Promoting Join Dementia Research at Newcastle’s Grainger Market
In a unit of the Grainger Market in Newcastle, Newcastle University students, primarily from the School of Pharmacy, have been offering free health checks for members of the public. Upon its opening in September 2022, they have also been promoting the Join Dementia Research initiative. This is part of a wider initiative from Newcastle City Council on Newcastle becoming a dementia friendly city.
Their ambition is to raise awareness, take action and make changes to ensure the city is a place people living with dementia (and their carers) can live well, have access to good information and support as well as raising awareness of lifestyle choices that can reduce your risk.
Dementia is one of the biggest health challenges we face today. Around 900,000 people are currently living with dementia in the UK, this is estimated to increase to 1 million by 2025.
8 years ago, Join Dementia Research was launched to match volunteers with suitable dementia studies in their local area and across the UK. The service has recently reached 60,000 volunteers.
The free health checks run by the students includes a valuable range of checks that let the public know information about their cardiovascular and heart health: blood pressure, blood cholesterol measurements and blood sugar levels, as well as insightful and informative conversations between the students and public about conditions, diet, lifestyle, BMI and health information to encourage the public to lead a healthier lifestyle.
The aim of the ‘Being Well Space’, or the ‘Young @ Heart Clinic’ is to help people understand more about their health to reduce the risk of conditions such as vascular dementia, heart attacks and stroke, but also provide general support to people in the community by being a point of contact for them.
As part of that, they have also been helping to advertise the Join Dementia Research (JDR) initiative by distributing leaflets and displaying posters. If people come in and ask about it, they share information about the projects and work JDR is doing, as well as encouraging people on how they can get involved in and be supportive of dementia research.
Since the students started running the pop-up, they have been consistently busy, with people even coming back for repeated checks. The unit also provides a safe space for people, for example carers, to come in and chat about health and any other topics they would like to talk about. The Being Well Space is valued by all as a regular point of contact and support for local people in the community.
Dr Charlotte Richardson, Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice in the School of Pharmacy at Newcastle University and Honorary Clinical Pharmacist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, who works with the students, said:
“This project is incredibly important. The value is twofold. First, there is the value to our students who are manning the clinic and being exposed to the real issues of the people in the local community. They are learning about the different clinical aspects of the people they see, as well as how to offer the health checks correctly. Plus, they are exposed to things like dementia, social care and public health issues, as well as learning how to engage with members of the public about research. Secondly, there are benefits to the public, primarily getting the message out about how to get involved in research and letting them know that there are areas of support within the community that they can make use of.”
Chris Speed, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network North East and North Cumbria, said:
“Engaging with the community and spreading awareness about Join Dementia Research is an excellent way to promote the service and recruit volunteers. As the knowledge of dementia currently lags behind that of other major conditions, this will hopefully allow the research to progress and the gap to close - helping those living with dementia as well as preventing people from developing dementia in the future. It is great to see Newcastle University students help the community with this initiative, so that they can see what dementia research is taking place locally, as well as be encouraged to and told how they can get involved. I'd like to offer a big thank you to everyone involved.”
To find out more about Join Dementia Research, visit: https://www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk/content/about