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Innovation award for schools health network

1 June 2018

Apple on book in a calssroom

A partnership which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of school students in Wales has been recognised with an award for innovation.

The School Health Research Network (SHRN) has brought together social science researchers and public health experts to generate and translate research with secondary school learners across Wales into policy and practice.

Led by Professor Simon Murphy, School of Social Sciences, SHRN is a partnership between Cardiff University, Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and Cancer Research UK.

It has picked up the Innovation in Healthcare Award at this year’s Cardiff University Innovation and Impact Awards.

Innovation in Healthcare Building a schools health research network with Public Health Wales.

The largest network of its kind in the world, SHRN has grown from 69 schools in 2013 to 212 today. It collects data twice a year from more than 100,000 students across Wales aged 11 to 18 years.

The statistics are fed back to stakeholders at all levels (including schools, local authorities, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales) to shape policy both locally and across Wales.

Schools that join the Network receive an individualised Student Health and Wellbeing Report every two years providing data on their students’ key emotional and physical well-being with national data for comparison.

Professor Murphy said: “We are delighted to win the Innovation in Healthcare Award. Secondary school is a critical time for young people’s health and their future development...”

“Schools are in a strong position to improve young people’s health and now evidence can be used to inform their actions in Wales.”

Professor Simon Murphy Professor in Social Interventions and Health, Director DECIPHer and Lead for the Schools Health Research Network

Data from SHRN’s 2015 survey has been used extensively by Welsh Government, including a National Assembly briefing on e-cigarettes. It has also helped policy-makers to assess the progress of the 2016-18 substance misuse strategy, 'Working Together to Reduce Harm,' and it informed the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.

Dr Julie Bishop, Director of Health Improvement, Public Health Wales, said: “The Schools Health Research Network is a unique and flexible resource for Wales. It has a crucial role to play in shaping policies that affect the lives of secondary school students in Wales. The Network collects data by gender and year group with national averages for comparison and covers an invaluable range of topics, from healthy eating and physical activity, mental and emotional health and wellbeing, smoking and alcohol use, sex and relationships, and healthy futures for young people.”

In five years, SHRN has also generated 30 research projects to inform school actions, with a total grant value of over £8.4m, including 11 PhD studentships.

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The University’s Innovation and Impact Awards 2018 highlight the benefits of partnerships between academics and external organisations.