Qatar workshop harnesses the potential of nursing to address most pressing health challenges

A desert in Qatar.

Professor Karina Lovell (CLAHRC GM patient-centred care theme lead and Director of Research at The University of Manchester’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work) and Professor Richard Gray (Assistant Executive Director of Research and Professor of Health Services Research at Hamad Medical Corporation) are running a four day workshop in Qatar for UK and Qatari researchers. The workshop will focus on the physical health of people with serious mental illness and long-term conditions, including cardiovascular disease and common mental health problems (e.g. depression and anxiety). Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, smoking and work stress are major risk factors for these illnesses that can be changed and require effective and acceptable interventions.

Mental health and cardiovascular disease are major health problems and are priority areas for research in both the UK and Qatar. For example, a 2013 study reported that two out of three heart attacks in Qatar occur in patients under the age of 55. This is a dramatically different statistical pattern to other developed countries such as the USA and the UK. In another recent study, 70% of Qatari nationals were found to be obese. A 2013 survey by the Qatar Supreme Council of Health (SCH) reported that most Qatari adults were overweight, inactive and at vastly increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

People with severe and enduring mental illness have been reported to have a reduced life expectancy of up to 25 years compared to the general population. This is largely due to physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, high smoking prevalence and medication induced weight gain which in return can lead to metabolic disorders.

Meeting the mental health needs of a population where there is considerable stigma represents a significant challenge to population health. In England, a recent Department of Health report, No Health Without Mental Health, emphasised the need not only for more effective treatments for mental illness but for a greater emphasis on mental health promotion. As in Qatar, cardiovascular disease is also a research priority in the UK. More than 75,000 people die each year from heart disease, more than 25,000 are under the age of 75 and treating these patients costs the NHS more than £2 billion annually. There is also a very important link between mental illness and cardiovascular disease.

Resourced through a British Council grant, the objective of the Qatar-based workshop is to bring together a multidisciplinary cohort of 30 early career researchers from both Manchester and Qatar (including a number of the CLAHRC GM team) to develop programmes of research focused on transforming the nursing workforce to improve population health. The workshop has four themes:

  1. Evidence-based interventions with a focus on behaviour change
  2. Implementation science: translating evidence into practice settings
  3. Improving patient care through innovation
  4. Evidence-based delivery methods for educating and training the workforce.

The central theme of the four-day workshop is to address the mind-body dualism which exists between physical and mental healthcare (as in CLAHRC GM’s mental and physical health programme of work). A number of research projects addressing the workshop theme will emerge from the process as potentially fundable. Workshop participants linked to these groups will need support and mentorship from the facilitators to translate fledging ideas into externally funded, robust bids. CLAHRC GM researchers (Dr Peter Coventry and Dr Penny Bee) will offer mentorship to the UK researchers.

Professors Lovell and Gray plan to use a range of novel facilitation techniques to engage participants from two parts of the world with different cultural traditions and believe this will result in a number of different points of view being explored. Professor Lovell says:

“We hope that the workshop will encourage participants to think differently about how to address physical and mental health and to develop externally funded bids to investigate interventions that benefit the health of the population in both the UK and Qatar”.