Friday, 24 January 2014

National expert in long term care for older people shares knowledge atworkshop in Mumbai

The Indo-UK Group during the meeting in Mumbai
Health care provision for older people in long term care: issues of access, regulation and best practice” was the title of a presentation that Professor Claire Goodman gave at The Indo-UK 'Ageing' Workshop held in Mumbai, India.

Claire Goodman, Professor of Health Care Research at the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), was invited by the British Deputy High Commission in India to share her research at the workshop on ageing and long term care.

Her research focuses on how the National Health Service works with social care and independent third sector providers to support older people. She is currently leading nationally-funded studies on end of life care for older people with dementia living in long term care and on effective health care delivery to older people in care homes.

Professor Goodman is a founder member of the Enabling Research in Care Homes (ENRICH) DeNDRoN initiative that arose in response to the Ministerial Advisory Group on Dementia Research. This network of nearly 600 research-ready care homes registered to the ENRICH programme has so far provided approximately 13,000 residents access to research. It is supported by an online resource that provides researchers, care home staff, residents and family members with information about how to participate in and review research in care homes.

The Indo-UK ‘Ageing’ Workshop was set up to explore and strengthen Indo-UK collaborative partnerships between academia, experts, governmental and non-governmental departments in the area of ‘Ageing’.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Controlling obesity beyond the school gate?

Guest Blog: Dr Wendy Wills, Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care

Image courtesy of
Stuart Miles at
Almost a third of children and young people in Scotland are thought to be overweight or obese.  The Scottish Government is committed to addressing this issue and has published an Obesity Route Map Action Plan.  The Action Plan includes an aim to investigate young people’s access to food and drink, particularly energy-dense foods and drinks, sold in the vicinity of schools.  Such foods and drinks are a potential contributor to less healthy eating habits, which often underpin overweight and obesity.

Food served in Scottish schools is regulated under the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008 but there is currently no additional regulation on the food and drink available ‘beyond the school gate’.  Around two thirds of secondary school children buy food or drink from places outside school at lunchtime – often this is confectionery and sugar-containing soft drinks.

Young people attending schools in more deprived areas are more likely to walk or cycle past places selling food and drink than those walking or cycling in more affluent areas; young people from poorer areas are also more likely to purchase food and drink outside school at lunchtime.  There is clearly a complex relationship between the food environment, socio-economic deprivation and what young people at secondary school might buy and consume.

New research, funded by the Food Standards Agency in Scotland, will investigate in more detail how the food environment and deprivation around schools influences the food and drink bought by teenagers at lunchtime.  This could help shape policy about food retailing around schools and also, importantly, help retailers and catering outlets to take responsibility for the food and drink that they market to young people in Scotland.

See related entries on the research blog Children in Scotland are still eating too much sugar and Children’s “healthy” foods marketed at children are higher in fat, sugar and salt .

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Sources of nutrition information used by health professionals

Patients often want to know whether they can make simple lifestyle changes to improve their health. The urge to find out about ‘eating healthily’ has meant that health professionals are sometimes asked for nutrition information. With a relative shortage of referrals to dietitians, however, other primary health care professionals are often seen as a source of information.

Sources of nutrition misinformation are common. This extends to sources aimed at both health professionals and the general public.  Consequently, patients are at risk of receiving nutrition misinformation which could have no benefit to their health, or, worse, that might see their overall health deteriorate. Constantly evolving nutrition information combined with a lack of up-to-date training in relation to nutrition for health professionals further increases the likelihood of patients receiving nutrition misinformation.

Many health care professionals regard nutrition information as important and that it is part of their role to give such information to patients.  Despite this, there are still undergraduate programmes for health professionals which exclude nutrition training. When it is provided, the training is often limited because of the packed syllabus.

These findings came from a scoping study conducted by an A-level student on a summer placement, organised by the Nuffield Foundation. Nuffield organises around a hundred placements at universities and private sector companies in the East of England each year, to promote interest in ‘STEM’ subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Fareea Ahmed was supervised in the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research on Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC). For more information about the placement and the research, please contact Dr Wendy Wills (

Monday, 13 January 2014

Putting more babies into each pram!

Image courtesy of Dorel UK Ltd
We’re not talking about multiple births here but about increasing the useful life of products – particularly expensive ones!

Most baby and nursery equipment have two things in common – they are expensive to buy and they are used only for a limited period of time!  For example, a baby pram can cost anything between £400 to over £1000 – and it’s only used until a baby can walk.

