Research News

HRB invests €1.9 million to fund ten projects in its Applied Partnership Awards scheme

  • 13 November, 2023


Dr Gráinne O’Donoghue, Assistant Professor at UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, has received a Health Research Board (HRB) Applied Partnership Award (APA) to co-design an e-learning tool that will support destigmatisation of obesity among healthcare professionals.

Hers is one of ten winning projects selected by an international panel of experts, based on criteria that included the potential to translate and or implement findings into policy or practice. Co-funding partners will invest a further €400,000 towards the projects.

Chief Executive Officer of the HRB, Dr Mairead O’Driscoll said, “The APAs are designed to bring knowledge users and researchers together to develop research projects that address a specific need within the Irish health or social care system. They are a cornerstone in the HRB strategy to invest in research that delivers value for the health system, society, and the economy. These latest ten awards bring to 42 the total number of awards made under this scheme since it began in 2016.”

Dr Catherine Gill, Programme Manager for Targeted Programmes said, “This scheme is unique in Ireland and was considered by the independent review Panel to be genuinely innovative. The panel noted that the successful applications were well grounded in theory and evidence and all had well thought out integrated knowledge translation strategies.” 

“In the HRB we recognise that by involving knowledge users at all stages from research design, through conduct of the research, dissemination, implementation, there is a much greater chance that the projects will produce relevant findings and be rapidly implemented into policy and practice. A new round of the Applied Partnership Awards scheme is due to open for applications early in 2024, and the HRB are encouraging researchers and knowledge users to consider this opportunity to apply for funding to answer important research questions for health and social care in Ireland.”

Working closely with knowledge-users at HSE Health & Wellbeing and the Irish Association for the Study of Obesity, and with patient advocacy partner, the Irish Coalition of People Living with Obesity, Dr O’Donoghue will deliver a scientifically sound, patient-informed eLearning resource to address weight stigma among Health Care Professionals (HCPs).

Scientific research shows obesity is caused by genetics, psychological, environmental, social, and economic factors. Yet, there can still be a belief that people with obesity (PwO) are lazy, weak-willed, and less likely to follow a treatment plan than people without obesity, and this can cause ‘weight bias’ and discrimination. Numerous studies have shown that this stigmatisation results in poorer treatment outcomes and that these poorer outcomes are related to experiencing stigma more so than obesity itself. The Irish Model of Care for Obesity and Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines endorse scientifically sound, effective, caring and destigmatising treatment for PwO. However, obesity training in Ireland is limited and there is a need to develop accessible educational resources to improve HCPs obesity knowledge and reduce weight bias.

Dr O'Donoghue's studies will gather scientific evidence around healthcare weight bias and potential strategies to address it, in order to produce recommendations. This will inform the co-design of a new e-Learning resource, which will be tested with HCPs working in Community healthcare to explore effectiveness, usability, and acceptability. The developed resource will be shared with knowledge-user partners to host on their virtual learning platform, HSeland. 

A full list of the 10 successful Applied Partnership Awards (APAs) and further information can be found on the HRB website.