Featured cohort: HealthWise Wales
The HealthWise Wales register collects information from 40,000+ participants and matches them with relevant research studies.
HealthWise Wales and DPUK
HealthWise Wales is working with the DPUK-led Great Minds register to match cohort volunteers with relevant dementia research studies. HealthWise Wales is also one of the cohorts available for dementia researchers to access via the DPUK Data Portal. The Data Portal gives researchers fast access to the cohort data that will provide new insights into dementia.
HealthWise Wales hopes to involve everyone in Wales in improving the health and wellbeing of the population. Participants are asked to answer regular questions about their lifestyle, health and wellbeing, and to allow linkage to their NHS records. They are offered the chance to take part in relevant new health research studies.
Since its launch in 2016, HealthWise Wales has registered more than 40,000 participants to take part in, or provide information for, research studies. The study team is based at Cardiff and Swansea universities.
Q&A with Dr Sunil Dolwani, programme lead for the HealthWise Wales study
Why are cohort studies so important to health research?
Cohort studies are observational studies which allow us to study health in populations and understand the causes, risk factors and outcomes for diseases. It involves identifying a group of people and following up by collecting data on various factors and health outcomes at regular intervals. Data collection may require people to answer specific questions related to physical and mental health and may involve providing a blood, saliva, urine or stool sample. We can also study how the environment we live in and what we do interacts with our biological factors and impacts on our health. By understanding how diseases develop and the influence of social and environmental factors, we can start to develop interventions to prevent ill health and improve outcomes for those who are affected.
What can public volunteers offer to medical research?
It is really important that we include healthy people in research and follow them up over time so that we can investigate what factors help keep people healthy or increase their risk of developing disease. Public volunteers can offer their data or donate samples for research, and there are many studies now which provide opportunities for the public to take part in this way. The public have a very important role to play in informing what research should be done and how research is conducted so that we are using science to answer the questions that are relevant to patients, carers and families that are affected by particular conditions. This can help to increase the public's understanding of new research insights and also help researchers to better understand the unanswered questions that are a priority for the public. Public volunteers can also act as advocates for public participation, involvement in and engagement with research.
Why is HealthWise Wales working with DPUK’s Great Minds project?
Dementia is an important public health issue. The number of people living with dementia worldwide is increasing and it affects not only the people who have it but also their carers and families. It is really important that we support research to find new treatments and ways of slowing the progression of the disease. Great Minds is one such study, and we have promoted Great Minds to our HealthWise Wales participants so that they can take part in this important research and together we can start to look at how lifestyle factors influence cognitive decline and find new insights in to how to tackle the disease.
Are there any other collaborations between HealthWise Wales and DPUK?
In addition to the Great Minds research study, HealthWise Wales and DPUK work collaboratively to ensure that the anonymous data participants provide is available for research through the DPUK Data Portal. HealthWise Wales is one of the cohort studies that researchers can apply to access to enrich their data. HealthWise Wales and DPUK intend to further the research opportunities for HealthWise Wales participants in the near future, specifically for dementia research with the Welsh population.
Great Minds members' event
HealthWise Wales teamed up with DPUK to hold the first Great Minds members' event. The virtual seminar brought together leading dementia researchers to share their thoughts about the latest research developments and answer questions from Great Minds participants.
Watch two of the talks below, from Professor Sir Simon Lovestone on progress against Alzheimer's disease, and Dr Vanessa Raymont on brain injury, alcohol and dementia risk.