The pram then either needs to be disposed of or stored for the next new addition to the family.  Whilst some of the pram components, such as fabrics, do not last long, other components like the frame do.  And it’s this frame which often gets thrown away into landfill when the pram or pushchair has completed its useful life with that family. But, with some professional refurbishing and tlc, this unwanted frame could made serviceable to another family.

An innovative project, led by Maurizio Catulli from the Hertfordshire Business School’s GRIE (Group for Research on Innovation and Enterprise), is researching new ways of providing pushchairs to new parents. This ground-breaking scheme featured as an exemplar in HM Government’s Waste Prevention Programme published in December 2013.

The research project, Re-engineering Business for Sustainability (REBUS), is funded by Defra.  It aims to get more life out of products that we use – by exploring and developing ways to help people increase the useful life of products. Maurizio, along with colleagues from the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the School of Creative Arts, plus the NCT and, pram manufacturer, Dorel UK Ltd are working together to maximise the useful life of pushchairs.

The project explores the potential of a business model where the consumer purchases the use of the product rather than the product itself – that is they purchase access to the use of the pushchair rather than own the pushchair.  In practice, the new parent rents the pushchair which can be then exchanged or upgraded as the baby grows and needs change.  The used models are then thoroughly refurbished by the suppliers as new for the next customer.

There are environmental advantages connected with the resource recovery and reuse of the pushchairs, as well as social advantages - families only pay to use the product when they need it.  With a Baby & Nursery equipment scheme like this, new mums and dads will save money and space – and will have peace of mind knowing that the products are professionally refurbished and certified by the original manufacturers.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Water Efficiency Conference – call for research papers

Dr James Jenkins
Water Efficiency in Buildings Network is holding their 2nd annual conference in September which will be co-chaired by Dr James Jenkins from the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Life and Medical Sciences.

Water efficiency, together with climate change, is at the front of global concerns for industry and government. The Water Efficiency in Buildings Network aims to take an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems of unsustainable water consumption in the built environment.

The conference provides researchers and industry the opportunity to showcase the latest, cutting edge research and development relating to water efficiency across the water supply and demand spectrum.

Researchers and industry practitioners are invited to submit case studies and best practice solutions – abstract deadline 17 January 2014.

The Water Efficiency Conference (WatefCon) takes place 9-11 September 2014 in Brighton, UK.

Hertfordshire researcher wins top prize for poster at plant pathologymeeting

Xiaolei Jin with her poster and award certificate
Research into the development and maturation of strawberry powdery mildew to develop and refine a system to improve its control was the subject of this year’s winning poster at the Presidential meeting of the British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP), held at the end of December 2013.  Xiaolei Jin, a postgraduate researcher from the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Life and Medical Sciences, was delighted to be awarded the 2013 J Colhoun postgraduate poster award.

Strawberry powdery mildew, caused by Podoshaeria apahnis, affects the leaves, flowers and fruit of one of the world’s favourite fruit crops – the strawberry – reducing both the quality and quantity of the fruit. So very important to any strawberry lovers around the world!

Xiaolei’s research, under the supervision of Dr Avice Hall MBE, showed that the use of fungicide sprays in late autumn and early spring (which is outside the strawberry harvest season) were very efficient in reducing the disease and its impact on the crop during the main growing season.  This in turn means that fewer fungicide sprays are needed during the main growing season.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Help find hidden galaxies!

An example of a gravitational lens 
from the VICS82 infrared survey - 
co-led by Dr James Geach
As launched on last night’s BBC Star Gazing Live, the SpaceWarps 2 project needs your help to find galaxies so massive that they warp space and time.

Scientists on the project, including Dr James Geach from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research, need people to visually inspect astronomical images to look for a phenomenon known as “gravitational lensing”.

You don’t need to be a techy scientist to look at the images, you just need to look for and recognise patterns in the images of far off galaxies.  People have a remarkable ability to recognise patterns and can detect the unusual with very little training – unlike computers which are difficult to teach to recognise these patterns and can easily get confused by other galaxy images.

The task is to assess whether or not gravitational lensing is actually going on in each image. With a basic tutorial of what the distorted images of galaxies that have passed through a gravitational lens look like, survey participants can help discover new examples of this amazing phenomenon.

Over 40,000 images of distant galaxies from large telescopes based in Chile and Hawaii have been carefully selected that might act as gravitational lenses.  After the short tutorial, survey participants will be able to click and identify where they think a gravitational lensed feature is on an image.  With many people looking at the same images, the team can quickly build up a robust sample of candidate lenses that would otherwise take an individual an extremely long time to do.

Do you think that you can spot outer space being warped?  To join in this citizen science project, click here

Read more here from Dr James Geach on the Space Warps blog.