A major piece of research being led by academics at Teesside University is aiming to help people with a chronic lung disease improve their balance and fall less.
Dr Samantha Harrison from the University’s School of Health and Life Sciences has been awarded funding of more than £1.1million from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to look at ways in which rehabilitation techniques can be refined to help people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
The NIHR is the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care.
More than 1.2m people in the UK are diagnosed with COPD, which is often linked to smoking – and causes breathlessness, coughing and frequent chest infections. Individuals are also four times more likely to fall than healthy adults of the same age due to poor balance.
Working with NHS trusts across the Durham and Tees Valley Alliance, as well as academics from Newcastle, Northumbria and Manchester Metropolitan Universities, Dr Harrison will investigate the different factors contributing to an increased risk of falls and look at ways to mitigate them.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation is current practice for COPD. It involves exercise and disease education, but not balance training. Dr Harrison plans to develop personalised balance training, taking into account physical, psychological and social factors, and incorporate it into pulmonary rehabilitation for people with COPD.
Dr Harrison secured the funding as part of her NIHR Advanced Fellowship award. Advanced Fellowships are granted to carefully selected researchers who intend to carry out high-quality research that has clear potential to benefit patients and the public. The research began earlier this year and will run for almost six years.
Dr Harrison said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this grant which has the potential to make a huge impact on the long-term health of people with COPD.
“It is of particular importance in an area like Middlesbrough which has high levels of deprivation. Greater deprivation has been linked with a greater risk of falling.
“By the end of the research we hope to have a much greater understanding of what exactly increases falls risk in people with COPD and to have developed a balance training program to help reduce this risk.”
For more information on research at Teesside University visit www.tees.ac.uk/research.
Dr Samantha Harrison is also a member of the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration for the North East and North Cumbria.