Identifying the need for action
Prevention research, aimed at addressing major risk factors that are implicated in the development of cancer and other chronic diseases, has a huge role to play in progressing medical research.
A 2002 strategic report by NCRI assessed the way funds were spent by NCRI Partners across the whole cancer portfolio, and found that less than 3% of their combined research funds were spent in the area of cancer prevention. NCRI examined prevention and risk spending in more detail in 2004, and confirmed the need for funders to work together to boost this part of the UK’s research efforts.
The National Prevention Research Initiative
The National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) was set up in 2004 by a subset of NCRI Partners (both government and charity) and other research funders working beyond cancer. NPRI provides funds to support more research on various health behaviours in relation to disease prevention. The Medical Research Council (MRC) manages the NPRI on behalf of the funding partners.
To date NPRI has issued four calls for research proposals. These have supported 74 projects focused on developing and testing mechanisms to encourage positive health behaviour such as eating a balanced diet, increasing physical activity, reducing smoking, and minimising alcohol consumption. Since 2005 more than £30m has been committed through the NPRI to funding cross-disciplinary research that develops or tests interventions to improve health and prevent cancer and other chronic diseases. The set up of the NPRI has leveraged additional funding for prevention research which now makes up 3.6% (£18.2m) of NCRI Partner spend in 2012, compared to 2.4% (£6.2m) in 2002.
Research calls have now closed and the MRC is evaluating the impact of this activity, in order to decide whether more funding of this kind is needed.