National Institute for Health and Care Research Health Protection Research Units: Where research meets real life

Image of a female scientist using a piece of equipment

All through British Science Week we are exploring this year’s concept of ‘connections’ by showcasing some of the critical partnerships that underpin UKHSA’s get the job done. In this site we look at our partnerships with academia through the National Institute for Wellness and Treatment Investigation (NIHR) Well being Defense Investigation Models (HPRUs).

NIHR HPRUs are partnerships between UKHSA and Universities, funded to support UKHSA in offering its health and fitness protection functions. The HPRUs create environments for world-class wellbeing safety research, in key places of precedence to UKHSA, with multi-disciplinary professional groups.   

There are at the moment 15 HPRUs masking 13 matter parts, throughout 9 top universities and other collaborators, and their collective mission is to undertake analysis and build the evidence base to tackle some of the most pressing general public wellbeing priorities.

These partnerships are integral to UKHSA’s aim of safeguarding the nation’s wellness through science that has genuine-entire world impression.

The knowledge and abilities of these scientific collaborations deliver crucial proof and understanding that can support notify general public wellness coverage and practice, from understanding overall health impacts of local weather alter to increasing how we avoid bacterial infections and take care of outbreaks. They also have a concentrate to practice potential researchers, contain patients and the public in their get the job done and mobilise know-how for affect.

Understanding into apply

Each HPRU is concentrated on a unique public wellbeing challenge that has been identified as a precedence for general public overall health and designated with undertaking analysis to inform general public overall health choices, policy and observe.

An example of this function is the revolutionary analysis into air air pollution being carried out at the Environmental Exposures and Health developmental HPRU, led by Leicester University’s Centre for Environmental Overall health and Sustainability functioning in partnership with UKHSA and the Wellness and Basic safety Govt.

This HPRU, funded by the NIHR in 2020 adhering to a aggressive system, is performing to comprehend how the planet about us can affect our overall health and how we can use these insights to make more healthy spaces for residing and working.

Below the management of Centre Director Prof. Anna Hansell and UKHSA’s co-Director Dr. Karen Exley, the Leicester HPRU has determined 5 essential research parts as portion of its strategy to deal with hazardous consequences of environmental exposures. These are:

  • Indoor air: on the lookout at exposure to chemical substances this kind of as unstable natural and organic compounds, moulds and gases, e.g., carbon monoxide in options this sort of as properties and hospitals.
  • Bioaerosols, which are very small particles that float in the air and can be breathed in, together with viruses, micro organism, moulds and pollen.
  • Metals in dusts and soils, some of which can be damaging to our wellbeing.
  • Consuming h2o, and how it can be retained cleanse and risk-free.
  • Noise pollution, which can be a lot more than just an annoyance and can in some scenarios have an affect on physical health. Sound from chaotic roads and air traffic have now been connected to bad health.

In the movie underneath: Dr. Pippa Douglas, Co-lead in Community and Group Involvement, Engagement and Participation clarifies how the teams perform study into all of these places.


The HPRU team consistently attends a cross-governing administration programme board and reports its conclusions again to UKHSA, NIHR and the Section of Well being and Social Treatment, exactly where it is utilised to assistance shape general public health apply and coverage.

For case in point, their investigation into air pollution has contributed to the fourth edition of the Well being Outcomes of Local weather Modify report, which is thanks for publication in Summertime 2023. Previous revealed in 2012, the HECC report provides a thorough assessment of threats to our wellness joined to impacts of climate adjust. They have in addition fed into a key report on sounds and the burden of illness, which is coming before long.

The crew is also carrying out critical operate with people today with serious bronchial asthma and searching at their exposures to chemicals in the house.

A single PhD university student inside of the HPRU is hunting precisely at amounts of fungi in the exterior air and how they impact on visits to the GP or to crisis departments for bronchial asthma. A further researcher is seeking at the rise in use of household 3D printers and their effects on indoor air, with a view to acquiring guidelines for protected use of these equipment.

A two-way course of action

Although the staff has a wealth of specialist involvement to draw on, its perform is in the end devoted to serving the community and as these types of, it frequently entails the public and consults other scientific authorities through a discussion board referred to as PIPET (Public Involvement Panel in Atmosphere and Engineering).

The HPRU also will work intently with area colleges on lesson plans and presents its operate at science fairs to give simple assistance and share results with a non-professional viewers. As very well as informing the general public on their findings, this style of engagement permits the crew to get useful feed-back on the usefulness of what they are accomplishing and what difficulties the public would like to see addressed.

To obtain out a lot more about our HPRUs and the ground-breaking operate they are endeavor, check out isles/investigate-nihr/guidance/investigate-models.htm#two