New director for SDHI

Wednesday 6 December 2006

A leading Professor of health care policy has been appointed as the new Director of a collaborative research centre that aims to improve the nation’s health.

Professor Huw Davies, a leading academic from the University of St Andrews’ School of Management, has been appointed Director of the Social Dimensions of Health Institute (SDHI). A collaborative venture between the Universities of St Andrews and Dundee, the Institute launched in 2003 with the aim of helping Scotland become a healthier nation by influencing public health policy.

By combining their complementary strengths across the clinical and the social sciences, the two Universities joined forces to create an Institute that brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines, uniquely addressing the link between health and a range of other contributing social factors. The Institute also works closely with the local NHS. Such work is desperately needed as Scotland currently has some of the worst health inequalities in Western Europe, with life expectancies being as much as 10 years shorter in poorer areas compared to the more affluent.

Calling upon over 50 experts in areas such as medicine, nursing, midwifery, social work, geography, economics, law, psychology, management, social anthropology and biology, the Institute views health as involving a broad range of factors – social, economic and psychological, as well as biomedical. The Institute seeks to enable the development of larger interdisciplinary research projects that would be unlikely to occur otherwise.

Professor Davies, a former Harkness Fellow in International Health Care Policy, has research interests in understanding the performance of health care organisations and on the use of research evidence to influence health care policy and practice.

He said, “I am greatly impressed by what SDHI has achieved in a relatively short time from modest levels of investment, and I am excited by the prospect of building on this success. There is so much research talent in diverse disciplines across both universities, and we have many opportunities to harness that talent to get a handle on the very challenging problems of health and healthcare, in Scotland and beyond. I am particularly keen to work in ways that enhance the chances of our research influencing policy and practice for the betterment of Scotland’s health.”

Under the leadership of Founding Director Professor Paul Boyle, SDHI has grown from a small core of five part-time staff to a vibrant grouping of around fifteen researchers managing over sixty projects with the support of a research manager and an administrative officer. This growth has been facilitated by many recent successes in securing competitive grant income from funding organisations including the Chief Scientist Office, the Economic and Social Research Council, the health departments in both Scotland and England, the Scottish Funding Council and major charities.

The appointment of Professor Davies as the new full-time Director of SDHI underlines the commitment of both Universities to this shared initiative. Sir Alan Langlands, Principal at the University of Dundee said, “I am delighted that Professor Huw Davies has accepted the post of Director. As an associate director of SDHI, Professor Davies has already made an important contribution to ensuring that SDHI provides highly relevant and applied expertise on health and health care issues. His appointment to this new full-time role will also cement the partnership between the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews in this vital area of research”.

Dr Brian Lang, Principal of the University of St Andrews added, “I am very happy to echo Sir Alan’s comments. Professor Davies’s acceptance of the post of Director of the Institute is most welcome, and comes at a time when the School of Management at the University of St Andrews continues to go from strength to strength in its mission to achieve excellence in international research and teaching. Huw Davies is a well- respected and integral member of a high calibre team, and in his new role I know that he will continue to play a vital part in carrying forward this innovative research working in an important partnership with our colleagues at the University of Dundee.”

SDHI regularly hosts lectures and seminars by internationally renowned researchers and engages in discussions with researchers and clinicians from the two Universities and local NHS organisations. The most recent seminar was delivered by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, who spoke about the biological mechanisms by which social deprivation has an adverse impact on health status.

The Institute is also an active partner within the Alliance for Self Care Research – a multi- partner initiative across six Scottish universities — which is working both to improve understanding into how the NHS can better enable people to contribute to their own health care and to ensure that more nurses, midwives and allied health professionals are able to carry out research that is useful to the NHS and the public.

New Director Professor Davies paid tribute to outgoing director, Professor Boyle, and praised him for shaping ‘the distinctive way in which SDHI seeks to foster collaborative, interdisciplinary and innovative health research’. Professor Boyle will continue to contribute to the research of the Institute, but will return to his academic post at the School of Geography & Geosciences at St Andrews, and his role as Director of the Scottish Longitudinal Studies Centre.




Issued by Beattie Media – on behalf of the University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st-

Ref: SDHI new director 051206.doc

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