1st July 2018 marks the 5th anniversary of the creation of the Nuffield Department of Population Health. There are currently over 500 staff in the department making it one of the largest in the University’s Medical Science Division.
Since the DPhil and MSc programmes launched in October 2013 competition for places has been fierce. 119 students have enrolled on the MSc in Global Health Science and Epidemiology, and 75 have started DPhil projects. In October 2015 the department gained the Athena SWAN Silver Award in recognition of our commitment to advancement of gender equality.
Our large studies and meta analyses address important issues in global health and the results have influenced policy in the UK and other countries. A snap shot of just some of the department’s work highlights the scope, scale and topicality of our research:
- A major review of the efficacy and safety of statins in The Lancet in September 2016 warned that the benefits of statin therapy have been repeatedly underestimated, and the harms exaggerated, due to misinterpretation of the evidence. Rory Collins said "Our review shows that the numbers of people who avoid heart attacks and strokes by taking statin therapy are very much larger than the numbers who have side-effects with it."
- In November 2016 the Mexican government designated diabetes a Public Health Emergency, reinforcing its 2013 National Strategy for Obesity and Diabetes. A joint study by NDPH and Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) found that at least a third of all deaths between the ages of 35-74 in Mexico City are due to diabetes. Co-author Professor Pablo Kuri-Morales, Undersecretary for Prevention at the Mexican Health Ministry, said “Obesity and diabetes are the biggest causes of death in Mexico. Prevention is better than treatment, but this study shows that people with diabetes need much better medical management” and co-author Jonathan Emberson said "The risks for people with diabetes can be greatly reduced by inexpensive drugs to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol."
- The 2016 Chief Medical Officer’s annual report, ‘Generation Genome’ published in July 2017 examined how genomics can improve health and prevent ill-health. The chapters exploring the economics of sequencing and ethics and the social contract for genomics in the NHS were co-authored by Sarah Wordsworth and Mike Parker respectively.
- Millions of people take fish oil supplements and the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week and that people with a history of heart disease take omega-3 fatty acids supplements. However, an analysis in JAMA Cardiology in February 2018 found that supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are ineffective for prevention of heart disease. Robert Clarke, senior author of the study said “The results of this meta-analysis of large studies provide no support for current recommendations to use fish oil supplements to prevent heart attacks and strokes.”
- In May this year, Pete Scarborough was invited to appear as a witness at the Health and Social Care Committee discussion of the government’s strategy to tackle childhood obesity. He was asked to talk specifically about the national and international evidence around sugar drink taxation, and also about the progress made to date with government’s Childhood Obesity Plan.
- The 2018 BMJ research paper of the year award was won by the BUMPES trial conducted by The Epidural and Position Trial Collaborative Group. NPEU staff were involved in the design, conduct and statistical and economic analysis and the Chief Investigator, Professor Peter Brocklehurst, was at the NPEU when the trial was designed.
The department has expanded physically to accommodate our growing team, and the Big Data Institute was formally opened in May 2017. This joint initiative between NDPH and the Nuffield Department of Medicine is an interdisciplinary research centre focusing on the analysis of large complex data for research into the causes, prevention and treatment of disease.
NDPH has achieved a lot in our first five years and continues to go from strength to strength.