often called ‘upstream determinants’, can have a great influence on how healthy our lives will be.

PETRA will establish itself as a Centre of Excellence and action relating to trade that has an impact on the health and wellbeing of the public. It will develop a community of interest on trade and health by building and strengthening links at national and international levels between trade and the academic disciplines of law, public health sciences, economics, public policy, environmental sciences, sustainable development and prosperity, the third sector and Government users, to improve the public’s health and prevent NCDs.

Members of the PETRA network, includes such leading figures in the field of public health as Franco Sassi, Professor of International Health Policy and Economics and Director, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Innovation (CHEPI) at Imperial College London; Alan Winters, Professor of Economics, Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory, University of Sussex;  Paul Lincoln OBE, Visiting Professor of Public Health and Policy, University of Chester; Amandine Garde, Professor of Law and Director of the Law and Non-Communicable Diseases Unit at the University of Liverpool;  Professor David Hunter, Newcastle University; Professor David Pencheon, University of Cambridge; Professor Richard Smith, Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter and Marie-Anne Thow University of Sydney, Australia, this network will connect with and advise parliamentary committees on the process of utilising trade to impact health.

The initial grant is £306,000 over three years, with the opportunity to apply for more funding later.

Professor Paul Kingston said: “We feel extremely proud that this esteemed group of academics and the UKPRP has chosen to work with us at the University of Chester. It is an exciting time for our research team and we hope it leads to major improvements in health for our population.”

Dr Andi Mabhala said: “The PETRA project places the University of Chester on a national and international stage in a very positive way.”

Professor Dame Sally Macintyre, Chair of the UKPRP Scientific Advisory Board and Expert Review Group Panel said: “These newly funded, well-designed projects will help to lift the lid on the social, economic and environmental factors affecting our health.

“By investing in these interdisciplinary teams and drawing on a wide range of knowledge and expertise, UKPRP is supporting work that will have real-life benefits for both policy makers and the wider public alike.

“Non-communicable diseases place a huge burden on us all and we hope that this investment will help to provide practical and tangible solutions that will positively impact people’s lives and health.”

The Medical Research Council (MRC) administers the initiative on behalf of the UKPRP funding partners. The UKPRP partners are:

  • UKRI Research Councils:  Medical Research Council (MRC); Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Charities: British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Wellcome; The Health Foundation
  • Government: Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office; Health and Care Research Wales; National Institute of Health Research (NIHR); Public Health Agency (NI).
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