CHAD developing links with potential Japanese partners, Dr Peter Kevern (Associate Director and lead for Healthy Living) recently presented on the work of CHAD at a Symposium on ‘Healthy and Active Ageing’ hosted by the London office of the Japan Agency for Medical research and Development (AMED) in April. AMED is the Japanese equivalent of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and is actively seeking collaborations with research partners in the UK.
A variety of participants presented on a range of initiatives from national research and development collaborations with private health providers to trials and evaluations of local initiatives to promote wellbeing and reduce health inequalities among older people in both countries.
Two examples stood out as sharing a ‘CHAD philosophy’ for tackling health inequalities in old age and perhaps providing a basis for future collaboration:
Dr Akira Sugenoya, Mayor of Matsumoto City presented on the range of initiatives which his administration has deployed and evaluated to address the needs of poorer elderly residents. The city has a similar post-industrial history and demographic to the Potteries, and shares a similar approach to the challenges, with a range of small projects promoting wellbeing in targeted ways. These included offering prizes to bank customers who undertake regular health checks; and the use of karaoke clubs to promote sociability and reduce isolation. Dr Akira himself has a background in health research, and in passing referred to several innovative ways in which the City evaluates its interventions in collaboration with local researchers that may be applicable to the Potteries context.
John Craig, Chief Executive of Care City. Care City is a CIC which runs an innovation centre in a poor part of East London, aiming to pilot new health technologies and (more importantly) new pathways to embed use of those technologies in the UK’s health systems (see their video here). He emphasised the need for close partnership with local authorities, but also the importance of entrepreneurial approaches to work across sectors in creating age‐friendly environments and communities. Examples shown included a mobile ECG offering rapid diagnosis of heart conditions to visitors to local pharmacies.
In discussions throughout the day, a number of recurring themes united delegates from the UK and Japan. In particular, a number of us struggled with the divide between ‘high level’ academic research and the need for ‘quick and dirty’ research evaluations on the ground. Funding, prestige and academic attention goes to national, long-term research: this has the potential to produce results of national or international importance and broad generalisability, but are resource-intensive and can take a number of years to complete.
By contrast, many wellbeing interventions are small-scale and tailored around local needs: evaluation needs to be undertaken on a similarly small scale and on a short time scale in order to inform commissioning decisions that are responsive to local budgetary and demographic needs. This raised the question for a few attendees about how to reconcile the needs for sufficiently timely and economically-viable research which nevertheless produced valid and defensible results.
A small group plan to take this discussion forward over the coming months.