May 2014 saw the publication of the National Review of Asthma Deaths, a publication from the Royal College of Physicians reviewing deaths from asthma in the UK. A key finding of the report was that 46% of asthma deaths were considered avoidable, with elements of routine care often missing.
It also saw the launch of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research; a UK-wide virtual research centre bringing together leading researchers, people with asthma, healthcare professionals, NHS partners and other organisations with a focus on improving the lives of people with asthma.
Three years on, the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research is flourishing and making a clear impact improving the lives of people living with asthma. Led by Directors Professor Aziz Sheikh (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Chris Griffiths (Queen Mary University of London), the network extends to all home nations within the UK, bringing together world-leading asthma researchers.
Applied research investigates real-world settings. The Centre seeks direct improvements in how people are supported to manage their asthma and how treatments and interventions work in the clinical setting. It sits alongside the Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma which focuses on more lab-based work and understanding the biology of asthma. Together the two centres seek to realise Asthma UK’s aspirations to understand the causes of asthma, reduce asthma attacks, find new treatments for severe asthma, turn discoveries in the lab into new treatments and ultimately find a cure.
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The Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research was established to change fundamentally the way applied asthma research is conducted in the UK.
We actively encourage collaboration between research groups to pursue strategic, coordinated programmes of applied asthma research. Our research focuses on developing, testing and implementing interventions which have the capacity to achieve substantial, sustained reductions in asthma morbidity and mortality.
As well as supporting cutting-edge research, the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research is building infrastructure and establishing resources to improve asthma research in the long-term. Our UK Asthma Observatory provides a hub for asthma data; our active Patient Advisory Group ensures people with asthma remain at the centre of all we do; REACH, our database for research volunteers, seeks to streamline recruitment into asthma studies; our Methodology platform ensures our research is world-leading; and our Postgraduate Training platform supports and trains the next generation of applied asthma researchers.
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Supported by funders such as the National Institute for Health Research, several major programmes of research are underway across the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research.
The ARRISA-UK study is a randomised controlled trial of GP practice staff training and high risk patient identification to reduce the occurrence of severe asthma related events. It is currently recruiting primary care practices across the UK.
The My Asthma Story project has recently been using crowdsourcing techniques to find out what people living with asthma find helps them to manage their symptoms and prevent asthma attacks.
Our members are active across all aspects of the respiratory health field. Many of our members are involved in preparing clinical guidelines so the knowledge gained in research has a direct route in to affecting healthcare practice. You can watch Professor Hilary Pinnock talk about the new BTS/SIGN guidelines for asthma in a video prepared by BTS/SIGN.
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Autumn 2017 will see the Centre’s first cohort of PhD students graduate. The studentships supported by the Centre span a diverse range of topics relevant to people with asthma. These include improving self-management in ethnic groups, improving the management of severe asthma in children, finding what the costs of asthma are to patients and their families and assessing whether an exercise intervention is useful for children with asthma. We look forward to congratulating the eight students who are currently in their final year as they complete their studies and to welcoming our new students joining the Centre this year.
The Centre website is regularly updated with news, publications by members of the Centre, and information on current projects and on-going work. Members of the public who are affected by asthma or have an interest in asthma research can register to join our Patient Advisory Group, and anyone interested in hearing our latest news can sign up to join our newsletter.
It has been a busy few years for applied asthma research in the UK. As we work hard to improve the lives of people affected by asthma across the UK, addressing the key findings of the National Review of Asthma Deaths, we will work together towards realising Asthma UK’s aspirations to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma.
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